Monday, August 31, 2009

Back to the small waves

Today I got up at a record hour, thinking the wind would be north (it was) and the waves would be the perfect size for me. Actually, the wind held all day, so I needn't have bothered going to bed so early, but the waves were the size I anticipated, about two and a half feet.

I was out in a crowd at the jetty and held my own, getting my share of waves and rides. I did better, I noted, than some of the guys who think they're hot shit but seemed to have lost it, at least for today. You know who you are.

But enough about them. It was fun, a good day for me by any measure.

And yet:

I kept thinking about yesterday and how different it was and how, in some ways, it was more fun or different, maybe better fun.

Because at least I was totally focused on surfing. I wasn't thinking about whether I should do my laundry later on or not. My mind did not wander to think about various problems in my life. There weren't lulls, there wasn't time, I had to stay alert. I didn't even listen to music, which I usually do when I'm surfing. And though I had fun today, it was pretty predictable, not challenging fun.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

In which I take off on the biggest wave of my life---and...

A day after the humongous waves of Hurricane Danny, I expected things to have quieted down a lot, but they really haven't. There are still some five to six foot waves out there, I judge by watching people ride them. But I decide to go in anyway.

Getting out isn't easy. After 15-20 minutes of trying and getting pushed back, in full view of the boardwalk peanut gallery of course, I decide to try going out by the jetty, as D. taught me long ago. (I consider the surfer's maxim, If you have this much trouble making it out you shouldn't be out, but I reject that idea.) I pick a guy with a board the same size as mine, a guy I am sure knows what he is doing, and decide to just do what he does. Mostly what he does is wait for a lull, same as everyone else. (Same as J., an arrogant King-of-the-Beach type shortboarder---I note with satisfaction that he has to wait just like the rest of us.) Finally there is a lull, the guy jumps on his board---but I am several yards behind him and not as fast and don't quite make it like he does. Well, then I see another longboard guy and follow that one. Basically, I start paddling when everyone else does---duh, when we all see the lull. And I make it.

Once out, I move over where the less experienced surfers are, and wait for a suitable wave. There aren't really any small ones coming through, so if I don't go for a big one, I won't get anything. One comes by that I'm in position for, I paddle.

Whoa! What is this thing I have never experienced before---a big drop at about a 45 degree angle! I mean, we talk about making the drop on the small waves I am so used to, but it's hardly a drop, you never even notice it. This; this is a real drop. I have caught the wave perfectly and I know it but then I'm faced with that slide down the slope and it scares me. It scares me enough that I don't try to get up. I think my nose is going to go down and I focus on just holding on to my board. Then, of course, my nose goes down, and I'm tumbled. Also held down a second longer than I'm used to, not a big deal, but I note it.

I think that if I had stood up right away I would have been OK. If I had treated that five to six foot wave as a three footer, I would have made it. Really, it's the same thing (only much steeper).

I am cheered by the fact that I tried and made the wave. I am pushing my limits today, and it feels fine, really.

I didn't come all the way out here not to try for a wave.

The next wave I get, I actually get to my feet, but then fall immediately. I am cheered to have gotten to my feet, to have made progress from getting out to taking off to getting up, however briefly.

Once I'm in, it seems like an hour has passed, but an hour that equals two hours on easy waves. Two waves, two slightly long holdowns, not counting the scratch on my face from where my board hit me on the way out which I don't even notice til someone says later, Your face is bleeding. (Only a tiny bit.) Six foot waves. Even five is great for me.

I decide to rest while I debate going out again. But I don't. I am intact and stoked, and that feels good to me. It was all more challenging than scary.

Later, I realize it was strangely fun. Not the fun of riding a wave fun, but the fun of trying something hard and proving to yourself you can do it (or will someday soon) fun. The fun of not getting killed.

And something else. I think of the phrase "adrenaline junkie." Not that I am one, but a lot of surfers are, or at least I've heard that phrase used to describe why people surf. On two foot waves, it's pretty hard to experience a rush of adrenaline, no matter how fun they are. Maybe adrenaline is several parts fear, several parts risk, combined into a relief cocktail at the end (if you survive). Well, I got the fear and risk part today (if not the riding the wave part). And it is a whole different experience than my usual surf session. I could maybe start to like it.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Big wave day (for me)

Today, one day post-the-first-hurricane-wave-day-of-the-season, I saw my former friend on the boardwalk, the one who's only been surfing a couple of years but we're at the same level, and she said the waves were too big for her. From the boardwalk, they looked about five feet at most.

Usually, if they're too big for her, it's a pretty sure thing they're too big for me. Usually, I'd have turned around and gone in. But I didn't.

I went out, and my very first wave I caught and rode! It surprised the hell out of me, but I remember being so pleased and thinking, Oh, I've made so much progress that these waves no longer seem big. Because they didn't. I also enjoyed the greater power of the bigger wave.

So I got a lot more, and was really comfortable and confident. It's the first time I've felt that way in such big (for me) waves. All in all a hellaciously fun day.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Shortboard ride!

Finally, it's 90 degrees and feels like summer...finally. I am really trying to enjoy it. Long story short, this summer has just been unbearably stressful, full of dead ends, disappointment, and frustration (at least out of the water). To give you just one example, everything I own and rely on is now broken and nonfunctional: my computer, my printer, my backup computer, my stereo, my television, my DVD player, and my car. What are the odds of all these things breaking down at once? All needing replacement or major work and major $$$$? Oh yeah, and my shoulder. It needs major surgery to fix the pain I've had for nine months now.

What a difference from last summer, if you read a back a year. I can't imagine ever being that happy again. I can't see how I'll ever dig out of the current roadblock.

But enough of that. Because this is really a happy post. Yes.

Today I got my first ride on a shortboard!

It's not mine, I borrowed it. I think it's 6-2. The waves were choppy small crap. I haven't surfed for nearly two weeks. I was at the point of "just wanting to go in the water," really missing surfing, but also wondering (now that I know what's wrong with my shoulder) if it was worth paddling for virtually nothing.

I hadn't even brought my board to the beach, that's how flat it's been. My friend's board was there. I thought, what the hell. I expected nothing. I went in on a shortboard. It's only the second time I've ever tried one.

Well, it wasn't so hard to balance and paddle, and it wasn't so hard to catch the little sections of the knee high waves. I could catch a bunch. The problem, as I discovered the first time I tried a shortboard, is standing up. I already know it has to be fast, way faster than on a longboard. Today I also figured out that I need to catch the waves (at least these waves) way later than on a longboard.

There really is no time on a shortboard to think whether you have a stable platform for standing up; you just have to do it, I think, and take your chances.

Most of the times that I did that, I fell immediately. But at least I was getting to my feet, which exceeded my expectations for the session. I also realized that there really is great value and pleasure in "just getting in the water" on a board when you haven't been in for weeks, and it's 90 degrees and sunny. I was surprised at how much I was enjoying myself on shitty waves without getting rides.

Then somehow I got up and got one.

It didn't last long, but then no one was getting long rides today. I was on my feet, on a shortboard, and I went somewhere without falling.

My second time.

Wow, maybe some of the hardwon skills I've gotten on the longboard really do transfer. Wouldn't that be fun.

It's amazing how light the little board feels, how free I feel using it, how I am not afraid of getting clunked on the head with it (although of course I still could). It feels like nothing at all between me and the waves. I think I could really start to like it.

Saturday, August 01, 2009

Great crowd session

This morning I had my best summer crowd session ever.

What a day, after what has seemed like endless rain: blue sky, sunshine, hot, offshore wind.

2 foot waves, and I had fun despite the fact that there were probably 50 people in the water. In fact, I was one of the few people actually catching waves and riding, and when I realized that, my confidence just grew.

Generally I hate summer weekend sessions because of the crowded lineup. But today, I was over at the second peak as usual (the first reserved for experts, locals, or both) and surrounded by weekend and beginner surfers who didn't know what they were doing. So I didn't worry about people taking my waves, because they didn't know how; I just went for as many waves as I could.

And I was up and riding, as long as possible anyway on the small closeout waves. It felt good to be the star surfer. It also felt good to be out surrounded by female surfers and I felt like calling out "Girl Wave!" as we all went on the same one. (We actually didn't, but the girls were definitely the best surfers out today.)