Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Need a 6/5/4 for my 46th

Today is my birthday. I’m 46.

Looking back at my notes, I realize I haven’t had a ride on a wave since the end of September. OK, so there was a period of almost two months when I didn’t surf at all. But still, that ride was a long time ago.

All I wanted for my birthday was one ride, and I got it. One. (The second one doesn’t count because even though my feet were planted firmly in the right spot, my hands were still on the rails.)

The waves were about six inches. Actually they were wavelets, or wave-like formations, not really waves. I dragged K. out with me. We got out about 3 and didn’t even last til sunset, because we were cold. This was the first time I’ve ever not been able to feel my nose. And my fingers were just short of frostbitten. The rest of me wasn’t very comfortable, but hung on bravely.

The fact is that a 5/3 is just not warm enough for winter in New York. Yet nobody makes 6/5/4s for women, I guess on the theory that women don’t surf in winter. What am I to do? I won’t be able to surf much longer unless I get a man’s suit. But they don’t really fit right and bulge in funny places.

Are you listening, Billabong Roxy O’Neill Ripcurl BodyGlove etc. etc.??

Monday, December 19, 2005

The physics of surfing

Today I went out with the hooded liner under my 5/3 and was fine, not cold even though there was more wind than yesterday. Go figure. The waves were one foot. But even though I wasn’t cold I couldn’t get up and stay up.

It was sunny and relatively warm and still fun, but frustrating. Looking at the waves I thought, these are the type of waves I can do well on; but I didn’t, and I don’t know why.I can’t blame the waves today.

Later on, I went to dinner with K.’s friend E., who is a total nonsurfer. Using swizzle sticks and cocktail napkins, he tried to figure out this whole surfing thing logically, using the rules of physics and anatomy, such as “You can’t bend your thighs backwards.” It was hilarious and took about two hours. The conclusion we came to? It is physically impossible to pop up using only your arms. You must use, if not your feet (as I have been told is verboten) at least your thigh muscles, somehow, and you really cannot avoid involving your knees. They must contact the board even if you don’t use them to push up, but it is pretty hard to avoid using them.

So he says, and he’s totally convinced me. Anyone want to argue?

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Blessings and curses of community

Today K. woke me up calling to tell me she was going out surfing. I wasn't able to go, but after I talked to her I went straight to the surfcam and found out the waves were three to five feet. I'd never go out in waves that big (not on purpose anyway; I have found myself out in waves that big inadvertently). But she went out and later called to tell me she'd caught two rides and had fun. It's hard---OK, impossible---not to feel jealous. She hasn't been surfing as long as I have, but she's doing much better. I try not to compare myself to other people---I definitely don't consider surfing a competitive sport---but I do, anyway, all the time...at least to other women.

S., who started the same time as me, passed me by long ago and has gone on to multiple shortboards and head high waves. K. started a year later than me and is better. It's hard to be patient with myself when I want to be like them.

Yeah, they're younger. 18 and 12 years younger. So? What's the math on that? If X starts surfing at 28, Y starts at 31, and Z starts at 43, at what point, if any, do their abilities equal each other's?

On a more positive note, it's amazing how many tributes to my friend who just died on November 29th have been posted on blogs. And they are all over the place, in the most unlikely places---a blog from Arkansas when my friend lived in the Northeast, a sports blog when he was an intellectual. But they're all describing the same man we knew and loved. I've never been more grateful for the blog world. Because there were so many years when I wasn't in touch with him and I didn't see him again until he was about to die, there's a lot I didn't know about his life. But now people who've known him in different contexts, at different times in his life, have told me some of the story of his life that I didn't know. Even posted pictures of him (it's amazing how many incarnations he's gone through appearancewise, but I'll always prefer the cleanshaven look to the shaggy beard he grew in later years). All of this is precious to me and however much I bitch about the not-always-positive effects of internet culture, I'm so grateful for this virtual community (if that's the word for people who don't know each other), mourning and loving this man in the same way I am.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Back in the water

This is a surf blog again. Today I got back in the water for the first time since California, a month and a half ago. The sun came out, it was warm (38 degrees) and even though I wasn’t sure I was ready, I decided not to think about it too much and just go...greatly encouraged by the fact that my friend K. said “If you go I’ll go too.”

The waves were choppy and crappy, up to chest high (on the one other guy who was surfing and catching very short rides). But even though we hesitated at first, it turned out to be fun. It was also a challenge because the waves were coming it at such an unusual angle to the beach. Instead of breaking behind you, the wave would actually break over the side of your board. So when I did catch waves, they’d nearly knock me off the board!

Nevertheless, I didn’t surf any better or worse than I have recently. At least I haven’t lost any ground by not surfing for a while. I was trying to concentrate on making the drops perfectly the way I did in California. And I did, a few times. I did even get up, though (dammit!) still using my left knee. I’m still not strong enough to push myself up using only my arms. But I did stand up—with my feet facing forwards as always---and consciously try to shift my feet sideways, and then if I was still on the wave, try to balance. All this took one to two seconds before I fell off. But even the guy on the shortboard who knew what he was doing didn’t get more than three or four second rides today.

Damn, that salt water tasted good.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Tribute to a beloved friend

My dear friend died last Tuesday. I had called his home that day, and at 2:40 he was still alive. He died later that afternoon. He was just 56.

After that phone call I was at loose ends and decided to go out to the beach house. Even though I knew I probably wouldn’t be able to surf---waves were head high---I just wanted to be there, and I’m glad I did.

It was very warm, 60 degrees, and a lot of people were out. Surfing, photographing, making art. One woman photographer was writing inscriptions in the sand, then photographing them before they disappeared. They were names of people, names of couples, dates, anniversaries or birthdays probably.

I guess she was making art. I don’t even know if they were real people. But she inspired me. The next day, when no one was out but me and it had turned cold, I wrote a message in the sand for my friend. Just his name, and his years of birth and death, and what he used to say to me: Much love always.

He was already dead as I was writing this, and photographing it with the sun on it before the waves washed it away. No one saw but me. It’s gone now. It’s gone already.