"...it was on this trip that I discovered stand up paddling is capable of time travel!"—Bernd Roediger
Before any trip that I go on, my whole family will look at the travel dates and itinerary to make sure that we are all on the same page and not confused with what is happening and when. But on my trip to Japan I was still confused! For one you start out your trip with a 7-hour flight to Tokyo forward in time. You fly across the Pacific, over the International Date Line, and across into tomorrow! You only travel 7 hours but you lose 19 hours in total when you reach Japan. Figuring out how to add 19 hours to your clock is difficult, try thinking about it like Japan is 5 hours behind, but tomorrow! Weird huh? The really trippy thing was when I left Japan. I woke up in Tokyo at around 7:30 A.M. on Tuesday and ate breakfast with Marosan, the head of Naish Japan. Then I flew out, crossed the Date Line again and arrived in Maui at 7:30 A.M. on Tuesday and ate breakfast with my parents. So even though I spent the whole day in Tokyo, and traveled 7 hours on a plane, I actually went back in time…
It was on this trip that I officially went insane with juggling time differences; but it was also this trip that I discovered stand up paddling is capable of time travel! That’s right time travel; this whole trip has been one trippy episode of the Twilight Zone after the other. The best example was my session after the Nalu Surf contest. We left the contest and headed further down the coast to Omaezaki. When we reached Omaezaki the whole city was shrouded in fog. The mist really gave a creepy, disconnected, feeling to the whole town. On the water, the same fog created a bit of a phenomenon. When Osamasan, Isasan, (both representatives for Naish Japan) and I went to go surfing at this cool break along the road the fog drifted in. Before I had even put my fins in, the beach had gone from clear blue skies to complete gray all around. The three of us now wondered if it was safe to go out. If we couldn’t see the break from the beach, we wouldn’t be able to see the beach from the break; that would make it easy for one of us to get separated and lost at sea. Then a set came in, we couldn’t see it, but we could hear it crashing somewhere… With a kind of “well I’ll go if you will” attitude streaming between us, we finally worked up the courage to go out. We promised to always keep close watch over each other and to call out if separated. So we walked out over the massive beach that lined the mysterious coast of Omaezaki. Marosan, the head of Naish Japan and my guide for this trip, was standing on the beach with friends to make sure his temporary responsibility didn’t get swallowed into the mist! He asked me again if I thought this was a good idea. “Mon Dai ni,” I told him, which means "no problem" in Japanese. But I wasn’t so sure that everything was going to be peaches and Guri Guri during this session.
Massive shore break pounded the beach at the river mouth in which we had walked along to get to the ocean from the lookout point. Marosan was already almost out of sight. When we got to the water’s edge Isasan launched first, a head high wedge dredged and pitted up towards him like an attacker coming out of the mist, he paddled and stroked out and over the wave until he was out of sight. Visibility was only 25 yards now. Osamasan went next, “Good luck Osamasama!” (The name suffix “sama” being a term of great respect in Japan, but more just a play on Osama’s name for me!) He smiled at me, ran through the break, and disappeared in the mist. Finally I went, the elements closed in around me as I plunged into the water. The fog felt closer than ever now, the water splashed and reeled at me, its cooler-than-Maui temperature sent shivers through my skin. Then a wave came out of the mist, hurdling whitewater towards me. I had no time; I got two strokes in and impacted with the wave head on. The whitewater flung into my eyes; I cleared them and for a second I thought I could see two figures standing in the distance. I paddled hard to their position, making it clear from the whitewater that had ensnared me before. I paddled hard, breathing heavy now, completely shrouded in mist, completely alone. I shouted out to Osamasama and Isasan and heard a return cry from two men in the distance. My gusto grew as I heard their voices and it wasn’t long before I could make out their shapes and then I was within feet of them. I passed through one more curtain of fog and entered a clearing. A circle of clear air about fifty meters around circled us, and behind us was the beach, barely visible on even the clearest of breaks in the mist. I turned around and found a break in front of us, it looked like there were some head high waves coming through, but just then something stirred the fog on the outside. A large shape rose and fell in the distance, just beyond the circle of visibility that we sat in the center of. “Maybe we should go back,” someone said. Too late, right before our eyes an over head set came rushing out from the fog, just a few yards in front of us, completely hidden until now. It rose and threatened us out of nowhere and then came hurtling towards us. Osamasama was deepest; he took it on the head, completely unprepared. I was lucky to be in the right place. I caught the wave late and turned hard down the line, Isasan was paddling out and the wave broke, whitewater shooting me out towards him, I buried the rail and turned back right down the line again. I turned and tried to hit the wave, watching as the gray wave blended in with the gray fog; but then a little bit of white broke through and I could make out the lip now, I hit it and made a satisfying yell!
More waves came, and my friends and I caught waves for what seemed like forever. We never saw anyone else, on the water or the beach; we were in our own little world, completely cut off from time and space. That is how I realized stand up, and surfing in general, is capable of time travel. It is the times that you experience when the world seems to stop, when everything and everyone around you seems to hit the pause button and you can forget about the worries of the day, and surf. Its when you catch a wave and nothing else is on your mind, its when you surf so passionately and so aggressively that your emotions pour out onto the water and it feels like the world stops to watch. That’s how stand up paddling is like traveling through time.
Finally I went in. “Back so soon Berndchan?” Marosan asked as I came off the water, “Oh!” I breathed, “Haven’t we been out for ages?” “No Berndchan, only about 20 minutes.” That was weird; I could have sworn we were out for longer than that. It felt like at least an hour. Finally I asked if he ever saw any of us. He replied that he never saw even any evidence that we even caught a wave. “Are you sure it was over head Berndchan?” I looked back now and saw that the sea had calmed and the waves had gone back down again. The fog had cleared to reveal to all the spectators that it was flat. But I had been in the fog, I had seen those waves, and I can’t help but feel like I had been there for longer than just twenty minutes…