The other day I had just gotten out of the water when something strange happened. I met a psychic. This cunning temptress of the spiritual arts was the real deal, and revealed impossible truths to me without so much as a glance at my palms. I had never seen this person before in my life, yet hours after my surf session, when I went to the sandwich shop that she was working at, she asked me simply, “How was the surf?”
“Pretty fun,” I replied, when it suddenly occurred to me how strange this was. “How did you know that I surf?” I asked.
She simply giggled and went back to making my turkey on wheat with tomatoes and a dash of black magic with gypsy tears. As I devoured my savory sammy, I pondered this for a moment. The answer was obvious: I hadn’t cut my hair in months, my face was as red as the tomatoes in my sandwich, and the salt in my five o’clock shadow could pass for some new form of facial dandruff. I thought about all this as I tongued the salt from my stubble mustachio, half wondering how obvious we surfers are and half wondering why the salt was so damn tasty.
I definitely didn’t intend on falling into the disheveled stereotype of a Southern California surfer, but this realization may explain a lot. This may explain why people tend to assume I’m stoned most of the time and why in the classroom setting teachers tend to look surprised if I chime in with a relevant comment. Even this morning in Spanish, as I volunteered courageously to partake in an activity in front of the class, I saw the all too familiar smirk sprout across my teacher’s lips. This smirk means a few things: It means that my teacher probably assumes that I’m stoned and accidentally volunteered because I thought he was asking, “Who wants Cheetos?” which could be the only possible reason for my hand to shoot up at such a speed. I stood there a moment, answered the question correctly, received hesitant praise from my teacher and then returned to my seat where I could continue penciling the perfect wave on my notebook without further interup … shit. That puts me securely back in the confines of the stereotype.
Without even realizing it, we exude something that is a dead giveaway to teachers, bosses and girlfriends’ parents that we live for surfing, and this might be at the cost of things like schoolwork, jobs and quality time with the special lady. We can fight it all we want. We can buzz off all our locks, start wearing shirts with buttons and crispy collars and take our minds and our pencils away from the perfect wave and guide them toward whatever it is that we should be doing in class right now. We can do all this, but we won’t. Even though it may sting a little to be pigeonholed as a vacant consumer of waves and junk food, and you may want to fight this persona, it’s just more trouble than it’s worth. If someone calls you a peace-loving hippie surfer, then what are you going to do about it anyway? Are you going to punch him in the teeth and say that you hate weed and we should go to war with Iran? Probably not. Just accept this stereotyping as the price you must pay for being a surfer. They may think you are ripped all the time, unsure of what month it is and bad at simple addition and subtraction, but at least you know the joys of getting a barrel or throwing spray, and I think we all know that makes it worth it.