Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Get the hell out of here, January... month of exhaustion and despair, month of giving up after long struggle, cold bleak days of nothing left to go on.

All three of my beloved animals died in January.

On January 24, 2002, my first cat Bunny died of cancer.

On January 9, 2007, the love of my life Tiny died of kidney failure.

On January 26, 2007, my sixteen and a half year old dachshund Callie died.

I feel frozen; how to mourn two at once?

I cannot even write more about her now. Maybe later.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Crap surfing

Today was one of my worst sessions ever, if not the worst. And I don't know why. There were as many small, rideable waves as I wanted---I just couldn't get my takeoffs right, and if I did get them at all, I couldn't get up, and if I could, I couldn't stay up. I only had one thing that could be considered a ride in two hours.

The worst thing was, I have no idea why I sucked so badly and so was completely unable to do anything about it. If you saw me out there, you would have thought it was my first day ever on a board. That's how bad it was. It makes a mockery of the whole idea of "learning" surfing. Learning is supposed to be linear and cumulative, each little bit of knowledge leading to a great deal, leading to a feeling of mastery. By that standard I haven't learned squat. This is not a learning process. This is a series of completely unconnected, practically random experiences. Nothing I do well one day guarantees I will do well the next day. Every day is like I really am starting all over again.

Why did I stay out for two unproductive totally unfun hours? Good question. Because I didn't know when to give up. Because I kept telling myself as I blew wave after wave that I still had a chance with the next one. Because I wasn't cold. Because I'm an idiot. Because I couldn't believe I could suck so badly and kept thinking it would turn around.

Well, at least I was inspired to write my first entry for the CrapSurfer website. Loyal readers, here it is.

How do you end a crap surfing session?

Knowing when to end a crap surfing session is one of the most difficult challenges for the crap surfer. You've screwed up your courage to get out there, often in very difficult conditions like two-foot waves; you've been out there; and...nothing's happened. How can you justify giving up yet again? How much crap surfing time is enough?

Crap surfing is very difficult to quantify, and cannot be measured in the ways that apply to regular surfing: number of waves caught, number of rides, fun had.

Nor can you measure that degree of pleasurable tiredness that comes from successful exertion of muscles in real surfing, since crap surfers rarely avail themselves of the muscles in their arms and legs and are generally unaware that they even have any.

Crap surfing has no rhythm or momentum, no climax; just the monotony of failing over and over to do anything remotely related to real surfing.

Here are some hints on knowing when to---mercifully---end a session.

You could attempt to quantify crap surfing in some ways, such as the number of gallons of water up your nose.

I believe that in the U.K. a perfectly acceptable excuse to end a session would be that it's time for tea. In the U.S., breakfast, lunch or dinner would suffice. Always stop and get out of the water if you're hungry---dedication to your sport is one thing, but there's no need to be a martyr.

The sight of blood---yours or anyone else's---always ends a surf session honorably, but relying on this method is not recommended.

However, in many colder climates, the loss of feeling in hands, feet, or nose provides you with a legitimate excuse for going indoors, as, in warmer climates, does the loss of any appendage to a shark bite.

Real surfers don't end sessions for jellyfish stings and crap surfers shouldn't either.

Do not wait for that "one last good wave to go in on", the one that you think you will finally ride; you've been waiting for that wave for years and it hasn't come yet.

If nothing else, darkness will always put an end to the most mortifying of sessions.

Whatever you do, never attempt to end a session gracefully, or with any semblance of dignity or style. That's for surfers who know what they're doing. Instead, crap surfers should only aspire to end gratefully; grateful that all your fingers and toes are intact, that you haven't bashed your head open, that you've survived one more day in the raging one-foot slop.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007


I have a confession to make; sometimes, if I surf really crappily, I don't write about it. So now I can tell you that on Martin Luther King Day, I totally crapped out and couldn't even catch a wave. I blame the waves for being too fast and steep, even though they weren't big.

But other people were catching and riding waves.

However, today, my first time out since then, I had a lovely time. It was fairly warm---35 degrees!---and small, and at least two rides were just perfect. I got up and rode them as far as they would go. OK, the next thing is figuring out how to turn. No, the next thing is getting more rides like that. Cause there are still plenty of times I blow takeoffs or fall.

I am going to link to some more of your websites once I figure out how---I've forgotten. But in the meantime, speaking of crap surfing, I have to share something that had me cracking up, at a time in my life when I thought I'd forgotten how to laugh. Is it just me, or is this site a work of freakin' comedic genius?

(Sorry, can't figure out how to make it linkable.)

Monday, January 15, 2007

Sea Hags

For three days I was a wreck, then I had to get up and out of the house. I found I could be OK for short periods or at least act as if I were. Saturday I was back in the water for the first time since Tiny died. I offered up a prayer for her soul and then got a ride on the first wave I went for. It was good.

And the next day was good too. I did amazingly well.

A while back I wrote about the use of the term "Sea Hag" as a derogatory name for older women, one in particular. Sunday I got a look at the woman known around here as "Sea Hag" for the first time. She wasn't what I thought. She's younger than I am, not bad looking, not fat or ugly.

I asked one of the guys why everyone hates her. He said it's because she doesn't share waves, is territorial, has an attitude, is mean.

Well, that describes a good percentage of the 20-something male surfers on the beach, in particular many of those who live here. And all those qualities, far from making them hated, make them cool and popular in the eyes of the other guys. They are proud of being territorial and hating on people who don't live here and can't surf well, etc. etc. They are mean as shit and proud of it.

In other words, there is a sexist double standard here, and it applies tenfold to women past the age of "hot"ness. What's OK for men is put down, feared, hated in women. And no one's hated more than women past the age of sexual attractiveness who defiantly refuse to accept that they're over the hill.

Did I mention that she surfs really, really well? For any guy that skilled, whatever his age, there would be nothing but admiration, not approbation.

Older women cannot win. I'm hated because I can't surf, because I look like a bloody fool out in the water. I've often thought I would be respected if I could surf; but maybe I'd be hated even more.

Actually there's at least one other woman at our beach who surfs really well, is territorial, yells at other people, won't share waves, and is really mean; but she's young and sexy and wears bikinis, so no one calls her ugly names and she is very popular.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

In memory of Tiny (April 1986-January 9, 2007)

Today I am in mourning for the best cat who ever lived. Tiny, my loving companion for the last 20 years and 8 months, died last night.

It all happened so suddenly that I am in shock. I knew she had kidney disease, but she was managing it very well with daily injections of fluids and never seemed ill until five days ago. I took her to the vet and her blood work showed she was in crisis. She was hospitalized for intravenous fluids. I visited her every day and yesterday she seemed better and the vet was sure she was going to make it. But she died in the night.

Last night at eight o'clock I petted her and told her how much I love her and always will. I didn't think I would never see her again and I still can't believe I won't!

If you are not a cat lover, you can skip the next part. It has nothing to do with surfing, which I may do again someday, but not right away.

I first saw her little face when she was seven weeks old, on June 13, 1986. (It happened to be a Friday, but it was one of the luckiest days of my life.) She was sleeping in a cage at the ASPCA. I had looked over several other cats but none was what I wanted and even though I wanted a cat that day so badly I was starting to resign myself to not getting one, when I saw her curled up in a ball. "Can you wake that one up?" I asked. They took her out. She was wearing a tag that said, "This one is so cute, why isn't she adopted yet?"

She was not only the cutest thing in the world but so friendly, not like most cats. She looked at me with such genuine interest. I said, "Will she always be like this?" and they said Yes.

They put her in a box for me; she was so small she fit in my hand, an orange tortoiseshell calico with black stripes and white paws. (I just panicked for a minute, thinking I'd forgotten, or will forget, where she was white.) But I took her out of the box and carried her home on my shoulder. She stayed there all the way home on the bus. I wasn't afraid that she would run away. I knew she wouldn't. A man on the street smiled and said to us, "She'll be a good friend to you." Nothing was ever truer.

I couldn't get over how Tiny she was and so that was her name. She was always small even when she grew up, the runt of the litter probably; only nine pounds.

When I got her I was about six months pregnant and she would come and sit on my stomach when I was lying down and purr to the baby.

When I was sad or distressed she always knew and would come sit on my lap. I swear she could read my mind.

She and my older cat, Bunny, did not get along at first and would have wrestling matches where the smaller cat always seemed to win. It was so bad I thought of calling in a cat shrink. But eventually they learned to tolerate each other, though never more than that. Bunny died in 2002. Tiny enjoyed being the only cat in our home, the Queen of the Universe, until a year ago, when I found a kitten I could not resist bringing home (but made clear to her that Tiny was Queen).

When the baby came she accepted this curious creature. When she was four years old a little five-pound baby dachshund joined our family and I'll never forget the look on her face when she encountered her first, and very strangely tubular, canine. The dog came to love both cats and would smother them with kisses but I can't say the reverse was true. One of the mysteries of cat life is whether Tiny recognized that the tiny human whose crib she used to peer into was the same person as the six-foot-two teenager who came home from college so infrequently late in her life.

Tiny would wrap herself around my neck and sit on my shoulders, and I would walk around with her like that. A friend said, "that's the only way fur should be worn." She could, and loved to, jump from the floor to my shoulders for hugs and kisses. I'd cuddle and dance around with her. When she got older she'd use the bathroom sink as a jumping off point.

As with most cats, that's about as eventful as her life got: our daily rituals of love, like how she'd come and sit beside me on the bench when I played the piano and I'd sing to her, making up silly lyrics for songs that had none. She had a definite preference for Beethoven. The rituals changed and evolved over the years but lasted until she died.

Just looking into her green eyes, you could see how intelligent and wise she was. I liked to say that if they could just send Tiny to the Middle East she could bring about peace.

More than that, my son once said, "She's you, in cat form," and so it was. A cat like this, the great cat love of your life, comes around only once. I am blessed to have had her for so long, and I am going to miss her and love her forever.

It hurts so much right now. Surfing will have to wait until I can stop crying.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

A real popup

I got out late today and had a slow start and only an hour to surf, but I am fairly certain I did a real popup today, probably the first I've ever done on a wave. It certainly felt different.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

WTF happened to community?

My first time in the water back at home in ages, and what a day! It was springlike and sunny, and even the water seemed warmer than usual for this time of year. It's the first time out this winter for the 6/4 and I was totally comfortable.

Best of all, back on my own board---which I haven't used for months---I proved that the progress in my surfing I made in Texas wasn't just a fluke. I was able to do just as well as I did there.

Nothing could spoil this day, nothing. That's a very good thing, since K. and her boyfriend were out.

In fact, we three were the only ones in the water. I arrived first, looking forward to a solo session, and then they paddled out around me, pretending I wasn't even there.

I don't play the game of pretending I don't know people I know when they're three feet away from me. So I said hi to the boyfriend, who is actually pretty chill.

But when I simply smiled and said hello to K., who used to be my good friend, she replied with a barrage of abuse, accusing me of "surfing recklessly" and almost running her over. Of course, that didn't happen; these were one foot waves and I wasn't anywhere close to running over anybody.

Well, we were out for almost two hours "together", and further attempts at simple conversation elicited remarks that made absolutely no sense but were pure venom. Like "You're weird" and "No one likes you" and "Go away".

How would you respond if someone did that to you in the water? You can't imagine anything like that ever happening. My bet is it's never happened to anyone else.

Not so very long ago I wrote about "community" and how we all have to get along. I don't know where I made up that idea. Obviously there is no such thing. Or maybe every community, by its very nature, contains within it its dark side, ostracism, and I am now unlucky enough to be experiencing this.

Fortunately they could not spoil the spectacular sunset.