The Octopus Hunters
The swells crisscrossed the island through the manmade
channel, colliding head onbreakers with a right-curling tube
that lagged in slow motion until they crashed. The waves were mirror
images as they approached each other. Our mothers sent us out to
catch octopus from the ocean, but a day like this, with opposing
right-breaking swells, didn't come often.
My friend Geo and I waxed our boards and headed south down to the
channel. We jumped off the jetty and paddled out to where the waves
intersected. Surfing in the dredged channel wasn't natural, but
it sure beat hunting octopus. We used the momentum of one wave to
thrust us into the tube of an oncoming wave at the exact moment
it was breaking. I did this with Geo because no one else would hang
with him and vice-versa.
Getting the timing down was a painful learning experience, but every
so often you'd hit it just right so you were thrust into the apex
of the oncoming curl. Your body would tumble and spin with the wave,
and then you'd be spit out into the foamy white water. Each time
you would shake it off, then belly up on to the board and paddle
back out, in either direction, to do it again. We aligned ourselves
with the artificial jetty made of cement pylons. That's where the
It was worth it, but once we figured this out the novelty wore off.
The prospect of coming home empty-handed weighed heavily upon us.
Our mothers were expecting us to provide.
"How are we supposed to catch anything?" asked Geo, straddling his
board between sets. We had neglected to bring a spear gun or masks,
or anything to catch octopus with.
"Be your own bait," I answered.
"What do you mean?"
"Hang out under water and let the octopus come to you. As soon as
one latches on, I'll pull it off of you, and vice-versa."
"Interesting propositionin theory. But there's no way this
will happen if you are expecting it."
We resumed surfing. With each swell we rose and looked to the horizon
to see what was coming next. Soon we stopped catching waves at all
and just floated on the undulating surface.
"What's that you're humming?" asked Geo.
"Love and Rockets," I said, then spoke the lines, "You cannot go
against nature. Because when you do, that's part of nature too."
"It doesn't sound right unless you sing it."
I decided then and there that I'd rather be the one who was the
bait. If I didn't think about it and just went under, I knew our
mother's would be proud. But if I let Geo be the bait and failed
to bring him back to the surface, I wouldn't be able to live with