She even crushed the World Surf League's Erik Logan, a heretofore impossible feat!
I have a neck tan so intensely defined right now that it’s almost embarrassing. I went surfing just about every day during the holidays. No big road trips. No exotic destinations. Just wake up, drink a couple espressos, and find some waves somewhere in the neighborhood. I also tried organic pop tarts for the first time. This was not a good decision.
My holiday surf binge did not get off to the most auspicious start. There I was, changing out of my suit, all post-surf glow, and a bro needed some wax. Because I am not always an asshole, I gave him some. He swiped it across the deck of his board and handed it back, covered in sand.
I vowed right then and there, that the next person to ask me for wax, would receive a nice hard chunk of tropical. To be clear, here in Centralish California (don’t at-me, bitches!), the water temperatures are not currently tropical. How much fun to watch them slide as their wax flakes joyfully off their boards!
There was the day with playful windswell and three guys out. I’m not sure how this happened, but it did. The next day, there were three-hundred guys out, in much the same waves. I’m not sure how this happened, either, but the parking lot full of van life should have been a warning sign. Apparently, you need a Sprinter van to go surfing now. I really wanted to know what was living in the vans, but it seemed slightly forward to ask for a guided tour.
There was the day that Dane Reynolds almost turned on my face. Fortunately, because it was Dane, he did not actually turn on my face. It takes a real pro to manage these things correctly. It was a very nice turn on an extremely diminutive wave. Normal people do not surf like that, is a thing I said, and then I went to find a tiny wave of my own.
Somedays, the wind ricochets around the Santa Barbara channel, bouncing off the coastal mountains, whistling through the canyons, and slamdancing into the islands, only to return straight back to the coast. Onshore. Offshore. Sideshore. Every direction at once. I went over the falls four times before I got lucky.
And luck it certainly was. I slid down the rib of the peak, the wind puffed offshore for a moment, and a glowing green wall appeared, seemingly out of nowhere. Right then, I felt that wondrous ease and grace that comes so rarely to those of us not named Steph Gilmore.
The tourists and their vans rolled over and through us, looking to cross Rincon off their bucketlist. I sat in southwind-fucked soup and wondered if it really counts when you surf a famous spot in bad waves. The tourists on their softops seemed consistently stoked, regardless of what the ocean offered them. High tide, low tide, south wind, no wind. It didn’t seem to matter at all. It’s all so awesome! This is so fun!
But can you say you surf Rincon or Trestles or Malibu, if the waves were a shadow of their true selves? Is there a Platonic ideal of the thing — or is it just a place on a map where sometimes the waves are good? For magazine photo editors (RIP), the perfect version of the place matters, maybe. For the rest of us, it’s probably so much unnecessary bullshit. I’m glad the tourists enjoyed their bad waves. To be clear, I also had fun in the bad waves. I have no standards.
One day I showed up to a full parking lot to find a friend changing out of his suit. I sat and waited for his spot and we bantered about the kind of dumb things you banter about in the surf spot parking lot. I told the story about lending wax to the guy with the sand-coated board. We talked about crowds and holidays. Then I parked and went surfing.
The next day, I showed up around the same time to see my same friend changing out of his suit. While I waited for his spot, I warned him against the organic pop tarts. Don’t go there, man, it’s the bad place. I like to help out my friends. Just as I got out of the car, I looked up to see him walking toward me. I figured he must have forgotten something. Instead, he tossed me a bar of wax — not tropical! — and ran, laughing, back to his idling car.
I can’t remember if the waves were any good that day, but sometimes, a fresh bar of wax and some laughs in the parking lot are the best parts of the whole damn thing.