Smoke on the Water: Cold Water Sessions

Shawn Zappo packed into a golden smoking bowl. Photo: Christor Lukasiewicz

Shawn Zappo packed into a golden smoking bowl. Photo: Christor Lukasiewicz

“I know we’ll never forget, smoke on the water, fire in the sky” -Deep Purple

The alarm went off at 6:30 am. It seemed as if I was being yelled at in a repetitive robotic chant from a crazed cult leader. I didn’t understand the language, but instinctively I knew exactly what it meant: “Get your ass out of bed.”

Lost in the solace of a deep slumber, the alarm was certainly a rude awakening. The mechanical wail of a phone or clock is never a pleasant sound to hear first thing in the morning. The sunlight gradually peeking through the windows is a much more subtle and enjoyable way to be awoken, but the sun hadn’t risen yet, so the mechanized mantra, “Get your ass out of bed, get your ass out of bed, get…” was what I had to work with.

I was warm and comforted under the innumerable blankets I had piled on the bed the night before. My body heat, coupled with my girlfriend’s, created the perfect atmosphere for the exact opposite of what I had to do: jump up and get ready to go surfing. We had just gotten dumped on with easily a foot of snow the day before. The temperatures of the air coupled with the stiff offshore winds were below zero. As I thought of the sort of suffering that can come with winter surfing, I decided to drift back to sleep. Then the texts started coming in. I quickly leaped out of bed and got on with it.

There were conflicting surf reports, many were saying the swell from the day before had already dissipated and vanished. But the afternoon before, Christor and I agreed on a location that tends to filter in swell when many surrounding breaks appear to be flat. After gathering my gear, putting on my suit, and slowly driving to the break, I was contented. As I sat in my car, letting the blasting heat warm me up, the view before me washed all my reluctance away. Perfect waist to chest high peelers were running through, sea smoke appeared to come off the ocean’s surface as if it were on fire, and what seemed to be a mystical golden hue filled the morning sky.

As I was waxing my board, fellow surfer, local tattoo artist and musician, Erik Schmidt, pulled up and onto a wall of snow. With an agreeing grin on his face, I knew I would have someone to share the morning surf with.

Entering the water was more inviting than standing on the beach, as it’s the fact of the water temperature being warmer than that of the air which creates that enchanting sea smoke. With our first waves, we knew it was well worth the paddle out, as we both enjoyed back to back long lefts all the way into the cove. The rest of the session we enjoyed alone. Surfers pulled up along the bridge, watching from overhead, only to drive off most likely thinking staying warm was a better option.

The energy of stoke filled the air, much like the sea smoke, not making a big deal of itself, yet ever apparent and present. A magical morning I won’t forget anytime soon.

Waxing up in the frigid morning air. Photo: Christor Lukasiewicz

Waxing up in the frigid morning air. Photo: Christor Lukasiewicz

Sea Smoke in the rising sun. Photo: Christor Lukasiewicz

Sea Smoke in the rising sun. Photo: Christor Lukasiewicz

Erik Schmidt gearing up to enter the chilly waters. Photo: Christor Lukasiewicz

Erik Schmidt gearing up to enter the chilly waters. Photo: Christor Lukasiewicz

Perched on the nose, the stoke was keeping me warm. Photo: Christor Lukasiewicz

Perched on the nose, the stoke was keeping me warm. Photo: Christor Lukasiewicz

Surrounded by sea smoke, Erik Schmidt catches a rare right hander. Photo: Christor Lukasiewicz

Surrounded by sea smoke, Erik Schmidt catches a rare right hander. Photo: Christor Lukasiewicz

A nice set wave offering a bowling section. I was still feeling the warmth. Photo: Christor Lukasiewicz

A nice set wave offering a bowling section. I was still feeling the warmth. Photo: Christor Lukasiewicz

I didn't get the nickname "The Mantis" for no reason.  Displaying some funky hand-jive in the tube section. Photo: Christor Lukasiewicz

I didn’t get the nickname “The Mantis” for no reason. Displaying some funky hand-jive in the tube section. Photo: Christor Lukasiewicz

Erik Schmidt tucking for a little barrel. Photo: Christor Lukasiewicz

Erik Schmidt tucking for a little barrel. Photo: Christor Lukasiewicz

By this time my feet were frozen. Waving goodbye on my last wave. Photo: Christor Lukasiewicz

By this time my feet were frozen. Waving goodbye on my last wave. Photo: Christor Lukasiewicz

The dreaded exit into the below freezing air. Erik Schmidt catching another clean one in the background. Photo: Christor Lukasiewicz

The dreaded exit into the below freezing air. Erik Schmidt catching another clean one in the background. Photo: Christor Lukasiewicz

Erik Schmidt left for a solo session. Photo: Christor Lukasiewicz

Erik Schmidt left for a solo session. Photo: Christor Lukasiewicz

Hustling to get my board strapped and be on  my way. My facial expression is a good indicator of how cold it was. Photo: Christor Lukasiewicz

Hustling to get my board strapped and be on my way. My facial expression is a good indicator of how cold it was. Photo: Christor Lukasiewicz

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Growing up in New Jersey, Shawn discovered and quickly immersed himself in the sub-culture of surfing and skateboarding in the mid 80’s. With a diverse and eclectic background, Shawn has walked the path of a competitive surfer, Hare Krsna monk, action sports industry player in NYC, DIY theology and religions major, and a touring punk rock musician. Now a father and self-proclaimed seeker of the “soul” of surfing, Shawn enjoys sessions with friends at uncrowded peaks along his home state’s shoreline and writing about his surf related experiences.

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