It was a perfect fall morning just before Halloween on the peninsula shielding Northern California's Humboldt Bay. High-tide peaks were breaking up and down the beach, and the water was clean and clear. I caught four waves in quick succession, laughing at my good luck. Then it changed.—Scott Stephens
Illustration: Koren Shadmi
I paddled to shore, creating a crimson pool around me. I wondered how much blood I had left to lose.