Jennifer Liss: Time Travel

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A trip to the beach enables Jennifer Liss to go back in time.

Last week I learned how to time travel. After I finished work in the afternoon, my family drove to the coast from Santa Rosa, via the Bodega Highway, as we’ve done dozens of times. When we descended down to Doran Beach, everything was still familiar and current; a lone egret perched on the edge of the wetlands, fog resting above the ocean. The sand was warm and the Pacific was the color of green sea glass. It was beautiful and normal.

Then I did something I hadn’t done in so long. I tugged on a wetsuit, tucked a boogie board under my arm, and headed out into the soft surf. I positioned myself at the base of a rising wave. The time traveling commenced.

Suddenly, I was sucked 35 years into the past. I was eight, tan, and singularly focused on the wave building behind me. It pulled me back, slightly, and then spit me forward. My small hands gripped the top of the board and my skinny legs kicked furiously. Salty white wash sprayed up my nose, burning in a good way.

I rode the wave the whole way, to dry sand full of bits of broken shells. When I rested my head on the board, my mind did wild somersaults from the past into the present and back again.


Watching my kids swim in the ocean has always brought me joy, but this was happiness of a different kind. It was an old, resurrected exhilaration, the pure pleasure afforded by sliding down a swell of water on a cheap piece of Styrofoam. It was the joy of my grandfather, chest deep in the sea, holding me steady on my board with his Navy tattooed arms, eyeing the horizon, and gently crying out, “Go, Jenny, go!” when a perfect wave approached. It wasn’t just that I was recalling what it felt like to be a child, free in the sea for hours at a time. I was living it again and it was amazing.

When I popped up to my feet, I did exactly what I had done decades earlier. I charged back for the next wave, and the next one, and the next.

With a Perspective, this is Jennifer Liss.

Jennifer Liss is an education writer. She lives in Santa Rosa.