Sunday, September 21, 2008

I forgot about this.

The past week or so has been so full of stress (both the good and the bad kind) and I haven't had a ride in so long. When that happens you can forget what it's like to immerse your body and mind in a wave.

I'm so glad I took a couple of hours today to remember. I got a bunch of rides and they were really, really fun. I forgot how much fun. What a glorious last official day of summer 2008.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

I'd Rather Be Indexing

And then there are the days, even worse than the closeout days, when I suck for absolutely no reason I can determine. These days are even more frustrating, because the waves are not too big, not beyond my skill level, and I can't blame them. Today was one of those days.

The wind was north, the waves small and not closing out. And I couldn't catch shit. All I got was one ride. The good thing was that I got up on that one without even thinking about it, and rode it all the way in. So popping up, the hardest part of surfing, is not my problem these days. It's timing.

I just kept going for the wave too early. And then I did what I always do, what I think all good surfers do, tried to adjust what I did on each new wave based on what didn't work on the last one. I tried and and tried, but nothing worked. I tried to make myself take off later by waiting two seconds, tried moving up on the board, tried leaning forward more while taking off, tried watching the guys who were getting waves and doing what they did. I just couldn't figure it out.

I have so much work to do these days. The long summer vacation is over. And the work I have to do this month is the most boring, tedious, and least fun work I can imagine. And yet, get this, when I was out in the water I actually had to admit to myself that indexing my book would have been more fun than what I was doing out there. I don't have much clue as to how to do an index, but figuring it out is much easier than figuring out surfing.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Hung up on the Ledge

The last two sessions have been really frustrating. Both days featured closeout waves, and both were just, I have to admit, beyond my ability.

The last time I went out, I spent about four hours on the beach first watching closeout after closeout, wipeout after wipeout. All that did was to bring my fear level up. Nevertheless going out in anything would have been better than continuing to sit on the beach doing nothing, but when I finally did go out my fear had gotten the best of me. It's not that the waves were too big; they were not, only about two feet. But they were just dumping and crashing. I spent my time trying not to take off too late, which resulted in my taking off too early and missing the waves.

Probably the best thing I could have done that day was just take off too late on purpose, to see what would have happened and to know I could have survived it.

The only time I got a wave that day, I ended up on the Ledge. (See post of January 31, 2008.) I hate the Ledge.

My only consolation was that A., the woman I was surfing with, couldn't do any better than I had. She and I are pretty much at the same level. Her way of trying to deal with the closeouts, she said, was taking off too late, which didn't work any better than mine, and she got worked more.

And today the waves were bigger than usual, remnants of the big storm that just passed. They were four to five feet. Even that isn't too big for me, but again they were mostly just closing out.

So I went out, and there I was on the Ledge again.

I didn't stay out long after that because I simply did not know what to do to make that not happen.

I asked another guy on the beach. This is a good surfer, an old guy I will simply call the Preacher, because that's what he is.

He didn't seem to understand what I was talking about. How can that be? When I tried to explain, he suggested what a commenter here did: take off at an angle. But I always do that anyway. Or at least I think I do, and if I'm not really doing it how the hell would I know unless someone tells me?

Then he said I had to get up and turn right away. I never try to stand up when I know there's going to be a big drop straight down. I just try to hold on to my board for dear life. I could try it---but I still haven't figured out how to turn on purpose, let alone to do it in the split second I would have before falling off the Ledge. I am years away from being able to turn that fast.

Someone else had some advice for dealing with closeouts: don't paddle. I'm not sure what that means. Maybe it has to do with getting the timing right.

I continue to think the Ledge problem could be avoided by getting my timing right, but fine tuning timing by fractions of a second is not something I'm advanced enough to do. Am I a fraction of a second too late, or too early?

Or is it something else entirely, as someone else suggested here: my weight not being on the right place on the board? Being too far back?

Preacher didn't seem to think that timing is the problem, but like most surfers, Preacher probably doesn't think very much about what he does, he just does it. Nor has any of the surf lessons I've ever had covered anything so advanced.

Well, I guess I just gotta go out there and figure it out by trial and error, but that hasn't worked yet, so why it would now, I don't know.

Monday, September 01, 2008

"So I throw my beer in Mick Jagger's face..."

Sorry, I just like that sentence. I think it's the most satisfying sentence I've written on this blog.

Though it's not strictly true. And I haven't written it yet.

Read on.

Actually, this post is about women vs. surf culture, or so I see it.

And women win.

As it turns out, all it takes to shake up the Mafia-like ultramale macho surf culture (NYC version) is one woman who's not afraid to speak up.

No one's done that, as far as I know, until today.

No one spoke up last June (post of June 30, 2007) when Tim Hill threatened to have me beaten up in front of a crowd of surfers on the boardwalk.

Not one person said a thing this past Labor Day weekend Saturday when another of the brotherhood (the one I'd have least expected) punched me and knocked me down on the beach.

On Labor Day, at the end-of-summer party, with everyone hanging out and having a good time, the same guy, out of nowhere, threw a cake in my face.

Another surfer, one I don't know, someone I have literally said six words to in my entire life ("What kind of surfboard is that?") and who apparently hates me out of loyalty to Tim and the brothers, helped him to escape by distracting me, pretending to me concerned about getting me cleaned up. I knew something was up when this guy was suddenly paying attention to me after glaring at me with hate earlier in the evening.

His girlfriend, a 20-something young woman who's just joined the group this summer and has been warmly received, was genuinely concerned and came in the bathroom to check up on me.

A conversation earlier that evening along with others this summer had confirmed that this is a young woman of formidable intelligence.

I was kind of in shock but I think I expressed a sort of weary resignation, like, What can you expect from these guys, this is how they think it's OK to treat women, that is those who aren't young and hot, those who don't fit in the Surf Mafia. And this woman was more than smart enough to know she'd not always be young and hot (she is, believe me I've heard them drool over how she looks in a bikini).

I wiped the frosting out of my hair, along with some that she'd gotten on herself, and she went out to join the others.

But the next thing I heard was her voice raised so loud and clear that for a moment no one could hear anything else.

"Get your HANDS off me!"

She was yelling at her boyfriend and I saw he had grabbed her tightly by her arm, as if he were trying to force her to go somewhere or do something.

What follows I don't remember verbatim, but they are clearly having a fight and she is not going to shut up and be nice so we all can just go back to drinking and smoking pot.

"You don't do that to a woman, ever. You don't hit her, you don't throw things at her. It's not funny. It's not right."

In any other context in life, think about it: do these things even need to be said to adults!

She is angry not only about his putting his hands on her that way, but about what was done to me and even more than nobody is willing to stand up to the guys who did it and say it was wrong. Because of the stupid macho surf culture no one will. Because the asshole who did this can surf. Because they've all taken the Mafia oath of loyalty to each other and hostility to outsiders. Because the only women they recognize are those 1) surf aggressively/well 2) are "hot" 3) have a sexual connection to a cult member 4) in exceptional cases a family or close friend connection may be substituted for a sexual connection, i.e. Tim's cousin who is none of 1-3).

Right now this woman is angry enough to say what no one else will, and what I can't because there is no one who would support me. Or wasn't.

But you know what? One voice is enough, if that voice belongs to a group member. By the very logic of the Mafia surf culture, they HAVE to listen.

By that same logic, I know that this woman must, ultimately, of course, choose her boyfriend over me and solidarity with women in general, or she will be expelled from the group. That's not in her interest. Have I mentioned that her boyfriend bears an uncanny resemblance to Mick Jagger---the young Mick Jagger?

But in that moment she's not thinking about her own longterm best interest.

She's changed the rules, and I want to take the moment and run with it.

So I throw my beer in Mick Jagger's face.

Then his hands are on me. He's grabbing me, trying to pull me towards the staircase that leads downstairs to the street.

I can count on the fingers of one hand the times a man has put his hands on me with intention of inflicting harm, and just this past weekend I've added two more fingers.

Mick's trying to physically throw me out, so I yell at him as loud as his girlfriend did: "GET YOUR HANDS OFF ME!"

And now another woman's raising her voice: "NO FIGHTING at my party!" She's not a surfer. She could give a crap about the Mafia. She's a friend of the guy whose house this is. I met and talked with her at the last party. She tells Mick he's the one who'll have to leave, not me. She doesn't care if he's Mick Jagger in the flesh, he's outta there. And he is.

And after that it's quiet. Half the partygoers have disappeared. The rest of us continue what we were doing.

Later on, rumor has it, the woman tracked down the guy who threw the cake and slapped him.

Afterwards, I think back on the conversation I had with her roommate about the macho-ness of surf culture and its hostility to women. I think there are more people who think about such things than just me. I wish we could talk more and do something.

I think of the possibilities of even one raised female voice.

Before this shit happened, I was going to post about what a good summer this was. And it was, wonderful---literally, full of wonders. Full of music and roadtrips, new friends and reconnections with some I haven't seen in many years. To be tacky and cliched, joy and heartbreak (yes). Probably the only thing wrong with this summer is it turned out to be (judging by the events of this Labor Day weekend) about one weekend too long.