Personal Journeys


January 18, 2004|By Special to the Sun

A Memorable Place

Lesson from a master wave-catcher

By Marni Peters


It was a beautiful afternoon the first time I was introduced to the secluded beach and point break known as Little Dume Beach, in Malibu, Calif. But it was the third visit to Little Dume that brings me the memories that put an instant smile on my face.

My boyfriend at the time took my brother and me there for an afternoon surf session. It was sunny, with big, puffy clouds. The water was clear, and the breeze was refreshing. Although the waves were small, it was perfect for me because I was just learning how to surf.

The three of us hung out in the water for several hours. I watched as the boys effortlessly caught waves, and tried to imitate their style, stance and timing. I stood up a few times, but never really felt the exhilaration of dropping in on a wave at the exact moment when it pulls you into its power -- not until I met Laird.

Laird Hamilton, as I was soon to find out, is considered the best big-wave surfer in the world. We had seen him each time we surfed Little Dume, but since I am new to the sport, I was not familiar with his accomplishments.

I was getting tired and frustrated because I could not get my timing right. The boys had already ridden into the beach and were taking off their wetsuits. I decided to try a few more waves, determined to catch at least one.

As I was paddling out after another missed attempt, Laird paddled up beside me. He told me to follow him. It took all the strength I had left to paddle back out. As we sat waiting for the next set of waves, I asked him how he knows when to drop into a wave. He said it's time spent in the water. There are no shortcuts; it takes practice.

He spotted the wave he wanted for me and told me to start paddling. As I did, he pushed my board and me into the wave. I lost my balance and couldn't stand up. But I paddled back out to him. He looked at me and said, "This time, you're going to catch this wave and ride it all the way in."

He told me not to paddle, and instead he pushed me into the wave. This time, the wave pulled my board into its power, I stood up and felt the energy and exhilaration. I rode that wave across its face and into the next wave. I rode and rode until there was nothing left to ride.

As I headed for the beach, my body tingled with excitement. Not only had I finally caught my first wave, but the best big-wave surfer in the world helped me do it.

Marni Peters lives in Columbia.

My Best Shot

John McDermott,

Dayton, Md.

Homey harbor in Scotland

For my 40th birthday, friends and I traveled to Scotland to play golf at the Old Course at St. Andrews and other famous links. We stayed at the Old Post Office bed and breakfast in Crail, on a quaint street with beautiful views. Wandering around town, we headed toward the fishing dock near Crail Harbour. The old homes there that face the sea have spectacular colors and the feeling of a good place to be home -- quite a contrast to the new townhouses up the hill.

Readers Recommend

Winooski, Vt.

Lois Villemaire, Annapolis

My husband and I recently took our annual trip to his hometown of Winooski, Vt. One day, we visited the picturesque mountains of Stowe and took a scenic ride on a gondola to the top of the mountain. It was 11 degrees colder at the top. The next day, we enjoyed a whirlwind tour of Montreal. The city fascinated us with its Old World charm and modern and fashionable flair.

Jordan and Israel

Joan Hoffman, Salisbury

The people of the Holy Land are warm and friendly in spite of the region's conflicts. Arab hospitality is legendary. My husband and I were invited to the home of friends in Jordan, where we enjoyed native food, music, dancing and the fellowship of family and neighbors who came to meet the Americans. We traveled throughout the country in peace and pleasure. In Israel, we were invited to a wedding held in our Jerusalem hotel. We were made to feel like honored guests. At times, we were with Arabs and Jews together and never saw a moment of trouble. The general populace find themselves victims of a political war in which they seem to want no part.

Let Us Hear From You

We want to know about your travels, your experiences, your pictures. Here's how to participate in this page:

* My Best Shot -- Send us a terrific travel photo with a description of when and where you took it. (Cash value: $50.)

* A Memorable Place -- In 500 words or less, tell us about a travel experience that changed you, about the nostalgia a certain place evokes, about the power of a favorite beach, the mountains, a city cafe. (Cash value: $150.)

* Readers Recommend -- Briefly tell us about places you've recently visited that you'd recommend to other readers. (50 words or less; photos are welcome.)

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