The chance of scoring enough waves on vacation to improve is impossible in the natural world.
Wavepools have gotten a lot of grief in your little rag (website, whatever) as of late. I find this very insensitive – dare I say ‘triggering’.
It’s all a numbers game. How many days in a year is your home break ridable?
One Hundred? Two hundred?
How many days per annum is your region truly good, that is to say, how many sessions in a year provide the mere opportunity for a memorable ride? Five? Twenty?
I agree with Rory’s ‘born in darkness’ argument. There will always be a difference between those raised in a pool vs. those raised in the sea – but why can’t one master both?
Let’s explore the appeal of a pool using the second-person ‘hypothetical’ structure that your publication frequently employs:
It feels like economic and oceanic opportunities have become mutually exclusive for you. Your limbo (New England) is only ridable 30-40 days per year and that’s only if you’re willing to ride a longboard for 20 of them. The waves are objectively good for about six hours every decade.
You’re 23 years old which means you only have a few years left before you grow a gut and knock someone up – which will spell the end of your seagoing days. A new ‘real job’ is off to an auspicious start, but working nine-to-five means that you get to surf exactly never.
Even if a decent swell rolled through on a weekend, during daytime, with good wind, and good tides, and well-formed sandbars, when you had nothing important to do, your arms would be atrophied from doing nothing but picking up phones and pints of microbrew for months. They would struggle to pull on your five mil. Duck-diving your 35 liter board (which you need when paddling through heavy cream) will feel like benching 250 lbs while being water boarded with liquid nitrogen. Not that you know where to paddle out anyway, you have never seen the bars break like this – because they never have.
Even when the stars align and mercury is in perfect retrograde you flub a paddle, or your back foot is three inches too far forward. It seems like never again will a wave live up to the one from V-Land that you relive every night before you fall asleep.
Maybe the problem is you just aren’t good enough. Some solid practice, even one week’s worth, could go a long way toward solving the problem. Thankfully your job differs from indentured servitude in one small, but significant, way: vacation!
It’s just a question of where to go.
Hawaii? Twenty-four hours sure seems like a lot of time to spend sitting on a plane when you only have one week off.
Indonesia/South Pacific? See above, plus you’ve gotten GI parasites before and have vowed to never get them again.
Central America? Been there. Done that. You’re tired of hassling drug dealer/gigolo/surf-instructor beach boys for picturesque but unmakable runners.
Puerto Rico? Too swarmed with dads from New Jersey and their hotshot sons. Sure its only four hours away, but that shit’s still America and you’ve got something more exotic on your mind.
North Africa? A little too exotic, so much so that the only reasonable places to stay are ‘surf camps’. Being chauffeured around in a Land Rover and eating on a schedule feels an awful lot like itinerary; if you wanted that you would take a cruise.
Europe? You like the idea, but still a long way to go. It’s also a big place and you haven’t the faintest idea where to look for waves.
In your research you discover that the Azores are only four hours away. Sure the flight is a little pricey but boards on their wacky airline fly free. The water’s a bit chilly to be sure but that keeps the crowds at bay, and is a damn sight warmer than what you’re used to. Plus you saw a video of Jack Freestone get barreled there during a QS event- it looked dreamy. There’s an Airbnb for $30 a night right next to the beach where that barrel happened.
The scorpion crawls onto your back as soon as you book your ticket.
You’ve made an enormous tactical error by gambling your precious vacation time on the whims of the springtime Atlantic. You spend a week watching enormous storm surges crash into rocky shores in a strange land. This island also carries mutated superbugs and an unfamiliar strain of flu puts you on your ass for three days. At night, the wind howls and shakes the house as you lay on a hard cot and dream of that North Shore wall hitting the west bowl just so.
Thankfully the beer is cheap and the pastries are fantastic. You came to surf but now justify airfare by drinking espresso, lurking in 400-year-old town squares, and sharing geothermal hot baths with middle-aged Germans.
You return from your trip with a better understanding of Portugal’s golden age and the woes of the Eurozone, but have softer shoulders than when you left, and have learned nothing about foot placement.
You curse the apparel brands, airlines, and travel boards that would have you believe in surf travel. You curse your parents for indulging you in such a masochistic activity as a child.
Ultimately though, the fault is yours. How foolish you were to not consider the same factors that curse home breaks: the winds, the tides, the swell, the sands of time. Extrapolating, you realize that the chance of scoring enough good waves in a one-week period to actually improve is impossible in the natural world.
You make up your mind. Your next vacation will be to Nland Surf Park in Texas. It opens soon, you know because you are on the mailing list.
(Editor’s note: Patrick Brewster is a surfer from Boston, Massachusetts. This is his first story for BeachGrit.)