As I open my computer and begin meeting keys with fingers, I realize that I am horriebbly misspepeelling my wourdss. This is not the result of dyslexia or the tremors associated with a New Year’s Day hangover, but rather a problem that stems from the subject of this column itself: surfing. Winter has officially arrived, and this is obvious due to the fact that post-session we surfers are thoroughly frozen and doomed to skulk around the earth with creepy claw-like hands that are as useless as male nipples. This makes taking off your wetsuit an epic struggle as you paw at the zipper with what might as well be crude, blunt instruments. This has always been an indicator of the onset of winter, but usually it is accompanied by something called swell, which we used to know all about last year but now is a myth that no longer exists.
It’s no secret that there is some kind of conspiracy brewing to ruin this winter’s surf, and it surely involves both global warming and alien probing. In all seriousness, this has been the worst winter we’ve encountered in years, and while the mountains get pummeled by snow it makes me wonder if it’s time to pack up and head out to school in Boulder where I can beg to write a snowboard column. I’m only blowing smoke, however, as I’m sure that my thin Southern Californian blood would freeze instantly as soon as my plane landed in Denver.
The truth is that I love it here, but we all like to bitch and moan when the Santa Barbara winter doesn’t bear the fruit of its reputation. With so many perfect point breaks stacked across the coastline, the lack of swell is like being given the keys to a Ferrari that’s out of gas. There is no AAA for northwest ground swells. We are just going to have to sit on our hands and wait for something magical to happen. Hopefully all of the sitting will keep our hands a little warmer when we finally have a reason to brave the glacial tides.
The claw hands are not going to kill you, but they have a knack for thrusting you into some very awkward and inconvenient situations. I know someone who could not operate the keys to their car door and had to shack up in a nearby public bathroom until feeling returned. Personally, my most blush-worthy moment of claw-handedness was when I was at the fragile young age of 13. I was surfing with my friend Adam and we came out of the water with numb nubs, dreading the removal of our suits in the frigid morning. Adam’s mom (the grom chauffeur for this particular morning) was shouting at us because we were going to be late for school and refused to move any quicker than absolutely necessary.
Trying to change ended in nearly complete failure, with shirts halfway on, strange wedgies, with the last straw being a stubborn zipper on my pants that was more difficult to figure out than a Rubik’s cube. Adam’s mom just so happens to be a saint, and she threw any fear of faux pas into the wind by taking care of this zipper for me. It caught me off-guard and I thanked her sheepishly. I might have given her a round of applause for her graciousness, but if I could operate my hands for that, then I would have zipped it up myself.
We all fall victim to the winter claw hands, but we can’t let them hold us down. Just grab one of your buddies and paddle out anyway, because you always feel better after you do, and with the pace of the swell you will likely be the only ones around. You may not get epic waves, but you and your friend might have some stimulating conversations about modern art, politics, or how his mom has very gentle hands. Embrace the sub-arctic sets and share some high fives, if you can still feel your fingers.