A wingsuit enthusiast, perhaps most famous for parachuting into London’s 2012 Olympics dressed as James Bond, has died after crashing into the side of a mountain. The part of me who thinks people involved in extreme sports of this type are slightly mentally impaired, fights with the other side of my brain which feels a tug of envy at their ability to overcome their fears (if, in fact, they have any) and suck the juice out of life. Personally, if I jumped off a mountain dressed like that or any way I would leave a trail of urine substantial enough to douse a good-sized forest fire.
Last week I recorded a documentary about extreme surfers. Men and women who travel the globe in search of the highest and most magnificent waves the oceans have to offer. Awake in the early hours, I plumped my pillows and in the safety of my own bed enjoyed a pinhead’s full of the adventure and excitement these surfers must experience every day. What an adrenalin rush it must be to stand on a surfboard atop those mountains of water and slice down the other side, knowing if you fall, the ocean will extract its pound of flesh for your mistake.
On a far smaller scale, this put me in mind of body surfing in Hawaii when I was in my early twenties. Pounders Beach is on the windward side of Oahu. Along with being a draw for its natural beauty, it is a frequent haunt for local body surfers as well as the steady influx of tourists interested in riding the waves. There are more challenging beaches on the island, but standing with my toes curled in the warm sand looking out at the huge rises and swells, I felt if this was for amateurs, sign me up and call me baby.
Spending my high school years in Southern California with its endless coastline, golden sunbathers, and sun-kissed beaches, body surfing was a familiar activity for me as a teen. For the most part, however, never had I seen waves of this magnitude and arriving with such frequency at home. One wave seemed to form and crash as the one behind it had already begun to curl. My mind and my stomach chickened out ten times before my toes touched water. Sticky and slightly overcast, typical for summer in the tropics, the reflection of the darkening clouds made the waves seem even more ominous. Sensing my hesitation, my husband reminded me we weren’t going to be given this opportunity every day. Taking my hand he asked me to trust him, and said he would watch over me. Uh-huh. “Wanta piece of candy little girl?”
Our link broke the moment we dived through the base of the first set of waves. I came through the other side only to see another wave building as I swam. Again I dove through to find myself up against yet another aqua wall. Other body surfers were bobbing and diving in the distance, my husband likely somewhere among them. Getting a slight break, I could see the current had moved me far to the right of our original position. Tiring, I caught a large swell hoping to propel myself closer to shore. Not making much progress, the wave following caught me by surprise. Gathering me up as if made of balsa wood it plummeted me around, swirling me about like Dorothy in the tornado. First lifting me up then hurling me down, my knees and face ground into the coarse sand. Finally, I surfaced, lungs frantically searching for air. On the beach my husband was signalling for me to come in. Really? Don’t you think if I could come in, I would already be standing there? Help!
Apparently, it wasn’t a good day to die. Either that or the ocean, so disgusted with my performance simply spit me out, but somehow I ended up in knee-deep water my bathing suit top wrapped half way around my neck. To say I looked like a drowned rat would be doing a disservice to the rat. Wrapping a towel around my shoulders my hero began giving me what was tantamount to a chemical peal attempting to rub the sand off my face. Never have my pores looked so good. Bits of beach were up my nostrils, embedded in my eyelashes, and in every other available orifice in my body. Unlike those intrepid souls who after a shark attack can’t wait to run gamely back into the surf, Susie wanted a Mai Tai and a hot shower, in that order.
People who walk on the wings of planes, drive race cars at the speed of light, lift off from Cape Canaveral and tightrope across Niagara Falls have to be wired differently than the Average Joe, I believe. If we all lived with that accelerated need for adventure, there would be congestion above New York as people lined up with balance beams to step off The Empire State Building onto a wire and no one on the ground below to watch them.
So, I will choose to remain on the sidelines at the air shows looking up with wonder and imagining the exhilaration of guiding a plane through the clouds or the thrill of soaring through a canyon suspended from a hang glider, at least for this lifetime. I have had my thrills. Perhaps, if there is a chance to come back, I’ll bring my parachute with me and get a new perspective on the world. If you choose to cheat death, then you set your own path and life needs to be lived as if each day was your last. In essence perhaps we all should spend our lives that way, remembering to connect with those we love and doing what makes us happy.
I make these when the planets align and I have leftover garlic bread and grilled hot links. A nice twist on an old favorite of mine. Eggs Benedict was my grandmother’s favorite breakfast dish so growing up I was treated to it often.
Garlic Bread Eggs Benedict with Hot Links for Two
4 pieces garlic bread
4 large eggs
Hollandaise sauce (below)
2 hot links, butterflied
Paprika for garnish
Classic Hollandaise Sauce
4 egg yolks
1 Tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 cup butter, melted (1 stick)
Pinch cayenne pepper
Whisk egg yolks and lemon juice in a non reactive bowl until doubled in volume.
Place in top of double boiler over water that is barely simmering. Whisk rapidly so as not to let eggs get too hot and you have an omelet.
Slowly drizzle melted butter into mixture, whisking constantly until sauce is thick and doubled in volume. Remove from heat, add cayenne, salt and a pinch of paprika. Cover and keep warm.
1 large sourdough roll, cut in half lengthwise
2 Tbsp. butter
1/4-1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1/8 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, shredded
Turn oven on to broil.
Cut each 1/2 of cut roll in half again. Make a small trough in center of each side of roll by pulling excess soft bread out. Spread butter over both cut sides of bread. Sprinkle with garlic powder. Divide grated cheese over both sides and top with shredded cheese.
Cover baking sheet with tin foil and place bread under broiler. Cook until cheese is melty and bread golden brown. Remove from oven.
Fill large saucepan 3/4 full of water. Bring to boil. Drop eggs into water, immediately reducing heat to med-low. Gently use slotted spoon to dislodge if sticking to bottom. Cook on low simmer. Remove from water with slotted spoon when done to your liking and place on top of hot links.
Place garlic bread on plate. Top each with 1/2 of butterflied hot link.
Place one egg on top of each piece.