Sun. Sea Spray. Hull smashing through rows of swells. The ship’s deck heaving from and dropping into an endless parade of oncoming waves. Turn your face towards the sun and catch a million dancing reflections on the water glistening back at you.
If you’re on a sailboat, there is no engine noise, just the sound of wind blowing through your hair.
Both Olcott brothers were watermen, even though they were descendants of the landlocked Dzūkija region of Lithuania. I am a waterman too, raised on many afternoons of sailing on Shinnecock Bay, Long Island during my young summers in the 1960s with my Dad.
However, by the age of twelve, I had discovered a simple way to elevate the pleasure and excitement of wind, sea, and waves. Instead of being on a boat in the water, how about doing away with the boat? Watch sets of giant waves roll in while at sea level, exactly. Body surfing. Maximum exposure. If you could time and catch them right, you could slide down a crystal slope while the tube of water breaks above and behind you. The payoff is maybe eight seconds of pure exhilaration that seems to last perhaps up to half an hour. You’ll never forget the view of giant slopes of water marching towards you, with the last wave looming higher over the others. That last one, with the face of the sun sparkling back at you, will be the wave you want. And sometimes, it will take a fair amount of courage to try to pick off that last wave, the king of the set.
But this was me in the water, maybe 30-50 yards away from the shore. Both my Dad and his Brother crossed the oceans – what about seeing rogue waves 3,000 miles offshore? I shudder to think what they must have gone through.