Monday, May 29, 2006


That was the theme of the Memorial Day weekend, which involved precious little surfing. Mostly I drank, and ate; I was ravenous the whole weekend, but, inconveniently, this never seemed to coincide with food at a barbecue. I was invited to three of these events, which seem to take place at unpredictable times between five and eleven p.m. The only one where I ate was the one I wasn't invited to. The rest involved lots of drinking.

Yes, the "surfing lifestyle" thing involving hanging out, beer, smoking pot, and cooking burgers in the backyard overwhelmed the "surfing" thing, at least for this weekend. I excuse this with the fact that it was Memorial Day, after all. I really wanted to surf, but I found myself being dragged to the beach at three a.m. for activities that have nothing to do with surfing. I did not wake up before twelve all weekend.

The first day, there were really good (read: too big) waves, chest to head high. But it was hot and I wanted to get wet, so I went out anyway. Caught a couple of whitewaters, but I didn't stay out very long because I was TOO HUNGRY. Next day I went out right after brunch, and was starving again within an hour. But I made myself stay out the regulation two hours.

I did not do well. After talking with C. about the whole thing, I am, perhaps, more confused than ever. He says it doesn't matter how many pushups I can do or how strong my arms are, that popups are about your legs, not your arm strength. He says you should barely use your arms at all, but should use your legs to stand up. This is contrary to what I've been taught and what just about every surf instructor has said to me (including the ones at that lame-ass surf camp). I don't understand how you can pop up without using your arms. What is going to push you up? I've been told and told not to use your knees, but if you don't use your knees how do you push up with your legs? I guess you can use your feet if you're on a longboard (and we were told to use toes as well as arms at surf camp), but what if it's a shortboard? C. says it's OK to use a knee to get up. He does that sometimes (he's my age). He's telling me to do it cause it may be the only way I will ever get up. But that's not even a solution, because all it does it get me up with my feet facing the front, and I go down in a second before I can try to turn them around.

I've pretty much decided it's a waste of time going out by myself with no one to help me out. K. was with me but too busy riding waves to really watch me. However, since I can't ride, I had plenty of time to watch her. She uses her knee to get up, though she thinks she doesn't. She says it's the only way she can balance on the board, and that makes perfect sense to me; standing up slowly using your knee you can control where you place your feet, whereas with a real popup, it seems to be a crapshoot where your feet end up, and little chance they will land in the right spots. Am I right?

C. was nowhere to be found when I was in the water. He says he will go out with me, and I think he will; however it's become clear he's much more interested in other activities that preclude, at least for me, getting up early in the morning. Memorial Day he was up and out of bed early to get some good little waves, while it was all I could do to roll over and get four more hours of sleep. (And of course by the time I got to the beach the waves were gone.)

This is really all fine and very much fun for Grandma, but I see how it could become a problem somewhere down the road. Very far down.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

To Susan Rogers

I'm going on a little trip. There's surfing there, a secret (compared to Rockaway) spot which shall remain unnamed. But the only surf shop within an hour radius says it's completely out of boards, and it's not worth it to me to schlep my own board down there just for a couple of days. So, no surfing on this trip.

I will break my own rule of not using real names on this blog. Susan's a friend of mine who is not a surfer. Susan, are you still reading this? Probably not, I know how busy you are. But if you are, I just want to say: You were right. I was wrong.

If you don't know what I mean by this, it should become clear in the near future.

Surf blogging will resume over Memorial Day Weekend.

Meanwhile, everyone go get the new issue of Transworld Surf and look for the teeny tiny picture of Grandma! (Hint: I'm not surfing.)

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Fun weekend

Do your surf buds ever disappoint you? Do they ever promise things they can't deliver? Do they lure you into a night of drinking with the promise of a redeeming dawn patrol, then fail to wake up?

On the advice of Collider and my bud K., I headed out to surf on Saturday, only to find my plans foiled by the evil MTA. (The subway to you non-city folks.) It turned into a three hour trip and when I got there I found the surf blown out and my friends well into the Bacardi. The good part was that K. has recruited our downstairs neighbor, R., into surfing, or shall we say trying to surf. Well, at least he bought a wetsuit. But by the time I got there they didn't want to go out. I allowed myself to be talked into drinks and dinner and waiting til Sunday morning to surf.

Can you guess what happened? Yes, you can. No one woke up before 9 and then there were all sorts of excuses why they'd "love to go out, but can't."

Farts on them both. I went out alone anyway. I needn't have worried about being by myself; I counted 25 people in the lineup. The waves were waist high, which made me nervous, but there were long lulls and they were well shaped.

It turned out to be a blast, even though I arguably outkooked myself. I headed (unknowingly) for a woman who was even more of a beginner than me. She was immediately friendly, and we got into a little convoy with a friendly guy who took it upon himself to give us both advice. Being out with a worse surfer always does wonders for my confidence! It helped that she made me look so good the guy heaped compliments on me, totally undeserved. On the bigger waves I 1) took a ride with one knee on the board and one leg up 2) rode a wave in sitting down straddling the board. I have no idea how either of these things happened. Both of these were a first, even for me.

Then my two new surf buds went in, so I floated downstream where the local surf mafia was out in full force. I said hi to the ones I knew and was close enough to speak to, but it felt too weird to paddle over to anyone just to say hi, especially since I had nothing else to say after that. I am never sure about approaching people in the water, especially since I have a very soft voice and I think that no one can hear me unless I'm right in their face. (Which is probably true.) Also, I am never sure about recognizing people when they're all in black and all wet, and I'm not sure whether they can recognize me. It seems the main way of identifying people is by their boards when we're all black dots floating along, no? Even if I think I know someone at least by sight, I'm too shy to just wave to them in case it's not really them or they don't recognize me.

But nevertheless I ended up in another cozy convoy of three, approached by a very friendly young girl who commented on my (K.'s) board. I guess board comments are always a sure bet convo starter.

The surfing? I tried. A couple of times when I was going for a wave people were actually encouraging---"Go for it"---and I did, and nailed the waves but couldn't stand up. I ended up riding them in on my knees and learned something. The reason I can't stay up and ride when I do get up is not because the waves run out of steam. Even these small waves had plenty of power for long rides when I was on my knees, i.e., balanced. No, the reason I can't stand up for more than a few seconds and the board stalls out and I fall off is that I am not balanced. The moment I stand up I do something to slow the board down, even if I feel like my feet are in the right spots, and it quickly stops. Perhaps it's a matter of how much weight to put on each leg, yet by the time I would figure such esoteric things out, it's far too late. I definitely have most of my weight on my back leg.

C. is confident he can teach me to surf. He says he can do it by the middle of June. He's sweet---did I mention what a lovely, gorgeous man he is? A man, not a boy like so many of the guys out there. However I have to say I don't think it will work. Like most surfers, he doesn't think about what to do, just does it---while the only way I can do anything is not only to think about it but to figure it out and understand it. I truly believe that the main reason I can't surf (if it isn't my bad knees) is that I am just not smart enough, by which I mean I can't think quickly and can only focus on one thing at a time. Surfing requires you to execute and coordinate five or six moves within one second. My brain doesn't work that fast. In addition, I know from an old injury I had that my reaction time is abnormally slow, and there's nothing I can do about that. Even if it's only a fraction of a second slower than normal, that's enough to screw up the surfing.

Oh well, we'll have fun trying.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Everything but the surfing

The late-afternoon-to-sunset session today: beautiful water, lots of people, and a definite summer vibe. In the words of veteran surfer D.: "The water looks like an ocean today and not like a terlet bowl." I know the word "glassy" refers to the shape of a wave and not the color and transparency of the water, but tonight's waves while not so well shaped definitely deserved that term. They sparkled like blue green glass.

Summer 2006 is here! So many people out, some I'd seen before, some who just said Hi, one who knew me and introduced herself. Everyone friendly. Amazingly, T., a regular and very good surfer who I've known for a year and a half, offered up tips on my performance today. He's never done that before. Not only that, he let me take a wave I was in position for! No one ever gives me waves. Everyone knows that I will only blow them, so whenever there's a question about who's getting a wave, I end up pulling back because I know they won't and they will just run into me. This time he told me to go, and I did---and blew it, of course.

It's a problem now that it's getting more crowded---I can't really try to surf near anyone else because I will end up always having to give the wave to them.

T.'s comments:
"You are getting up by using your right knee, then you get up with your foot facing forward and you lean forward and you fall right off every time."

Of course, I knew that already. A million bucks to the person who can tell me what I really need to know: How do I stop doing that???

If I can't figure that out, I might as well quit. And yet:

The beautiful water, the mellow vibe, the warmth and sun, the sunset, the evening stretching before me with the prospect of beers and burgers and camaraderie...

It occurred to me tonight that I have got this whole surfing thing down except for the surfing.

I've got the board, the suits, the beach house, a few friends (the few who don't care that I can't surf, the rest of the surfers hate me), the mentality, the lifestyle (to some extent)...

Is all that enough? Would it be enough for you, if you hadn't been able to learn to surf and you might never learn? Would you take all the peripherals and be satisfied "just being in the water" and call it "surfing"?

I feel like such a fake.

This is a pretty critical question because I have even, crazily enough, been thinking of moving to the beach full time which would be a major life upheaval for me and my pets. I go around thinking how much I'd like to live by the ocean and the thing that's holding me back is when reality grabs me and I realize: that's crazy, that's totally devoting my life to surfing and I can't even frickin' surf.