When you surf for long enough, surfing transforms into one of two things. It may become your vessel, launching you via the crests of thousands of waves toward places you’ve never been before and people you’ve never met before. Unfortunately, surfing can also produce an effect that starkly opposes this. It can become your shackles. It can anchor you to one place, making you all too comfortable with your surroundings, keeping you warm and cozy in your little bubble of familiarity. You may wake up one day, drive to your spot like you have a thousand times, paddle out and sit on your favorite peak, only to discover some snot-nosed punk also sitting there with a pin in his hand and getting dangerously close to popping your bubble. You loathe everything about this punk, from his board that isn’t shaped by your buddy to the caked-on zinc that covers his smiling face. If this describes your last session, then you are probably a local … and probably a dick.
Don’t feel so bad, it can happen to the best of us. We all find ourselves getting angry at the waves or the crowds if a session isn’t going our way. Yesterday afternoon, I had just finished a paper that I scrambled to write in the final hours before class, and all that stress had built up to the point where I was either going to headbutt someone like a mountain goat, go for a surf or maybe even both. I settled on surfing behind my house, but headbutting was still not completely out of the question. As soon as I got outside, the wind came up with some ferocity, and I had a hunch that this wasn’t my session. I paddled around, getting sloppy nuggets that could have been decent rides if I wasn’t in such a pessimistic mood.
Finally, a good, clean chest-high left rolls in, and I take off. A few pumps and a hack later, my shin hurts like a bitch and my rail is split wide open, taking in water like a sinking ship. When I did my turn, I somehow flipped my board and took the rail to my shin with enough force to send me back to the ding repair shop. Shins heal for free, boards don’t. The ocean was making me its bitch, that much was certain. I figured it was as good a time as any to go in, so I waited for one last wave in. I waited, then I waited some more. An older gentleman on a fish paddled by me after I had been sitting in the same spot waiting for a half hour. He smiled as he paddled by, and I smiled back, thinking in my head that his friendly gesture was some sick, depraved taunt, as there was nothing out there to smile about. Sure enough, as soon as he paddled next to me, a solid right came straight to him, giving him a good ride after his five seconds of waiting, and I just wanted to throw my board at him like a vengeful boomerang. This session was going nowhere.
Why is it that sometimes we get this idea in our heads that we deserve the best waves in a session? And why is it so hard to get pumped about sub-epic waves anyway? I had the distinct pleasure of talking to one of the true heroes of surfing last week when I spoke with Gerry Lopez. I asked him if it gets harder to grovel as you get older and have seen more epic days. He sounded like some kind of surfing Buddha when he told me that it gets easier to surf bad waves. He said that you just learn to appreciate it more and more, and you find yourself stoked on any session. I’m not sure if Gerry meditates under fig trees or not, but he is one enlightened cat. So if that old dude is reading this right now, I want him to know that I’m glad he had fun on that wave, and I’m glad I didn’t heave my board at him like a boomerang. I may not have a fig tree, but I’m already starting to look forward to my next ride in some windy one-footers. Thanks, Gerry.