Life is full of little changes. In I.V., we tend to move every year to escape the filth that we have created, likely losing the ridiculously high security deposits that we have to pay to the sadistic creatures known as property managers. We change classes every quarter, trading one lecture hall for another and feeling a fresh sting of guilt for not actually going to this particular place very often. And as Fall Quarter turns into Winter, we meet the rain and the cold head on, with some of the worst of it predicted to strike this week. It’s a far cry from the Brazilian paradise that I have recently lost, but for some reason I’m not feeling too bitter about it.

The reason that I’m not bundled up in my house, resenting my host family back in Brazil, who are currently enjoying the peak of beach season and 85-degree weather, is that this season is the best welcome back a surfer can imagine. A little over a week ago, after making my rounds collecting syllabi all week and not much else, I was greeted with one of the most beautiful things that a person could ever lay eyes on. As my cohorts and I headed north on the 101, we got our first glimpse of the new swell in the form of perfect glassy lines coming in the point at El Capitan. When we first pulled into the parking lot, wondering if it would be crowded or not, we saw the unmistakably shiny head of the best surfer on earth and realized that we were at the right spot.

When you pull up to check a surf spot and you see Kelly Slater putting his wetsuit on, it’s pointless to even bother looking at the waves because you must be at the best spot already. All star struck-ness aside, it brought the vibe up to a whole new level. We put our suits on and paddled out into the perfect overhead lines that were marching around the point and into the beach like a little army of glassy barreling soldiers. It was a Friday morning, and the hangover was fierce. I would have killed for a bottle of water before the session, but we had none of that. Instead we just swallowed our pain and embraced what was sure to be one of the best sessions that we would have this season. The crowd was rather thin considering, and we all got more than our fair share of grinding barrels. Mr. Slater got a wave or two as well, making a few un-makeable-looking sections and slipping out of a few barrels that looked like you would need the speed of a freight train to escape the spiraling liquid. In summary: It was good.

The next day, the swell was still growing, and I got a little more exclusive, managing to slip on over to the ranch for a morning session and for another helping of Pacific perfection. The waves were unreal that weekend, and although some days have certainly been better than others, the swell never really stopped. This is why the rainy Santa Barbara frostbite has not felt like the hellish contrast that I was dreading while I was sitting in the airport in Rio de Janeiro, staring with fear at the letters “LAX” that sat so clearly in cold black ink on my boarding pass. At the time it felt like I was reading my own death sentence, but the welcome back has been warmer than I could have imagined, thanks to these back-to-back west swells. Although the Brazilian chronicles have met their end, the story of the best Santa Barbara winter in years is just beginning, and the thought of that is more than enough to keep me warm at night.