My first reaction was, Huh? I wasn’t sure what to make of what I saw on Tashmoo Pond.
A diminutive figure of a man in a black wetsuit and fluorescent lime helmet stood on a small surfboard. No sail. No kite. No paddle. No obvious engine. No noise. Yet, there he was gliding speedily across the surface of the water.
I stared at the man as he traveled as smooth as a flowing stream between the jetties that guard the entrance to the salt pond on the north shore of Martha’s Vineyard. He exited out to Vineyard Sound.
Huh? If I were a member of an as yet undiscovered tribe hanging out in a rainforest, I would have thought I was seeing a god. But being an unrepentant wise guy from Boston, the guy reminded me of a geeky version of the Silver Surfer, a Marvel comic book character.
I think it was the helmet. There are activities where cool should trump personal safety — raise your hand if you remember failed presidential candidate Michael Dukakis in his disastrous photo-op tank helmet (If you're a millennial, Google Dukakis tank photo).
But I digress. It was late Friday morning. I was working for the Tisbury shellfish department. As part of predator control, I was emptying green crabs and baiting our traps. It was raining. No one was on the beach. It was me and a bunch of very concerned green crabs scrambling around for an exit in the tote.
I admit I was unprepared for the Tashmoo Surfer. It’s not as if Tashmoo Pond is the French Riviera. On the Côte d'Azur, I’d expect to see guys in speedos and women in bikinis doing cool stuff.
Tisbury is not Malibu, California. Sharper Image, purveyor of sleek stuff made to wow rubes with stimulus money to spend, does not have a store on Main Street (although the Halls have yet to rent their long-vacant building in the heart of Vineyard Haven).
I was surprised and intrigued. The guy was obviously athletic because he was still standing on the board when he returned to Tashmoo. How the hell did the thing move?
Then the guy on the board rose from the water on a hydrofoil. Wow! I looked around for the Green Lantern.
I got to the Lake Street dock, and Alec Gale gave me a hand lifting my tote full of green crabs out of the shellfish department boat. He was able to shed some light on the Tashmoo Surfer because he’d seen other people doing the same thing in Menemsha — a much hipper port, I guess. Apparently, there’s a lithium battery in the board that runs a small electric motor. And the gizmo is expensive. Very expensive, he said.
Commercial fisherman Mitchell Pachico had just tied up. Mitchell was unloading totes. The contrast struck me. When I see Mitchell on or near the water, he is working hard.
I was struck by the human inventiveness of ways to play on the water. Who came up with this? But, I wasn’t quite sure of the point of this particular contraption.
There’s no need to paddle, so there’s no exercise. There are no cup holders. And no fishing rod holders, which pretty much eliminates it from my list of useful objects.
I do look forward to seeing the Tashmoo Surfer again. He put on a show. I just hope gliding around on electric powered surf boards does not catch on. Awkward paddle boarders cluttering up our waterways are annoying enough.
I was reminded of the Segway, a two-wheeled scooter designed to help people avoid the health benefits of walking. Years ago, on a visit to Washington, D.C., I saw gaggles of tourists in organized tour groups riding Segways. I opted for my own two legs — I wasn’t going to chance being run over by a motorcade while wearing one of those helmets.