Endless Session, Day 332: Artist in the Sky
by Morgan Sliff
Photography has always fascinated me. Stealing one of time’s moments, forming the marred and often antipodal pictures in our minds into unambiguous visual snapshots. I myself am no shutterbug, but I melt into the glimpses of many skilled moment-snatchers, sometimes hours lost in screens, scrolling through surf shot after surf shot, wondering what it would be like rolling through the jungly backdrop of Noosa, or carving along measureless waves of Scorpion Bay.
Yesterday, after feeling the strongest I’ve felt since my right shoulder died, I idiotically pushed the limits. Drove too far, walked more than my body could stand, and stayed out late into the night. By the end of the day, my sprain was screaming at me, and sitting up in bed this morning led me to believe everything was going to fall out of it’s respective socket. An urgent visit, which included exercises, laser therapy, and electric stim with sports doc Ed Scale seemed to fuse things back together, and as I waited for my friend and avid photographer Chris Philip to walk to my surf shack as the sun was sloping towards the horizon, I noticed that I was reaching for a book with my right hand – it’s the little things.
“A lot of photographers come to the ocean, but I started in the ocean and through it came photography.” Chris, well known on social media as @beekervision, has a boundless pull to the ocean. Whether surfing, bodyboarding, or bodysurfing, he has fish-like qualities that beachgoers spend lifetimes trying to master. He’s consumed by the purity of waves, and can be found twice a day capturing their raw beauty, immersed South of the Hermosa Pier or in Southern beaches with water housing fixed in hand. I’ve spent many of those aforementioned hours gazing at his shots, and with only a glimpse can feel the crest of the waves start to curl around my head. Today Philip volunteered to be my surfboard slingshot and push me into a few shorepounders, and I couldn’t deny a helpful hand and getting the chance to watch him in his liquid element.
It looked hairy and damn near impossible. The waves were bowling up and breaking 10 feet from shore with a 5 foot high tide, and the onshore winds were chopping up the surface like it’s own personal cutting board. But we dove into the madness, and sitting on the board with Chris ready to launch, I took a breath and shook the nerves, putting my trust in him as he scanned the horizon for the right roller.
As it came, he guided me and my plan, and I stood tall for the 2.5 seconds that I was beelining towards shore, kicking my board up so it didn’t snap in half or snap me in half (sorry random photographer guy on the beach that almost was in the line of fire). I one-arm paddled back out, surprised that gravity wasn’t yet draining the upper right side of my body. Chris helped me into one more, and after another few second ride, I paddled out past the lineup to sit for a float break.
And then I looked up and saw the colors. The sky was detonating; melting into itself, the sun disappearing behind Malibu mountains and the fiery wisps of clouds flickering with golden-red magnificence. To the east, surrounding the almost-full moon were pink strands that were second before white, and the now-calm ocean was blackening by the second. I felt like I was dropped into a vortex of complex moods and thundering feelings, like a love song sung from the depths of a just-broken heart. We swooshed in the current for nearly 45 minutes – possibly longer than I’ve cumulatively been out in the past 2 weeks since my injury. I sat on my board, rolling gently with the passing waves, watching the artist in the sky paint it’s masterpiece. And just like that, it imploded, swallowed by darkness.
I needed that more than anything. An hour in the ocean. The most rapturous sunset from a liquid viewpoint. Help from a sea-loving friend. It isn’t even bothering me that the tide washed up and almost swallowed my phone, wet sand still crusted in the charging portal. It’s 9pm, and after showering off the late sunset salt I’m the happiest I’ve been in weeks.