Monday, October 27, 2008

A good day

I had to sit out the head-high+ waves we've had (reportedly---I wasn't around) this past weekend, but today was manageable. And very crowded!

Although I didn't get a lot of rides, the ones I got were very good. It was an excellent day, and here's why:

I surfed over by the jetty (i.e. the most crowded spot where the better surfers are) and was able to handle it well--getting my share of waves while not running over anyone or getting run over.

I am getting up earlier which means I'm making the drop while on my feet (yes, the waves were big enough today there was actually a drop) instead of getting up after making it. This is a new thing for me and today I did it without any problem and without even being conscious of it.

Every time I got up (and I am pretty sure I didn't use my knee) I stayed up. I was able to hold onto the waves (most of the time) to the end, even when they started closing out. I still need to work on holding on when the wave begins to close down (a challenge for anybody). Leaning forward, bending my knees, and turning the board toward the beach should help, I think. My balance has gotten much better.

Not least, it was a gorgeous sixty-degree sunny day! Those are limited this time of year.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Best wave ever

My first day back in New York, and I had no plans to surf. Surfline called it flat. (Regular readers should know by now that when Surfline calls it flat, you should go surfing!)

But I did. And it was one of those totally unexpected gifts.

The wind was north, the waves were small, and I was on.

I don't mean that I got every wave. But my timing was good, and most importantly, what I mean was that I was able to focus on what happened after the popup instead of just trying to make the pop. That means stance, balance, and turning. I was able to keep going for as long as the wave would allow by adjusting my weight and balance; I was able to turn by doing what everyone's told me to do, look where I want to go and turn my shoulders in that direction; I was able to get right under the curl so that I could get all the power out of the little waves. Leaning forward more than I'm used to made a big difference, I think; I had the confidence to do that because the waves were so small. When they're bigger, I tend to unconsciously lean back, like, Whoa! I'm not sure I want to go so fast! My body gets left behind the wave and I stall and fall.

But not today.

The last wave of the day was my best wave ever. I just kept going and going and I was in perfect control.

A great wave, the kind that makes your whole day.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Grandma and Grandpa go surfing

So I’m down at my sweet Secret Southern Spot (SSS) just getting a cop of coffee at MacDonald’s before heading into the ocean on an absolutely glorious summer day (though it’s October). I’m looking to meet up with my southern surf buddy A., who I met here about this time last year and who I like for many reasons but not least because he’s not the your stereotypical surfer dude. And then this classic stereotypical surfer dude rolls into MacDonalds right behind me. I register that he’s tanned, blond, tall, sunglassed, and I think he had a Channel Islands shirt on---not unusual in these parts, we’re right at the entrance to the beach. It’s one minute past eleven and he’s like, “Oh, did I miss breakfast?” And that’s such a classic surfer dude line that I turn and see Jeff Spiccoli---only with a lot more years on him. (I don’t yet know how many.)

And in the parking lot there’s his car next to mine, two boards on top, and you couldn’t stage-manage a vehicle that would scream “surfer dude” any louder, from the stickers for just about every brand of surfboard down to the bumper sticker that says “Surfing is my religion.” And since there is also a surfboard on top of my car, and we’re obviously going to the same place for the same reason, we start talking. Then we drive to the same place.

We get there and there is not much in the way of waves, tide’s too high too. After checking it he says he’s gotta go down to the other parking lot to look for his friend. And I scan the beach for A., but there’s no sign of him. So, since there’s not much to ride either, I skip the wetsuit for a bikini and grab some rays. I think I’ll sit for a while enjoying what is sure to be the last day of summer weather.

Then who comes up to me on the beach but Spiccoli dude---whom I will henceforth call B., because that’s his name---and who is with him but A.---the friend he was looking for and also the friend I was looking for. So that makes B. and me friends too.

We chill on the beach for a while, it develops that A. and B. have known each other for like 14 years, and A. is dying to go in the water because he hasn’t been for so long, and then we decide that either the waves are better or we think they are because we want to go in. So they are and we do.

B. is grabbing rides. In a short while I will tell you how long he’s been surfing and it’s longer than many of you have been alive. I’m doing fair but not great (in truth I was a little spooked because the day earlier, surfing by myself, I’d gotten bonked on the head by my board, not bad but enough to sit out the rest of what started out a great session with ice on my head). A. is getting his groove on and loving it. I’m a little too hesitant on my takeoffs because of yesterday, but slowly I figure the waves out. We are almost the only people in the water.

It takes me a long time to realize something else. It takes me a long time because I have so much experience surfing with sullen people sitting three feet away from me and concentrating hard on pretending that I don’t exist. You know, whatever they do, it’s like they have to keep staring straight ahead and telling themselves, Don’t accidentally look at her, don’t speak to her.

This is not that. This is SSS and I am with friends. So I don’t have to drift down the line because of a chill in the water. I start to do that out of sheer habit and correct myself. We can talk about surfing or about nothing, cheer each other one, make comments or ask for advice. B. is as ready to offer advice as to exult over his own good rides---“I got covered up!” (In two foot waves.) I take the opportunity to get as much advice as I can. Alas, the news is not good, I’m not surfing as well as I thought. I entertain A. with my acrobatic wipeouts more than I get rides. But at least I don’t get bonked. (I got bonked, the day before, largely because of overconfidence from doing really well.) I learn a little. It’s all good.

When another surfer or two shows up, they give and get cordial greetings instead of stinkeyes.

In this manner two hours pass very quickly. We all decide to take a break.

That’s when I learn more about B. He is older than he looks. He is most definitely older than he acts. It develops that he is so old he’s older than me and has been surfing for 38 years. I no longer feel bad about surfing worse than him.

Later I learn that B. is, in actual fact, a real grandfather---many times over---which makes him the first verified case of an actual Grandpa gone surfing. (Hey, I’m a grandma only potentially, not in actuality. And A., though my age, is not yet a grandfather.) I also learn that he has (I think it was) 13 surfboards and is a veritable museum of surfology. B. could talk surfing from morning til night for a month and not be done talking.

We talk to other random surfers, like an old dude (oh, definitely a grandpa) who says he used to live in Staten Island, and spins tales of how much better this break was back in the sixties. It’s all oddly familiar, a story repeated by surfers everywhere from time immemorial, sort of boring because it follows a well worn script and sort of comforting because here in this place that’s not my home, the script is so well known to me. It turns, inevitably, to the universal theme song of surfers everywhere: Tomorrow. Has there ever been a discussion between surfers that didn’t? How much better it will be, tomorrow? No matter that today was that tomorrow that didn’t turn out better---the next one will!

The water break turns into a beer break, another surf cliche coming true (drinking beer in the parking lot!) We’re standing around talking the usual surfer crap about the wind---why is it it always turns around just when you’re either not doing well and/or don’t really feel like going back in? Does the wind really turn on you like that, or do you have to just say that to justify something else?

I have never, never drunk beer in the middle of a surf session. I never even drink beer in the middle of the day on land. All I can say is that Grandpa Spiccoli was a very bad influence on me. However, in his defense, he did not offer us any pot.

After a couple of beers, we no longer feel like going back in the water---except for A., who is clearly jonesing. Since I can barely surf even when I have not been drinking anything but coffee, I am reasonably afraid to try going out again. We let A. go out by himself, betting that he won’t get any waves. He does. He gets another, and another, and another, while it gets dark and all we get is eaten by mosquitoes.

We do have a wide ranging conversation which I believe could only have been had in a parking lot while drinking beer after surfing and which included B.’s account of how the Virgin Mary appeared to him in a bubble in time of trouble (speaking words of wisdom, let it be) and his opinion on whether Jesus was the Messiah and if not, who he was.

Finally A. comes out of the water and he need not say “You guys are wusses for not going back in.” He need not say anything, only emit a loud and obviously very satisfying beer belch.

The sun set, and with it the great summer of 2008. I’m left with the memory of something I barely knew existed: not just surfing with friends, but a surf break (largely) without localism, without attitude, with little to no aggression. Seems impossible, but I think I experienced it. I don’t know if it’s really true, or why. Maybe it’s because SSS is, at least in the summer, at least as much of a tourist spot as a local spot. Maybe that’s why a small local crew can’t dominate. (On the other hand, there’s Virginia Beach, a tourist spot where they do, as far as I can tell.) Maybe it’s because the beach is so long and it’s just endless beach break; there is no one surf spot when any one is as good as any other. Maybe it’s because relatively few people surf here compared to nearby breaks. Hell, maybe it’s because you have to pay to get to it. I don’t know. But I think I can almost believe that SSS is, as longtime surfer A. says, a surf spot that—while it does not lack stereotypical surf character and characters---is without localism.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Smiles all around

And that's just how it was today. This holiday Monday was pretty crowded with people hungry for waves, especially since the weather was almost summerlike. But it was a good crowd. Not even my worst enemy (we all know who that is by now since he reads and comments on this blog) could spoil it. Maybe this was one of the days when the chemical combustion of pot and booze in his blood balanced to make him less psychotic than usual, but who knows or cares?

Everyone was chill, I got lots of good little waves and even compliments on my surfing. There were lots of friends to talk with but little need because the smiles seemed to say it all.

Thank god I'm done with the damn indexing and don't need to stress any more about taking an impromptu couple of hours for surfing. Soon, I'll be down at SSS again and although there's not much in the wave forecast, I always know I will have a good time there. Looking forward to seeing my southern surfing buddy.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

And the #1 reason to surf when you "can't"...

Is because you'll get out of practice.

I felt it today.

I had to go out, I couldn't stand it anymore. Though the waves were tiny, they were good, thanks to the wind direction.

It took me a while to remember what to do, but when I did, I had some absolutely perfect rides.
Oh, and then I had to listen to people talk about how legendary last Monday was. "Days like that don't come around very often..."

The #2 (or should it be #1) reason to surf when you "can't".

That's it, I am never missing a perfect day again. I will simply trust that if you surf on a day like that, everything else will just fall into place.

And I am making my deadline with hours to spare.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

The risks and benefits of not surfing when there are good waves

No, I haven't been surfing. I have a final final FINAL (no, really) deadline to meet on my book and I pride myself on never missing a deadline. Lots of people have already bought it, it has to get done!

But I looked out my window on Monday, September 29th, and saw a rare sight. Perfect waves, not too big, optimal tide, north wind, sunshine and warm temperatures. (Of course, lots of people in the water.) I was not unaware that these are the days surfers live for. I was not unaware of how rare they are.

And yet.

I hesitated.

I had a looming deadline, and I had just taken the weekend off (well, two days that turned into four), and spent it having more fun than I had previously thought humanly possible. I was feeling a little guilty about that.

The work I had to do on the book, I hadn't done before and couldn't be sure of how long it would take.

I thought of going out surfing, but I didn't.

When I meet my maker (or whatever the hell happens after you die, if anything), it's now clear that my tally of regrets in life will include not surfing on September 29, 2008.

And yet at the time, it seemed a perfectly reasonable choice.

Only time can tell if it was correct. If I meet my deadline with two hours to spare, then I'll know I could have gone.

Sometimes, the choice not to go can be wrong; but other times, it can be right, even if you miss out on really good waves.

Consider January 12, 2008.

If you look back in these archives, you will see I went out surfing that day and had a really good time. That was a day when I had planned to go to an event in Manhattan instead of surfing. I was also on a deadline (same book, different deadline), and was kind of unsure whether I could afford the time, but was leaning towards going because it looked to be a very worthwhile event. I could afford the time to go to the city, or go surfing, but probably not both.

When I woke up that day and there were waves, I went in the water.

Even so, I maybe still could have made it into the city. But then a friend called and we talked for a while, then I got hungry and had to get food, and after that it seemed too late to go.

It's ten months later, and I still remember that afternoon. I haven't been able to forget a single detail.

There was this inner voice saying to me: Go. There is someone there who you were meant to meet.

I didn't know who it was. I just knew there was someone. And I couldn't shake that conviction.

There are so many times in life I've had this feeling, of knowing something that rationally, objectively, I couldn't possibly know, that I think I have some kind of psychic ability. And when I have this feeling, I'm always right.

As I was this time.

I even looked at photos of the event later, trying to figure out who it was I was supposed to meet.

By an incredible twist of fate, I now know, because I recently met this person in another context. How lucky is that?

I was right.

I wasn't meant to go surfing that day.

Sometimes, no matter how good the waves are, there are more important things than surfing.