Friday, October 26, 2007

There will be days like this...

I've had a very good couple of days and so was ready for a third. Yesterday I got compliments and some good feedback on my surfing. It's what I already knew: I am slow to get up, using my knee instead of popping up, for what seems to be the supremely logical reason that I don't feel comfortable standing all the way up unless I feel stable! When I do that s-l-o-o-w process I don't fall once I'm up, in general (though as has been pointed out, by that time the wave is over, so it kind of defeats my purpose).

I did pop up a couple of times yesterday; it's hard to mistake that feeling of both feet hitting the board at one time (at least I thought they did) rather than dragging them across the board. But see, when I do that, I'm not stable, and I fall at once. So I ask you: what's the point? But then, I'm told that the more you do that popping up thing, the more you eventually learn to stick and balance once your feet are on the board. I hope so. I have a long way to go.

Today was a waste of time. From my window I saw people out surfing and just decided to go out without looking more closely at the waves or checking the wind. Even when I got the beach the waves didn't look that big. They weren't, but they were washingmachiney with virtually no lulls. I was reminded of how spoiled I've gotten by the easy paddleouts---there have been only one of two hard ones since I don't know when. I was reminded that I have lost my paddleout chops. It's been more than a year since I had a paddleout lesson, and I've forgotten almost everything. I just don't have the skills. Today would not be a fun day, it would be a skill test. Which could have been OK if I remembered what I was supposed to do.

Finally, I just turtled (I know how to do it, I just don't like doing it) and found that one turtle was enough to get out. Whew. Once out, I knew I wasn't getting out another time, so I tried real hard to find a worthy wave to ride in on, but never did. The wind was blowing sideshore in the wrong direction and the waves were all sectiony. Though I could see guys down at the jetty getting long rides (always a discouraging sight when I'm struggling) I didn't get any. When I paddled hard enough to get a wave, it broke completely sideways, meaning the ride I got on my stomach didn't go into the beach, just across the water. Well, I might have adjusted for that, but it didn't seem promising.

There will be days like this. There will be time in the water that would have been better spent reading a book. At least I didn't waste the whole day. I commiserated with the only other woman out, who had also had a hard time, and left the beach.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Dreads to grins

Waves always come when you're not expecting them. The good thing is that one look out my window first thing in the morning always tells me when they're here.

After all this time, I still get the dreads before a session when the waves are more than two feet. There have been times before a session (usually on a gray gloomy day like today) that the thought comes to me, unbidden: I'll be glad when I don't have to do this anymore.Then I say: What the hell? No one's making me do this, I want to do it.

Do you know what I mean? Whatever your comfort level is, there still must be a point where you get them too. You look at the waves and all you can think of are all the times you went over the falls, got hit with your board, etc. Or just had a cruddy miserable time. You make sure you have your cell phone in case you need to call the paramedics.

But you go anyway.

Because you know it always looks bigger from the beach than it is. Because you know it will be OK. Because that's what life is, doing what makes you somewhat uncomfortable.

It was my first time surfing at my beach in over a month, and my first time back on my Robert August.

It wasn't as big as it looked, not at all. After a couple of missed takeoffs--too late, too early---I got the waves figured out. I can still surf, YAY! There was lot of downtime between rides, but I got another, and another. The worst thing I was doing was surfing butt up again, that is, keeping my hands on the rails way too long. That means not popping up, I assume (though my ankle isn't scraped up again, so who knows). I was getting the waves early enough to be on top of them (I don't know how else to describe it) and then could see that there was going to be a drop down, and didn't want to take my hands off until that happened because I thought I would fall. Truth is, as I've been told enough times, standing up actually helps you not fall when that drop happens.

Well, though the ass in the air position may not have looked good (W. calls it doggy style, arrrrgh), it was working well enough for me to get rides, however ungracefully. My confidence was back and I was smiling. But I knew I had to work on doing better than that.

I tried bending my knees at takeoff, getting my feet off the board and into the air while lying down, even though I've never understood how anyone can pop up from that position. I don't think I did either. But somehow---I sure wish I had a video on this one---it worked. I think it helped me balance better on takeoff. And then without knowing how I was standing up, arms in the air. Arms are absolutely critical to balance, at least for me. Having them on the board is actually counterproductive. On my last wave I got one of the best rides of my surf career. And you know how that works, the memory of the dreads was immediately erased, the story of this gray day rewritten. It is not a cliche or exaggeration to say I got out with an ear to ear grin on my face.

I'm still grinning.

Monday, October 22, 2007

"Can't You Get Along With Anyone?"

I've just discovered this new book, written by surfer Allan Weisbecker, and cannot stop reading it. Yeah, that's the name of it: "Can't You Get Along With Anyone? A Writer's Memoir and a Tale of a Lost Surfer's Paradise." Weisbecker is that strange and rare hybrid of which I am one, an author and a surfer, who wrote the pretty well known book "In Search of Captain Zero." The title is a quote, what someone in the publishing world once told him.

I didn't read Zero because, I don't know, it sounded like the kind of macho surf tale I couldn't identify with. Maybe that was a misjudgment. But this new book (caveat: This is not a review, just my off the cuff personal opinions) has, really, very little to do with surfing. Nevertheless I can identify with it on a lot of levels. For one, it's a book about the writing process, which totally rings true for me because I have enough experience with publishing now to know that yeah, he is totally telling it the way it is! I just had to laugh (ruefully) at his experiences with editors, etc.

The quote on the front of the book is: "Writing is easy. Just stare at the blank page until your forehead bleeds." Later in the book he rails against idiots who say "I could write a book someday..." Given how hard it is to write a book, everytime I hear some slacker/stoner surfer say that to me, I want to kill him. They have no idea. Weisbecker does.

Because he published this book himself, he ultimately was able to say what he had to say in a way I will never be able to do with my publisher, a university press. I can't tell a lot of truths because they don't reflect well on people with money and power. Thus, my editor has asked me to cut names and identifying details, making mine a weaker book out of fear of the powerful. The fact that everything I write is true, and documented, makes no difference. In the frightened words of my editor: "Anyone can sue for anything." (Not so, but what matters is that she believes it to be so.)

I sure understand why Weisbecker couldn't find a publisher for this book, and I sure admire him for his naming of names. To put it briefly, besides a tale of the pitfalls of the writing life, it's the incredibly detailed story of how he was betrayed by the love of his life, who he calls (and who am I to dispute this?) a sociopath. Photos, names, details, not only about her, but about many other nefarious characters, one of whom, he says, had sex with a cow.

The story of his betrayal is a story I am all too familiar with, another reason why I couldn't put the book down. If you've ever had a sociopath in your life, you will probably have the same reaction. If you haven't, you might not get it; you might think this is just a guy who is so obsessed with his ex-girlfriend that he had to write a 5oo page book largely about her. But assuming she really is a sociopath (and of course no one who wasn't there can ever really know what the story is), writing a 500 page book is a completely sane and normal reaction to having intimately known and been traumatized by someone who is (as sociopaths are so accurately described) morally insane.

Whether you've been subjected to a sociopath or not, as the reader reviews attest, Weisbecker's brutal honesty and (to use a word he likes a lot) self-reflection, as well as his wry sense of humor and insights into why (as he puts it) the world is so fucked up are riveting and absolutely on target...making the book, as many have noted, difficult to put down.

One of his absolute gems: "Once people take a side in anything, be it in a matter of a friend being delusional about his mate's infidelities or in a matter of a bogus war on terror, new information is processed in such a way as to support the side already taken. This is the way of human beings and a major reason why people believe untruths, which in turn is the main reason why the world is so fucked-up."

What more is there to say, really?

He's certainly put his finger on exactly what happened to me in the surf "community." The word for it is gaslighting---a strategic campaign of lies designed to destroy the reputation of a target and even her sanity. That's what happened when I. decided she wanted the beachfront apartment K. and I shared, and for that reason (as far as I am able to discern a motive, assuming it's not just for the sheer pleasure of hating on someone) weaved a web of lies about me that K., being so gullible and so much less intelligent, embraced and spread to everyone they knew, until all my former friends turned away and total strangers decided they despised me.

I keep thinking I have never met a group of human beings so sheeplike, so prejudiced, and so completely unable and/or unwilling to think for themselves as surfers; but Weisbecker suggests (though he can't prove this, since he was largely involved with surfers too) these are unfortunate qualities of humans in general, not this specific subpopulation. Maybe. But I will always stand by my unscientific observation that of the humans (Weisbecker and a few others excepted) the majority of the surfers I have known are the dumbest.*

Weisbecker's got guts, exactly the guts my editor and publisher lack. Amazingly, he says on his website that he hasn't been sued over the book. So what am I doing with this K. and I. shit? Am I trying to protect these people? To hell with it. I., who is very clever at manipulating people (but down deep, a very insecure person) and so was able to work her way into the surf "community" despite surfing even worse than me, that is not at all---think about how much work that was, and is!---is Lena Hanson, and K., who did and still does appear to take great pleasure in spreading the vicious lie that her former "best friend" is "psychotic" without conflict, since she lacks the slightest capacity for self-reflection, is Lynn Jadamec.

Now that Lena's had the apartment for some time and Lynn is moving away, you'd think they'd ease up, but they haven't and show no signs of doing so; which is why it looks to me that they're groovin' on the sheer pleasure of trying to destroy someone else's life simply because they can.
Just the other day, a woman who has never met me, but is a friend of a friend of Lynn's and Lena's, told another member of the surf community that I'm "crazy".

Maybe one day I'll write a book about all this.

Meanwhile, when my current book comes out in about a year, unfortunately it will be without the names and identifying details of anyone with more power than me (that is, anyone) who, the publisher fretted, might "look bad." But you, blog readers, will know that the reporter in Chapter Fourteen whose name and direct quote and even her newspaper (the New York Times) had to be cut because "she sounds like an idiot" is Lisa Foderaro, who still writes for that unfairly renowned newspaper. If I get sued for revealing this, blame Weisbecker.# The thing about telling the truth and naming names no matter what, as he no doubt knows, is that it feels really, really good.

*Weisbecker employs asterisks to add piercing, often profane and bitchy comments to the main text. In homage, I'd like to do the same. To those who would take offense at surfers being called dumb: It is a matter of plain fact that, before becoming acquainted with any surfers, I was unaware that adult human beings could be incapable of spelling two- and three- letter words. The above-mentioned Lynn Jadamec is among the surfers who is such a human. As Weisbecker would say, I have archived proof in emails she sent.

#When he was told about my having to censor true facts about the New York Times, Weisbecker's refreshing reaction was: "The New York Times has its head up its ass!"

Sunday, October 21, 2007


My first potential surf day back home, and the waves were nice in the morning: small, but good and lots of people out.

The first rule of surfing (or one of them) should be: Never leave good waves to try to find better waves.

I broke that rule today.

I had planned to go pick up my Robert August board (remember that one? Promised for September 12, but not ready until September 29, and I have been out of town so it's a total of two months I've been without it) today, and to surf the break nearest that surf shop, which is an hour from home. I didn't want to drive all that way and not surf at that break, which I've never surfed but which is an unspoiled, beautiful beach, one of the great beach loves of my life.
And today was such a beautiful day---if I didn 't go today the weather was predicted to turn, and I might not get such a beautiful day again so late in the season.

But I wasn't sure what the waves were going to be like there today. There are no cams. All I knew was, it was good at home. Should I stick at home and have a good (presumably) session, a sure thing, or miss that session for waves that might be good but might not?

It was a gamble. I told myself that good waves here presaged good waves there. I took the gamble.

I was wrong.

An objective onlooker, surveying that beach once I got to it, would have concluded there were no waves. But because I had driven so far, and given up good waves for these, I convinced myself those waves were rideable. Amazing, the way humans delude themselves, no? Amazing the way we let what we want to believe determine what we believe.

So I went out. And it turned out that what looked (optimistically) like small, but rideable, waves from shore were just an illusion. They weren't waves at all; they were just things that looked that waves, but weren't. Once you were out in them, you could see they weren't really breaking at all.

I knew all this before I went in the water, and certainly within fifteen minutes of being out. So then, the question is, knowing this: Why did I spend an hour and twenty minutes in the water? It was hopeless. I did not ride any waves, not even close. I caught two waves, a major accomplishment, and could only try to stand up on one---I failed. Nothing remotely resembling "fun" was had. Nothing resembling surfing was done. What the hell was I doing?

And yet...being out in the water on a sunny warm day is not an unpleasant way to spend an afternoon. It reminded me of my first year of trying to surf, before the blog even, when I never rode one wave despite hundreds of tries, and yet often felt I was having fun even so. What was that about? Certainly it had, has, nothing in common with surfing. The rush or fun that you're supposed to get from real surfing (and I'm not sure, even yet, that I've ever had it) is a completely different thing from whatever I experienced that year or today. What is it that I was enjoying? Just being outdoors; jumping around like a dolphin; having some uninterrupted time to think; being alone (well, today I was, at least); the sun on my face and in my hair; the beauty of the water; the satisfaction of trying one's best even at a hopeless task. None of this is surfing but it is "surfing" as I experienced it for my first year and for the majority of my second and third years as well. Only in my fourth year did I get to the point where I'd say thirty percent of my time in the water is actually surfing rather than "surfing".

It's not that "surfing" can't be fun---if it wasn't I'd have given up long ago. It's just that it's such a different thing it should have a different name.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Surfing without attitude

Today I surfed for the first time at a not at all secret break, 1st Street in Virginia Beach. I made the right call: for the weather, the conditions, the tide. I've never been there before in my life, and my observations are based on this one, sunny, 90 degree afternoon with nice little one foot waves, and are not scientific.

Basically, I had a great time, and it was so different from New York. Yeah, it was crowded, but not much more or less so than home. There were more young kids and it was much more male; I was literally floating in a sea of testosterone. (Only three other women out in three hours, and they were all twenty-somethings or younger.) Much like at home, I could soon identify the men who ruled, or thought they ruled, the waves. Like at home, they seemed, at least at first, to cluster closest to the jetty. There was even one who was quite vocal about his pleasure at getting rides, much like C. And like every surf spot I've ever been to, there were the requisite Grampses (my word for generally mellow old men surfers...inevitably longboarders). There is no female counterpart to Grampses that I have ever seen...but there is always one or more Gramps.

Much whiter, blonder crowd than I'm used to.

The big difference here: although it was crowded, there was absolutely no attitude. No stinkeye that I could detect, as a woman coming out of nowhere and inserting herself into a probably largely local crowd. No bad vibes. No particularly good ones either, but OK. And none of the territorialism/localism/hostility I thought defined surfing. No lineup. No jockeying for priority. People were taking off three or four to the same wave (I've got photos to prove it), and it was OK. No yelling or pushing people off waves. No altercations. I did see several near collisions and at least one collision, but even then it didn't seem there were words. At home, there might have been fistfights. Everyone who took off on the same wave seemed to sort themselves out. Even me.

At one point one of the young boy surfers said of one of the men I had identified as a dominant local: "That guy will run right over you and not even say he's sorry." That was the closest I got to feeling like I was at home.

I baptized this spot by getting about six good rides. So much so that the Grampses on the beach (why do these types always gravitate to me so naturally? I seem to be a Gramps magnet) said: "Looking good!"

This was a setup much like at home, with a jetty and people clustering out from there with the best surfers nearest the rocks. I just naturally set myself up as I would have at home, at a distance from the rocks. And then I thought: well, this isn't home, why should I assume it's the same? What's the harm in getting closer to the jetty and if anyone says anything, just acting all ignorant? So I moved on down closer, where I thought the waves were better, as at home. No one said anything. But as at home, here every time I was poised to take off on a good wave, one of the presumably local good surfers was already on it, and even though I could have taken off next to him---like I said, everyone was doing that---I was sufficiently conditioned by my home break, and sufficiently intimidated, not to try it. I could have, and wouldn't have been yelled at; but maybe I'm still not confident enough of my ability to control my board to do that. Maybe I shouldn't have, maybe I should. But I didn't.

The crowds either got worse or seemed worse the last hour of the session, so that I didn't get any waves. Even though there was no hostility or attitude, I just got tired of dodging people and was too tired to have the moxie to take off next to them. I also noticed, to my discouragement, that I am still dragging my left foot on the board rather than popping up; the spot where I had a sore that took so long to heal was scraped up again.

Can you really have a surf spot without (so much) machismo, territoriality, competitiveness and attitude? I had thought all that shit was just part of surf culture. Maybe in Hawaii and California and New York City. But hell, this is the South.

All in all, it was a wonderful day.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Summer in October

Today was at least 85 degrees and sunny, a perfect summer beach day in October! As predicted, the waves were small and good. And though there were more people out it would be laughable to call it a crowd compared to home. I can definitely live with this beach if I ever move here.

I was able to surf two hours in just my Gidget-style bathing suit---heavenly!

Someone asked me if the waves were better than home and I had to say no, not really, but at least as good.

Got worked again, yeah, but got three or four good long rides.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Score at SSS

After almost three weeks out of the water, I can still surf! Today, for the first time, I actually surfed my adopted southern surf break. (Since my home break is known colloquially among insiders as NSSS---Not So Secret Spot---I will call this one SSS, for Secret Southern Spot.) I've been in the water there with a board three or four times, but never got any rides, so this counts as the first time. The baptism of this spot, as it were. And I got a number of rides, and they were longer than the ones at home.

I also got worked pretty hard. This beach is the only one where I've ever experienced, though in its mildest form, what can be described as a holddown. It didn't last long, just long enough for me to think Why am I not up yet breathing air? The paddle out here today was also harder than I'm used to, even though the waves were small.

Crowds? Vibe? Nonexistent on this strange Saturday afternoon when the sun was shining in the town but it was foggy at the beach.

Another first for me was the surfer's standard bottled water shower afterwards, since unfortunately there are no showers at SSS post-season. It worked just fine.

Meanwhile, apparently the swell back at home has generated into a bitch-n-moan fest about how crowded it is, with the wave hogs telling everyone else what to do to stay out of their way. I don't miss them all that much.

A local says there will be waves again tomorrow. That's as good of a surf forecast as I can get around here. I'll take it.

Friday, October 05, 2007

Nothing going on around here

I'm on a road trip down south, to my adopted home town. There's a beach here but haven't been any waves. And since there are no surf cams/surf reports for this beach, it's a long round trip I've made three times for no waves.

Meanwhile, I hear there are excellent waves at home for the first time in many, many long months. I miss home. I even miss all the wave hogging jerks.