Do you dye your hair? Are you as good as Kelly Slater? Is the water cold?
The game of surf is a source of endless fascination to the wider world. All but impossible to learn once you exit adolescence, it punches the buttons of danger, difficulty, fantasy and spirituality.
And, so, if you’ve surfed longer than a few years you’ll know the following questions. You’ll know them so well you’ll have a rehearsed answer for each.
1. Do you dye your hair?
All of us, even those with the darkest of hair, gets a little streak here and there of blond if we surf enough. What happens is the sun crushes all the melanin in our hair and ’cause hair is dead, we go blond. And yet, at every party, family get together, we’re asked, “Do you dye your hair?” And all the science in the world can’t convince ’em otherwise.
Your response: “Yeah, I do. It sets off my chocolate skin, non?”
2. Are you as good as Kelly Slater?
Parents and potential mates will ask you this question, most seriously. As in, surely, if you’re out there every day you must have achieved a level close to, say, Kelly Slater? What can you say? That it’s the most difficult sport in the world, that to even attempt one new move you have to manoeuvre yourself out the back, snatch a wave from a crowd, get to your feet and then find the appropriate section to even attempt a turn, let alone achieve any kind of brilliance, let alone match the greatest athlete ever in sport?
Your response: “I think my cutback is a little stronger although, when you balance everything, I’d say Kelly still comes out on top.”
3. Have you surfed Mavericks/Jaws/Waimea Bay?
Surely, with enough practice, the mountains of Mavs, Jaws and the Bay become more accessible? What can you say, when a genuine, Hawaiian-style four-foot wave terrifies most of us? And that big-wave surfing is pure existentialist terror?
Your response: “Those overrated shore breaks? I like to surf my mountains away from crowds.”
4. Do you surf in winter?
Any time the air temperature drops below 65 and the water below 60, you’ll be hit with this incredulous question. Of course, you must play it up. You are a warrior who bravely fights the elements, for whom hypothermia is but a bug that you will squash with your numb hands.
Your response: “I have to, even if it kills me. It’s when the waves get good.”
5. Will it take me long to learn to surf?
…as asked by an adult. Oh, you poor thing! Do you want the truth? No, because you will never learn or would you rather the feel-good lie, “It depends how often you practise.”
Your response: “Theoretically…”
6. Will you show me how to surf?
It depends. Will you yelp and cry and shriek and complain? Or will you handle being tossed over the falls of an impossible-to-surf shore break on an eight-foot soft board?
Your response: “We go at five am…”
7. Do you ever get scared of sharks?
Every single second of every single session and you long for the day when shark nets cover the globe. Often you fantasise of an ocean without man-eaters.
Your response: “We’re in their domain and if I die, I die. At least I’ll be killed doing what I love.”
8. Have you been to Hawaii?
The truth is you’re too damn terrified of the waves and the crowds to go near the joint.
Your response: “Hoping to spend a few months there this winter.”
9. Are you going surfing (while carrying board)?
Your response: “No I’m a delivery man for an ironing board company.”