Monday, April 30, 2007

Killer session

I know, I can this post come after "surf moratorium"? But it does.

I had just called the not-as-bad surf instructor guy to schedule a lesson. I hadn't planned on surfing today, but took a late afternoon bike ride up to the boardwalk and saw a guy in on small waves. The monkey-see-monkey-do syndrome. The wind was strong from the wrong direction, the tide was at the wrong place, and yet it didn't look completely horrible. One foot lines were coming in.

It was hot and sunny and I wanted to get wet.

I had five rides! You would have to look pretty far back in this blog to see the last time I got more than one or two. I think it was December or January.

Why? How? Who can say? The surf goddesses decreed it, it was so.

Also, I was further back on the board than W. told me to be. That seemed to do the trick. I hate to say it, because he surfs so well, but he's just wrong. Surfing, like so much else in life, is about knowing when to listen to others and when to listen to yourself.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Surf moratorium

The waves were decent early, but by the time I got out had turned to slop and the other people had gone in. Well, I don't know that it makes that much difference, the way I'm surfing now. So I went in anyway.

Of late I know very few things, but one of them is that in order to surf, you have to stay on your board. I am willing to go back as many steps as I have to to get out of this surf slump, so I thought I would just work on staying on my board on these one foot waves.

It didn't work. I still got knocked off. And when I didn't, my nose still went under.

OK, I told myself, play around, see if you can find out what works.

I had an idea. Rather than looking at my nose as I'm taking off or trying to, as usual, what would happen if I didn't, if I kept my head up? It seems logical. When you ski, or skateboard, or do any other sport, you don't look at your feet, do you? And keeping your head up is another way of saying arch your back, which I remember being told to do.

So I tried keeping my eyes and head up, rather than looking down at the nose to see if it was going under.

I can't say that it made things any better but it didn't make them any worse.

I am just guessing, and chances are more than 50-50 I'm guessing wrong. I don't really know if the head up thing is right, or if I'm on the right spot on my board, or where that right spot would be, or what to do to find it.

I don't know anything, so what the hell am I doing? I think I should really call a surf moratorium until and unless I get some expert advice. Otherwise, I'm just wasting time. It just seems pointless, especially given how much work I have to do and the deadline I'm trying to meet (do you realize how much work there is to do after you've finished a book? I didn't, until now). I mean, it's not like I have nothing else to do but flail around and inhale seawater.

Anyone who's reading this, weigh in with your advice on the head up thing, etc. Your advice is as good or better than anyone's. Truth to tell, I don't really think there is anyone in this town who thinks enough about surfing to give me the advice I need. All they do is yell at you to stand up. I need someone who's going to go into great detail about what I'm doing and what I need to do. I doubt that the two $100 an hour guys I know of can do this. Nevertheless I'm pretty much out of other things to try. I guess that's the next thing I'll do.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

2 for 2

I tried to put W.'s advice---mostly, to move forward on the board---to work today. I thought I was going to do well. But no. Time after time, when I caught a wave, my nose went under and I was flung off the board. That tells me I need to be farther back, from what I understand. I was doing exactly what W. told me, but it wasn't working. I'd get in position as best I could, paddle, watch my nose go under and next thing I knew I had been knocked off the board, somersaulted once or twice and was in the water with my board upside down and floating behind me.

Something else could cause that too, with or without being too far forward, which is catching the wave too late.

I did get one ride before the first hour was up, but I have no idea how I did it.

The funniest thing about today was that E. was out surfing by herself next to me and, because she didn't recognize me with my new board, was actually friendly! With the surf burka on, and not a hair showing, she thought I was someone else. Well, boards are the way we mostly recognize each other without more cues. She smiled and gave me some encouragement and advice. I just nodded, stunned that she was actually speaking in complete sentences to me and more than one at that---usually I can't even drag a syllable out of her mouth when I say hi. That is, when she knows it's me.

It gave me an idea of what it would be like out here if I was just me, and not this horrible person created by K. in everyone's mind. Prejudice is such a stupid thing. What else can make someone who doesn't even know you hate you? This just shows what an idiot E. is.

I thought of saying something snotty to her, like "Why are you talking to me now?" but didn't. I think that later on she recognized me by my crap surfing style. (Hers isn't so great either.)

The thing is, her advice was also not so hot. She told me to stand up immediately, exactly the opposite of what W. told me yesterday: wait until you've paddled down the face, then stand up. I think he's right and she's wrong. I have tried standing up immediately and it just can't work. I did notice, though, that she was doing it and it worked for her. Can it be that with surfing, like sex, there's not one way to do it? Then what to believe, what to do?

Once I started getting back farther on the board than W. said, and also paddling for waves earlier, I did manage some good takeoffs. And I got one more long ride---though why I went right instead of left or straight, I have no clue.

That's two rides in two hours, better than par for me.

I really do need a lesson, though. I know what to work on: playing around with wave timing, maybe doing things wrong on purpose to see what happens when I take off way too late (maybe there's a way to make it not such a disaster) or too early, trying to find out how much play and forgiveness, if any, there is between the two. Eventually I'll just humbly go to the surf instructor I first approached three and a half years ago, and explain: There have been times between then and now when I did know how to surf. There have been times when I didn't. Right now is a time when I don't. So teach me like I'm beginning all over again, and maybe I will get it back.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Good advice

I got my one ride today, and it was a good long one, although straight to the beach.

The board's fine. It's me. I didn't call the guy in Long Beach but got lots of good advice today from W. It was just what I needed. What he's saying makes sense, there's no way I can get waves or rides the way I've been doing it. I have to work on what he told me to do.
I think it's possible. I think, without such good advice, it's not possible.

In other news, I'm seeing people out I haven't seen since the end of summer. Is it summer? It's going up to 75 tomorrow after a terrible, cold, miserable winter. C. still looks at me as if I'm some kind of alien entity he just can't figure out. At least there are now lots of other people to make the lineup somewhat friendlier.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

New board day

The new board has been christened.

For the first hour and fifty-eight minutes, all I could tell was that the board paddles well and feels right. There were long waits between waves and I didn't catch many. On our first wave, the board and I parted company instantaneously. On another, I pearled. I did stand up on one wave and it didn't feel like I was using my knees but honestly, I have no way of knowing. And as soon as I stood I fell. On another, I felt as if I had the popup right but had to pull back because the guy next to me was on the same wave.

I got smacked around quite a bit, once on a wave I should have turtled but didn't. I was underwater noticeably longer than I'm comfortable with.

None of this, you might imagine, was any fun at all. There have been times I've had days like this and considered them fun, because it was warm and sunny; but not on a grey and cold day in April.

I tried to remember that this "surfing" is supposed to be fun. Well, if it's not fun at least it's supposed to be contributing to the learning process so that one day in the future will be fun. But I've rethought the whole "learning" surfing thing. There is no such thing. Sometimes you accidentally get it right. You try to give yourself the best chance to accidentally get it right. But it is nothing like the cumulative, empowering, confidence-building process we call learning.

Think about it. The people I know, who surf well, never learned. They tell stories like, "I went my first day in eight foot waves, not knowing what I was doing, and I just got a wave and surfed it." The same thing, to some extent, happened in surf camp. There was no instruction, there was no learning. The people who got it, got it in a day or so with no help other than being pushed on waves.

As I was getting colder waiting for waves, I realized that a new board is not going to be enough to get me out of this surf slump I'm in. I don't know what is. I had just about decided to call the guy in Long Beach (not the best surf instructor in the world, but not the worst either) and pay him $100 to watch me from the beach and tell me what I'm doing. I didn't know what else to try. I'd just start from scratch, an absolute beginner.

Then, just as I was getting too cold to stay out any longer, I got a wave and a ride. For no reason at all, by sheer accident, I was able to stay up long enough to remember to do three things: put my arms out to balance, lean forward, and bend my knees. It worked. It was my one ride of the day after two hours, and then I went in.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Drum roll please...

Today the waves went down a notch, and I got in the water. I did manage some good takeoffs, but there were no rides, nothing even remotely resembling surfing. I fell immediately on standing up with no time to think or correct anything. When I did manage to stay up for more than a thirty-secondth of a second, the board just stopped moving, and the end result was, I fell. What the hell do I do to stop the board when I stand up? Maybe it's just that by the time I get up the wave is over?

All I know is, if I ever manage to get up, the board stops moving.

So, no one ride today. Maybe it's that there were long waits in between and not so many waves to go for. My average is about one in twenty (one ride for each twenty attempted) and I did not get twenty chances today. I had about ten.

But I have done it now. I have bought a new board. My third board in nearly four years. I truly, truly hope I have done the right thing, for the cost of this board was scandalous, and I will never disclose it, no matter what, even if you tear out my toenails.

If it doesn't work, I will cry. Then you can buy it off me for a scandalous price.

Drum roll please...I hope to christen the new board tomorrow a.m.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

No go

I have been sidelined with an ear infection for a while. Today I suited up because the waves looked OK from my window. But when I got to the beach I hesitated. The bigger ones were nearly head high. So, even though they were well shaped, I decided not to go in. I went home, took off my suit, and washed the dog poop off my boots.

Part of the hesitation was my extremely poor performance the last time I was out. I actually videotaped myself and that made me want to throw myself off a bridge. I'd actually post it here if I could figure out how---last time youtube refused permission. It wasn't obscene, honest!

Part of it is my 0ngoing doubt as to whether I am really fit enough or strong enough for surfing. Perhaps I should devote my "surfing" time to working out. There are those who make fun of me for not being fit. I think they're wrong---I think I'm fit and strong. I work out, I exercise, I do other sports; I went skiing six days in a row, skiied well, and didn't get tired.

Still, how do you know if you're fit enough to surf? Alas, as in my last post, it seems one of those questions to which there are no answers.

Monday, April 02, 2007

The one wave theory

Today I was back in the water for the first time in a while. There were a lot of people out, so I decided to stay away from the main peak, which was a good choice, but nevertheless I had my challenges.

You know my one wave theory: If you get one good wave in a session you might as well quit, even if it's your first wave, because you won't get another. I don't know if this is true for everyone, and I wish it wasn't for me, but it always is.

I caught my first wave but couldn't get up. I caught my second but got up for only a nanosecond before falling. I caught my third and managed to ride it for several seconds. That was my one ride in two hours.

There is a mentality that sets in after that, at least for me: "I did it, I proved I can surf, can I go home now and have a hot and/or alcoholic beverage? Do I have to do it again?" And after that one wave it becomes work, or at least practice, with the goal achievement instead of fun. (Though admittedly it's often hard to tell the difference, at least for me! Achievement has been my fun for as long as I can remember.) I wish I knew how to get around this kind of thinking.

Instead of going in after that one wave, I talked myself into staying out, doing self coaching. I told myself the things I think (but don't know) are true: That in order to balance on a board I must remember to bend my knees, lean forward, keep my weight on the front of my feet, use my arms to balance and look at the ocean instead of the shore. (The last is because all of our waves are lefts, and I am a goofy foot; hence, if I am riding down the line I must be facing the ocean, which is hard to do; instinctively I always want to face the shore, even when swimming.)
Oh, and don't stick my butt out.

Whether all these things are true or not---does anybody know if this is how you balance on a surfboard?---I never got another chance to test them out, for I was never again able to stand up long enough to do any of them. If I got up at all, I fell immediately.

I did manage many takeoffs that were smooth, my buttah takeoffs; on these I really had the chance to try to think about how to stand up and balance but didn't have enough time before I fell.

But for every takeoff that was perfect, and this is the incredibly frustrating thing, there was another that was a wipeout. I pearled; I pearled and somersaulted (oh my back!); or the wave just knocked me off the board. And I never knew why these things happened. I'd be on the same place on my board, or at least I thought so, and on one wave I'd take off perfectly and on the next I'd pearl.

Perhaps it has to do with where my weight is on the board, not just where my nose is? All I know about that is that you're supposed to arch your back as you're getting the wave, and since I can only remember one thing at one time that's what my inner coach was saying; but it didn't always work. I seem to remember once being told you're also supposed to push the board down with your hands as you're getting ready to take off, no?

And why, having caught the wave OK, did I fall on trying to stand? Maybe it has to do with when I try to stand as much as how (the how: I will never have the strength to do a conventional popup, even though I've been working on my arms and they've gotten much stronger; I have to do some alternative kind of old person's popup.) Here I've gotten contradictory advice. N. told me to wait until you're sure you've gotten the wave before standing up; others told me to stand up immediately. The last never has worked for me ever, the first sometimes has.

I still think, but can't confirm, there is some kind of fulcrum action that makes it easier to stand up while you're still going down the wave (so to speak; it's hard to go down a one or two foot wave) and before you're at the bottom; but only at the bottom do you feel like you have something solid to stand on. And the fulcrum thing never has worked for me, because if I try to get up that way I fall even sooner than I do the other way. Getting up to your feet is useless if you're not instantly balanced and have no time to get balanced.

Damn, I need a surf coach. You know, in Vermont I took a private ski lesson that did more for me than two dozen group lessons have. I wish there was surf instruction here. When I go to California, I think there will be competent surf instructors. But in the absence of anyone to watch me and tell me what I am doing, I am going to have to get out my video camera again. I didn't want to do it today because it's embarrassing to be seen taping myself when so many other people are out. I wish there was someone who could tape me, but I can set the camera up on a tripod. I've done that before and it's helpful, just gotta wait for a day when the wind won't blow the camera over!

Skiing is two zillion times easier than surfing because at least you have more than one-tenth of a second to do what you have to do. And because ski lessons are easy to find and usually of good quality.

All told, today wasn't a bad day. Two hours, one ride; that's my standard and I didn't fall below it.