Surfin' F-L-A

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Siren longboards are narrower than most, Kristy says. They are easier for women to carry and to power into a wave. They also have rounder sides, which are more forgiving on turns. And they have glitter added to the resin and come in soft pastel colors, like the swirly pink of Kristy's board.

"If we can make it work for us so that we don't have to depend on anyone else to give us money, if we could actually, somehow, eventually make money and be a part of the surf industry, it would be great," Kristy said, "because both Jenni and I love surfing."

A few days of mild weather followed the Queen of the Peak contest. The surf along South Florida's coast flattened back to dismal. But on January 23, another blast of frigid air descended. That evening, the palm trees outside Parya's Fort Lauderdale apartment shook violently. Neighbors brought animals and plants indoors as weather forecasters cautioned it might reach freezing. But local surfers knew cold air might mean big surf.

When Parya slid out of bed at 6 a.m., the thermostat had dipped to 35 degrees. Out in the Atlantic, large waves rolled toward Florida's east coast from a horizon ragged with swells. By the time the sun rose, six-footers were rolling in. Around 6:30 a.m., a friend phoned to pass the word to meet at the beach near Commercial Boulevard in Fort Lauderdale. Parya zipped into her wet suit. She loaded her new, white, Quiet Flight shortboard into the back of her purple Ford Ranger pickup and headed out.

When she reached a secret spot in Pompano, Parya ran barefoot to the beach. The road felt like it was made of ice. "It was so cold. Our feet were freezing," she said. "I've never felt anything so painful."

The highlight of the day for Parya was riding what surfers call "a barrel." It was a little one, she says, but it rolled over and formed a tube. "That wave that I caught was like my dream," she said. "I want to get barreled again someday, a nice good barrel. It was cool. The wave is coming on top of you. It was perfect."

Parya, a striking girl with dusky skin and thick, brown, ropy hair that hangs to her waist, met Kristy and Jenni through mutual friends in South Florida's small and tight-knit surfing community. The 26-year-old doesn't share Kristy's and Jenni's hunger for competition. Fort Lauderdale's B.C. Surf and Sport sponsored her in some local competitions last year, but the shop kicked her off its team when she got so caught up in surfing on the day of a contest that she missed her heat. "I don't really like contests," she says.

After four hours in the water in Pompano, she finally had enough. She let the current carry her down the beach, paddled into the shore, and emerged into the frigid air. She jumped into her truck, desperate for a cup of coffee. Spotting a Dunkin' Donuts on A1A, she pulled in. She stood in line, hair soaked, bare feet covered with sea muck, wet suit puddling. Coffee in hand, she opened the door to leave and saw a trail of sand and saltwater. A homeless man sitting outside took one look at the dripping mermaid and commented plaintively, "Woman, you're crazy."

When a homeless guy judges you, you know you're outside the pale, she said.

After downing the coffee, Parya headed north on A1A. In Boynton Beach, she stopped at the spot locals know as "Doggie Beach." She watched eight-foot swells build to a paper-thin crest, break, and tumble along a perfect line. She telephoned Kristy to let her know she'd found surf.

After finishing her part-time job filing at an environmental engineering company in Jupiter at 1 p.m., Kristy headed south.

By 3 p.m., Kristy and Parya stood on the shoreline looking out at the breaks. "Perfect," Kristy said. "Look at that!" The two raced into the water.

Parya, on her new shortboard, had a hard time. She couldn't build enough momentum to paddle into the waves. And when she caught one, she didn't feel at ease on the new board. She kept tumbling into the surf.

Kristy, on her longboard, fared better. As one of the day's last rides carried her toward shore, she danced on the wave, moving up to the front of the board when the action slowed down, using gravity to shunt the board forward and across the wave's glassy face. She pulled the angle of the board close in and skirted the line of the break in a rush. When she slowed, she backed up and rode almost clear to the shore. "That was awesome. One more," she said as she crashed back into the surf.

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Susan Eastman
Contact: Susan Eastman