Tuesday, July 15, 2008

After the popup

Just a quick note (I'm exhausted, and fought a head cold to go out surfing today, but glad I did) to say I'm getting my popups and drops most of the time, it's what happens after that's frustrating. Staying on the wave, turning, keeping the balance.

It was great, considering how shitty I felt, to get a lot of compliments on my surfing today! (From non-Mafia members, naturally.) I actually heard from someone a compliment I've given to others such as W. (that's you, V.): "You paddle so well, I've seen you catch waves I never thought you could catch." A number of people have remarked on my paddling. I owe it all (mostly) to W. And someone who said "You're out every time I'm out" said he has seen me make great progress. I thought my rides today were short and crappy, but he thought they were good and pointed out that the closeouts meant no one got long rides. I actually got complimented on my drops! Me! Surfing with a cold, yet! But I knew I could do it and I did.

Hope I feel good enough to go out tomorrow.

Friday, July 11, 2008

A little help

Let us pause for a moment to commemorate my 5th anniversary of surfing (or at least surf-related behavior): July 3rd. It happened to be a nonsurfing day spent in Manhattan (though I did watch a surf video).

Besides myself, only one other person took note: C., who's been yelling at me for a while in advance of my anniversary: "Five years and you still can't surf! Blahblahblah etc.etc."

But of course, he's wrong. I can.

Though yesterday you might not have known it. I took comfort in watching others and noting that everyone, even the good surfers, was having more difficulty than usual catching and riding waves. Why this should be was a mystery, because the wind was in the right direction, the tide was not too high, the waves were not too big. There was no obvious reason. I am sure there were reasons, but they weren't obvious. It was a day when the surf report promised much and the waves looked good from shore but turned out to be no fun at all.

Today they looked the same (good) but actually were. And I did well! I stood up and rode the biggest wave I've ever ridden! OK, it wasn't that big! But it was at least three feet! (I think).

Let me back up and say I had a little help. I paddled out near this guy whose name I can't tell you because I don't know it, and who probably doesn't merit a pseudoinitial because he will likely never appear in this blog again, but who I've seen out lots of times (and who has seen me out lots of times.) In fact he seems to know all about me, including my ill-fated surf lesson in the summer of 2006 which apparently some people are still talking about. (See post about Ben Sargent, June 19, 2006--the guy who promised a refund of my money if I didn't stand up and then reneged on that promise. Ben, you still owe me a hundred bucks.)

Anyway, he was kind enough to point out that I was sitting too far outside today and, once I started going for waves from closer in, to offer his advice. It was just to tell me why what happened had happened---but that is a huge, huge help. "You were paddling too fast and getting in front of the wave" for instance. Or---something I already knew but hadn't heard anyone verify---"You're afraid of the acceleration" (translation: I don't like going too fast) and "You fell forward, try standing back when you pop up."

I definitely was popping up today and doing it much quicker than I have been. I got the timing right many times. I was on top of the wave instead of behind it and as always, it feels different.

After that, though, I would sometimes stall out---just not go anywhere---without knowing why, and if I did get going, I would try to turn but would be unable; I swear the wave wanted me to go straight. It was the only way I could keep going and balance. (Yes, I know waves never want you to go straight.) By that time no-initial guy had drifted down the line so I didn't get his take on that.

It makes so much difference to have a little help, it makes me wonder how I would have fared if I'd had it all along. It's an interesting chicken and egg question: I am hated because I can't surf...or is it that I can't surf because I am hated? If the local surf mafia hadn't closed ranks against me about a year and a half into my surfing attempts, if instead they had been friendly and helpful, would I be where I am today, or would I have learned to surf better a long time ago? I don't know, I've so rarely had the offer of help from anybody I didn't pay for it...in part because for better or worse women are always looking to men for help in this sport, and I'm old and ugly instead of young and hot. There are a few exceptions, guys who have helped me out, and I've always eagerly accepted their help and learned a lot from it (even if they think I didn't). They probably did it out of pity, but who cares, that doesn't matter. They know who they are.

So thanks, no-initial guy. I had a great day today.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Not transferable

Yesterday and today I was forced to realize that my hard-won skills are not transferable to waves over three feet. For the first time in months, we had waves that were four feet with occasional larger ones.

And with the bigger waves come the better surfers and the larger crowds.

I regressed to my bad habit of hanging back in the bigger waves because I'm afraid of taking off too late and going over the falls. I didn't go over the falls. I caught a few waves. Yesterday I got up a couple of times, wa-a-a-y into the waves, but didn't do anything much like riding. By the time I got up, these fast waves were slow ones. Once, I got hung up on the ledge (see post of 1/31/08) and yeah, maybe now I could handle the ledge by standing up earlier, but I didn't dare, so I fell off the ledge and go worked in a way that is extremely bad for my back. (Still hurting as I write this.)

The waves were steep and fast. I watched the other surfers and counted the seconds: there were 10- and 11-second rides. That might not sound like very much but it's phenomenally long for our beach.

One funny thing is how even the decent guys, the ones I consider allies, turn into Neanderthals when the waves are bigger. No chatting, not even much smiling. "Out of my way, woman, I'm surfing," is what they are saying by their serious expressions and body language.

Today, a notch smaller than yesterday with bigger lulls that didn't require getting out by the jetty, I caught several waves. But they were so fast I lost pretty much all my popping up skills. A couple of times, I regressed to the knee. Other times, I did manage to stand up with a pop (I think) but lost my balance soon after because the wave was just too fast. On one, I think if I would have stepped forward I would have been OK. On several, I blew the takeoffs by, I think, being too late. Had a big shouting match with C. (well, he was shouting, I haven't got that much volume) regarding his opinion that I could not surf, would never learn to surf, and should not be anywhere near "his" beach. C.'s mouth keeps moving long after he has run out of anything to say so it was necessary to tell him, several times, to shut the f*ck up. This is run of the mill stuff at our break. It's not the first time it's happened and it won't be the last.

Through sheer determination, after several takeoffs in which I tried but failed to stand up, I finally did pop up and get something of a ride, but that was after almost two hours.

I've got a long way to go to get used to the speed of bigger waves and learn how to do on them what I can do on the smaller ones.

It's worth nothing that today I cancelled a doctor's appointment I had already cancelled four times in order to surf today. I have posted many, many times about cancelling appointments and getting out of obligations to surf, and about how most of the time the surfing turns out to be disappointing. (Once I even wished I hadn't cancelled a dentist's appointment to surf---or try to surf which is all I was doing at the time.) I wondered yesterday if I would cancel today's appointment, and hoped I had finally reached the point where rescheduling appointments and ditching obligations was actually worth it (because I could now surf well enough to have a good time). Well, it wasn't. I haven't reached that point---at least when the waves are "good" i.e. above three feet.

It's also worth noting (alas) that the "roll" I've been on in surfing and life in general for the entire month of June has ended with the coming of July. Bad surfing, aching back, car towed, parking tickets, money woes, friends growing more distant. Well, it was a good run and I have a feeling I'll get back on soon.