A beautiful moment! Tears in everyone's eyes!
The other day I went down to the beach for a surf. There is nothing especially unique about this occurrence. Another day marked off on the calendar, another pearl on the string. The waves looked playful and inviting. The tide appeared cooperative. It was even uncrowded. Come here, little girl, come surfing. It’ll be fun, I promise.
I shimmied into my suit, turning to avoid the interested gaze of a passing beachwalker. They always do that, the beachwalkers. Show up right at that awkward stage of half-in, half-out, maybe this time there’ll be a nip slip. Not this time, bitches! Safely zippered up and ready for some surfing.
I mistimed the paddle out, of course, and took ten waves on the head. The resulting ice cream headache made me cranky. Fucking waves, what the hell. My good spirits started to wane. I found a wave, resolved to turn that frown straight upside down with some turns. A good wave, some turns, that’ll make it all okay.
It turned out the waves were less fun than they’d looked from the beach. I’d been played by equal parts illusion and wishful thinking. Mediocre waves are better than no waves at all, I told myself. Still determined. Still hopeful. Maybe it’ll get better!
In the meantime an additional twenty guys had shown up in the lineup. Clearly they were hiding under rocks and behind the bushes, ready to pounce. They saw me blissfully paddle out, hoping for an uncrowded, playful day, and figured it was time to strike.
Mediocre waves, I could accept. Mediocre waves and a crowd? That’s just taking things way too far. There I sat, stewing. I started thinking about sandwiches, about how maybe I should go get one. Sandwiches understand. Sandwiches never let you down.
Then, I saw it. Then I saw the most marvelous thing. I had to blink my eyes to believe it was real. For there was Tom Curren leading an Adult Learner around the lineup. The Adult Learner was perched precariously on a longboard as Curren paddled along beside him like a mother duck minding her chick.
If you’ve never seen Curren in real life, or at least not lately, he looks exactly like you’d imagine. A shock of blonde hair, grey around the edges, perpetually disheveled sits above a face cut deep with lines from the countless hours of staring at the horizon and beyond. His stocky build looks purpose-built for turning surfboards. These days, he has the slightly vague air of an artist, of someone who finds his interior life distractingly interesting, maybe more so, than the world around him.
A small wave came through with no takers. Curren cajoled his adult learner into position and urged him to paddle. Then he gave him a push. The adult learner came to his feet and did a thing that looked something like surfing. Success!
Suddenly, I was extremely jealous. I want a push, too! Where’s my Tom Curren! Tom, Tom, can I get a push? Tom, I need some help over here!
In a listicle over at Surfline — that he was quick to assure us is not actually a listicle, though it does offer a, um, list — Nick Carroll names Adult Learning as one of the surf culture trends of recent years. He predicts that Adult Learners will expand their range into new areas of surf tourism, learn new tricks, and Instagram the fuck out of it all. (Read here, etc!)
Could Curren be starting a new trend of his own? Soon, all the cool kids are going to want Adult Learners of their own. You won’t be able to rock up to the beach without one. There’ll be a rush to find an Adult Learner that best complements your personal style. Board size and color. Wetsuit choice. Gender. Hair color. Before long, we’ll have apps to find the best Adult Learner for you! Swipe right. Swipe left. Find your match.
The very next day, I went back to the beach. Plainly, I had not learned my lesson about the pointless nature of this whole endeavor. When I got there, I saw Shaun Tomson in the lineup. But there was something missing! Shaun did not have an Adult Learner. I tried to tell him that he was doing surfing wrong. Shaun! Stop! It’s all wrong!
But before I could do anything at all, Shaun paddled into the best wave of the day, threw some insouciant spray, and went home.
I figured if Shaun was going to surfing wrong, then I should go ahead and do surfing wrong, too. So I found a good wave, though maybe not the best wave, and threw some girlishy exuberant spray. I forgot all about Adult Learners and trends and lists, that might not be lists, but maybe actually are lists. And then, giggling madly, I paddled back out for another. And another.
Surfing, you are so beautiful and so stupid.