Saturday, May 31, 2008


I'm back in New York, kind of discombobulated, but re-entry was smooth. Even the drive back was pleasant, 85 mph on the Jersey turnpike, playing Catch Up with the pickup with North Carolina plates (I eventually lost him) and singing at the top of my lungs with full confidence that no one could hear me.

Made it back just in time for a friend's birthday celebration. Ignoring the mountains of piled up cat poop til tomorrow, I kicked off the summer with my first frozen drinks at the summer-only bar. Sweet.

Then, sleeping very late, but still up in time for some tasty waves. First surf of the summer---ahhhh. The crowds! How I love to hate them. We've all now been restricted to a small surfing beach instead of being able to stretch out, and that goes til Labor Day.

I did OK on the waves, which were bigger than they've been for a while. I started out taking off too early, which I often do when the waves get bigger than two feet, but once I was able to get over that and take off later, I was good. Taking off later in general than I've gotten in the habit of doing is key.

Friday, May 30, 2008

The same ocean twice

They say you never step into the same ocean twice. But apparently you can, at least once.

This morning I miraculously got a wireless signal, and the forecast was for something like waves at SSS, so off I went.

I get in the water---there's only one guy out---and as I get closer I am amazed to see it is A., who I met when I was at SSS last October. I mean, what are the odds of something like that happening? He's not a regular there, in fact had not been there since the last time I saw him! And I'm not exactly a regular either, having surfed there a handful of times in my life. So what are the chances of meeting again in the Atlantic in the exact same spot???

We spent a great couple of hours surfing the eight-foot waves, doing cutbacks and getting barrelled and doing, um, whatever you call those other really cool maneuvers.

And if you doubt this, well, we were the only two people in the water this day; that's my story and he'll back me up, and if you weren't there you can't say nothin'.

I mean, if two people can just miraculously meet up again in the middle of the ocean, anything can happen.

Thursday, May 29, 2008


Back at the Not So Secret Southern Spot: Virginia Beach. As before, too many people, too little waves. But hey, it’s my first time in the water on this trip!

The waves were hard to figure out (for me) and I got nothing, nada, rien for the first hour and well into the second. I thought very calmly: This is a crap session. I’m not even going to try to redeem it, because it cannot be redeemed. Not a nice dinner, not a new bikini, nothing will make me feel better. Not only is this a crap session but the whole rest of my day is going to be crap after this, I can feel it.

Having decided that, I could just relax and go for it.

The second hour, an overweight woman surfer came out. I note this simply because though all of us have been subjected to countless overweight male surfers, I have never seen an overweight female surfer before. (I. is very overweight but doesn’t count because she doesn’t surf, she only pretends she can.) And she was really good! She came out on a shortboard and got rides and hooted for herself! And that made me feel like crap even more, except that she was really stoked and nice and tried to be helpful to me and others.

So finally I was able to figure out that I had to try to get the waves later, even when they were ready to crash down on me and even later than that, when they had already broken. That’s what she and another guy were doing while most of the others were much farther inside waiting for the waves to reform. Once I figured that out I was able to get going. Not riding. Just, I was able to be propelled by the waves several times, then attempt to stand up and even stand up, but once I was up my board just stopped moving and I didn’t go anywhere. Partly this was because I was just really riding whitewater, partly because I was standing up way too late, partly because I took off at the wrong angle (I had no sense of the way the waves wanted to go and was just pointing my board away from the jetty the way everyone does at home).

Meanwhile, she and other shortboarders and also longboarders were getting nice long rides. For the millionth billionth time I felt like a retard, like I was clueless about some simple thing that everyone else in the word did without effort. It’s the same way I feel about sex, the reason surfing and sex are so inextricably linked in my mind (ah, but that’s the topic of my next book). I can’t help feeling that I could figure out one I could figure out the other. As for proving or disproving this theory, obviously I can’t, since I will never figure out either one, but I am as convinced as I have been of anything in my life that it’s true nevertheless.

Oh, and the rest of my day actually turned out to be very pleasant.

Monday, May 26, 2008

No waves at SSS

Tank of gas: $40
Groceries and supplies at Walmart: $80
Not spending Memorial Day weekend at the same old spot: Priceless.

I've spent the holiday weekend at my Secret Southern Spot (SSS) and report that there have been absolutely NO WAVES.

But there's no waves at home either, and the weather is gorgeous here.

There's other stuff to do here, like pig roasts and hayrides and fishing. Having a great time.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

The F-Word

Yes, I'm going to use the F-word, which I don't use often, or lightly.

Today was fun.

I got up and riding on my first wave. I didn't do a popup, but I got a ride. After that I kept getting rides, stopped counting at six. I got rolled a couple of times (that is, the back of the board went up and I somersaulted) but I was able to fix that by adjusting my weight. When I was catching waves well, I tried to concentrate on popping up. Most of the time I still did the knee thing, but sometimes I popped up---I think. How can I tell? Because I use my abdominal muscles, and because my hands are up in the air off the rails. If, when my feet are on the board, my hands are still down on or near the rails, I know I didn't pop up. But often, I can't tell whether I did or not. Even if I try really hard, I can't remember what happened once it's over. It's all over too fast, less than a second.

Once, I got that "on top of the wave" feeling I had about a year ago after a good surf lesson.

One thing that helped today was just taking a step forward after I stood up. It made all the difference in my balance. I think that when I land I'm generally too far back. I think.

What a difference, crowdwise, from yesterday. There were only three of us out, no one got in anyone else's way, we all got waves, and it was a cordial if largely wordless session. I didn't feel like, today, I surfed abominably worse than the others. The guy who was the best, who came out latest, stayed closest to the jetty, the other guy kept jockeying for a position next to him, and I kept ending up at the end of the line. It was a short line so I didn't mind, but it's funny how we ended up ranked by ability in a way that seemed accidental or careless, but wasn't. Let me try to get closer to the jetty and the less-good surfer showed me my place (but not in a hostile way).

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Testosterone sea

Yesterday the waves were head high. It was the kind of day good surfers live for. If they weren't in the water, they were at least watching from the boardwalk. Needless to say I did not go out but waited for the leftovers.

Everyone else was hungry for them too. The break was packed. And it wasn't an easy crowd. The jocks were over by the jetty as usual, not a woman in sight, and the testosterone was palpable. They were all dropping in on each other but then yelling and snarling at each other about it. I heard some words. It was friend-on-friend-style drop ins without the friendship.

I know I did popups on the board at least three times. But once I fell over immediately when I was up, once I tried to pop too soon and fell, and two times I got good, long rides (although straight in--hey, I can't do everything on the same wave).

A woman I know who can't popup up because of her back was telling me about an alternate method she uses to get up that works for her that doesn't involve knees; I am going to ask her to demonstrate it for me.

Today was strange in that the wind and waves shifted more than once in a way that even I noticed over the course of the two hours. Right in the middle, it got really good. I mean eerily good. I was suddenly pretty much by myself in the midst of the crowd, the waves were small and rolling, the sun on the water was beautiful. It was certainly one of those Be. Here. Now. moments. And it didn't last long. But just for that moment, it was perfect.

I had a lot of good learning waves today, and (does this correlate with the learning opportunities? the willingness to take more risks?) got worked. A lot. A lot more than usual. A lot more than you'd think from the size of the waves. On a wave where I should have turtled but didn't at the last minute, I did something to my hip that still hurts. Now I'm rubbed down with Bengay and ready for bed at 9:07 p.m. Hey, I'll get out early tomorrow.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Surf critic

(Note: this is the one and only post where events did not actually happen on the date of the post. I've forgotten what day this was, and as you'll see, in this case it doesn't matter. Anyway, it was a while ago.)

Surfing is just as much a spectator as participant sport at our beach, and everyone's a critic.

As I was sitting copyediting my book, with pencil and paper easily to hand, I decided to keep score.

My motivation was partly boredom (do you know what copyediting's like?), but mostly, to try to bolster my hope that I am not the worst surfer at this beach with some hard facts.

My subject was a woman I know and like, who hasn't been surfing long, and who I have judged to be at the same level as me, approximately, at least on most days. She didn't see me as she was surfing way down the beach and I wanted to keep out of sight of the crowd.

So here's how this woman (about 30 years old, I'd say) did. I tallied each wave.

1. Too early.

2. Too early.

3. Too early.

4. Got it, got up a little bit late, hands up, got a good ride of about three seconds.

5. Too late. Wipeout.

6. Too early.

7. Too early.

8. Too early.

9. Borderline: either too late or slightly unbalanced, wipeout.

All this, I would say, took quite a bit less than an hour.

And then I was surprised to see that she got out of the water and sat down on the beach for a long time.

I don't know if she was getting tired, or discouraged, or giving herself a pep talk, or what. I kept hoping she'd go back in but she didn't. About 45 minutes went by. I never take breaks when I'm surfing. Occasionally a quick drink of water, but that's it. I go two hours straight.

Occasionally other surfers stopped to talk to her. Maybe she just wanted to do some schomoozing? Nothing wrong with that, especially on the first really nice hot day when you're seeing people you haven't seen since last summer. I am a big fan of schmoozing myself (but not in the middle of a session, only at the beginning and end).

At the point where I had finished my work, her board was still there, but she was nowhere to be seen. So I went in.

All in all, I think she surfed like me, which made me feel better.

Sunday, May 04, 2008


Today I headed for the same spot where I was alone for a while last time. But I wasn't alone for too long. Soon a guy came out and, unlike considerate blue and white board guy, red board guy did not hesitate to paddle around me to claim the spot I had claimed. In other words, snaking. With only two people out.

I didn't know this guy. I almost said something to him. I didn't. Why not? I don't know. My thought when I saw him close up was, He's just a kid. He was, but what did I mean by that?

a) I shouldn't say anything to him because he could surf rings around me. (That soon turned out to be true.) But so what? The law of the jungle, best surfer claims the best spot? Well, that's the law of our jungle.

But then "he's just a kid" could also mean

b) I should say something to him because he needs someone older (more than twice as old) and wiser to take charge and inform him that his behavior is unacceptable.

Why not b)? Just because he knew how to surf and I don't?

Someone on a surf discussion forum once posted that old ladies (while rare in the lineup) are the best behaved, least troublesome surfers in the water. If by that he meant that we don't make trouble by speaking up when we've been dissed, then maybe us old ladies need to stop being so well behaved.

Coincidentally, later on I ended up having a discussion about snaking with a couple of other (good) surfers and they get snaked too, but they don't like it and don't take it. Snaking, they made clear, is not OK no matter who you are.

Does anyone have any ideas as to what I might say the next time I'm in this situation?

P. S. I got so many rides today, I didn't need to count them!