Sunday, November 30, 2008

Jersey Girls

This Thanksgiving weekend was the occasion for an impromptu surf trip to the Jersey shore. The forecast was for sunny weather, favorable winds and small waves---perfect for me and my friend L., who happens to be the one person who (most days) surfs worse than me. So we grabbed our boards and her dog and drove for a couple hours to waves that were just about what we expected. My second time ever in Jersey!

L.'s been surfing only about two years, way less than me. I have to say her surfing style is a revelation to me. If you've been reading this interminable blog for any length of time, you have evidence of how much I've struggled to learn, how often I've felt hopeless, how many miserable sessions I've had and perhaps most poignantly, how often I've felt like an imposter or fake who goes through the motions but isn't really a surfer.

L.'s style is more zen. She isn't trying and so isn't upset when she doesn't. This weekend she drove four hours, spent money on gas and hotels, struggled into a new wetsuit ($500)-boots-gloves-hood, braved cold water, struggled out of the suit in a parking lot, repeated the suit-and-cold struggle a second day, all be in the water for a total of about an hour. And the minute she was in the water, she was having fun (she said, and I believe her). She caught no waves at all the first day, only a couple the second day, but...and this is really hard for me to didn't matter to her.

If I were her...well, I couldn't be her. I can't seem to do anything without having a goal. To me, achieving the goal is the fun. My goal may not be overhead waves, but it is actual surfing, including the advanced stuff I have yet to learn like turning.

Being in the water, as I've said here before, is just being in the water. I do believe there's a lot more to it than having an excuse to sit in the ocean in November peeing in your wetsuit. I do believe that riding a wave for more than one second is more fun than that. Yes.

But I can't say that I detected any sign that she was doing anything other than, as she said, having fun. If she wasn't, she sure was good at faking it.

So she had a great time, and so did I, despite very very little surfing. At least it wasn't like the time I was at the other location in Jersey, where the local boys wouldn't let me catch any waves. Now that was a totally miserable surf trip.

At the first location we went to this weekend, which wasn't exactly where we'd planned to go but ended up being good, I caught some waves and rode them; at the second, I had more trouble figuring the wave out, but still got a couple rides. But the whole weekend didn't equal an entire session, for me. That's because I had to stick with L. and she is such a wimp. She can only last twenty or thirty minutes at a time before she gets tired. Given the fact that she is fifteen years younger than me, that made me feel mighty proud of the shape I'm in. I never get tired before two hours have passed. Comparing myself to the guys my age or younger who can go six hours or so at a time, I feel like a wimp, but when I compare myself to L., I think I'm in great shape. Not that L.'s not good looking, she is, but she doesn't have stamina.

Next time we do this, we'll stay at a place where we don't need a car to get to the beach so I can stay in longer and feel like I did some real surfing (or at least trying). Oh yeah, and we read about this place in San Diego that has surf lessons for dogs, so why not New Jersey? Next time we'll get the pooch some boardshorts and throw him in the water as well.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Welcome to winter

It's been a while.

Hint: sometimes I don't post if my sessions really suck.

Note to self: Never, never go surfing when the wind is west.
Never go to the grocery store etc. before surfing thinking what's one more hour before getting in the water because conditions can't get worse. In that hour, they can and they will. The sun will go in and the wind will pick up and the waves will turn even crappier.

There have been some miserable times in the past month.

Like the day after two days of overhead surf when it was only head high and borderline manageable for me (i.e. I could have gotten in and out without getting killed, but probably wouldn't have been able to ride anything) and had enough doubts to be dissuaded by guys coming out of the water (who know me and my ability) warning me that it was tough out there.

Like another day when it wasn't really big but fierce and there were absolutely no lulls and getting out took three turtles and I just looked at it knowing it would be a huge expense of energy, getting beat up for precious little if any reward, wondering if it would really be worth it and deciding it wouldn't. Sometimes, I just don't like that beat up feeling that lasts the rest of the day after the session, especially if I have other fun things to do that require and reward my energy.

Like yesterday, when the wind blew steadily out of the worst possible direction and it was nearly impossible to discern a wave in the roiling mess of the ocean and my 5/3 suit failed to even pretend to keep me warm and I was ready to get out after only 20 minutes and I did only to see two other guys catching waves and I was so embarrassed I had to get back in getting colder than ever in the process but all that happened in the next hour was that I caught three waves and failed to ride any of them. My only satisfaction came in ultimately staying in longer than the guy who entered the water with me but that was slim satisfaction indeed. It was an hour and 39 minutes of misery, enough to make me question why I bother.

So I didn't write about any of those days.

And then there was today.

It's the coldest day of the year so far, and the earliest I have ever broken out my 6/4 winter suit.

But the sun was out, I wasn't cold at all for two hours, the wind was north, the waves were small, and I got many rides in which I am absolutely certain I popped up correctly and did it at the right time and stayed on the wave as long as it lasted.

That's why I bother.