Impossible to progress, you don't get no respect and you'll never be a pro surfer…
Australia is a coastal nation. Just look at our population centres on Google Earth, if you really want to see it. We cling like limpets to the coastline, tenacious little gastropods. Superficially, it looks like we all live within a short stroll of the beach.
But nothing could be more untrue. Most kids, most surfers, in Australia are car or bus or train rides from the closest rideable waves. And when you’re a kid or carless, it paints your surf experience a different hue to the guy who opens a window blind in the mornings to check the surf.
I did it. I grew up in the burbs of WA. I could ride my bike, but it would take me and hour-and-a-half, or I could wait around for parents that had no concept of Western Australia’s deadly summer onshores.
It’s a struggle living in the suburbs when all you want to do is throw yourself in the ocean. Here’s what the suburban surf rat is up against.
1. I can’t get no respect
On Saturday morning, the bus or the train disgorges you at the beach. You’re there! You smell the combination of salt air and rotting seaweed and you feel… good. Better than you’ve felt all week. So why are those people jeering at you? Why do you get paddled around in the water? Because, according to the surfers who’ve been fortunate enough to live there, you don’t belong. And because you’re surfing once a week, your clumsy jams don’t help. Which leads to…
2. It’s impossible to progress
All the Kai Neville movies, all the web clips in the world, all the visualisation and “surf-specific training” means nothing if you’re getting time in the water.
3. You don’t fit in anywhere
At school, there’s the sport’s guys, the skaters, the DJs, the guys who play guitars, the chess gang. But no surfers. And so you wander around the yard without a soul to share your dreams of nailing a front spin. If you’re lucky, you might find a like-minded pal, but mostly they don’t exist.
4. You’ll never be a pro surfer
Oh, this is the cruellest. But without some kind of interested parent who’ll spend their life shuttling you to and from the beach, and at least some native ability, your dream of being the next Jordy Smith ain’t gonna happen. Maybe you’ll become a writer, or a photographer, instead.
5. Surf mags forget about you
Pick up a surfing magazine (or snow or skate) for that matter, and how much of it’s content is revealing the great secrets of performance as applied to the beginner-intermediate surfer? None. It’s not until you’re landing airs the mags start to throw a few tips your way. But how do you get there?
6. It’s a waiting game
Waiting for trains, buses, parents, waiting for a pick up, waiting in line for a wave, waiting, waiting. It gets very old.
7. You become obsessed by accessories
When you can’t get a fix of surf every day, you become obsessed by all the trinkets, all the gimcrackery that surrounds the game. Deep down, you know a board and a pair of trunks is all you need, but there’s something about buying…something… that makes you feel connected to the sport you love.
8. You might never bust out
So many of us become weighted with inertia, with family ties, with jobs and everything else, we never break out of our suburban chains. It’s a horror! Don’t let it be you!