On Day 4 we finally link up with the surfing families on Maria’s Beach. Aside from a shelf of toe-stubbing rock at the water’s edge, it’s a sweet setup: ample shade, room for the kids to play, surfboard rentals and a bar/restaurant across the parking lot.
Shoulder-high rollers break over a reef about 100 yards offshore. The women are surfing and, after a few minutes of pleasantries, the other Kai’s dad, Cameron, offers to watch the kids while I head out.
This is the pinnacle of my quest, and yet when it comes time to leave my child with someone I’ve known only a few hours, I hesitate. I amble over to the board rental guy. Yes, he says, totally safe break, perfect conditions today. Take a board. Pay when you return. No stress, man.
I walk back. My Kai ignores my questions — Food? Drink? Pee? Okay if dad goes surfing? — so I shrug at Cameron, tell him to wave his arms like a maniac in case of emergency, and head out.
It’s a solid session, and between the swells, I can see Cam from the distance, his non-flailing arms suggesting that all is well. When I return, my Kai hardly notices.
“Your kid is pretty chill,” Cameron reports. “We never could have left ours at that age. He would have freaked out.”
As the kids climb in a tangle of branches, playfully chased by a surprisingly dexterous dog, I think, “Doubtful.” The scene before me — a mellow dad, a trio of shirtless, sandy boys and the sun reclining into its oceanic hammock — is the epitome of community. I’d wager that Cam’s Kai at age 3 would have found the same familiar ease that mine did on this day. This mushy musing is quickly nudged aside by another thought: “Why did I come back in? I could have milked another hour of surfing out of this.”
I head off to buy beers and ginger ales.
The next day, the other Kai and his family head home, and the swell fades. We run into Michelle and Robert at the smooth-stone beach, but there’s no pressure to take shifts: We hang out, share stories, dip into the calm sea and play with our kids.