That’s 1.35% of my waking life.
How well do I surf? I’m decent. I mean, I’m definitely not great. If I’m being honest, I’m really not that good.
Fine! You want me to say it? Fuck it. Gimme that mic…
“I SUCK! OK? I FUCKING SUCK AT SURFING!”
I reckon that I’ve surfed north of 2,300 sessions. My hypothetical surfing map that my lady would never let me hang on a wall would include nifty, colorful pins puncturing all US coastal quadrants, a big fat one on a mention-it’s-name-and-I’ll-cut-you-red outer Hawaiian Island and more in Indo, New Zealand, Australia, Mexico, Costa Rica, Puerto Rico and two man-made surf parks in Texas. With a two hour session average, I’ve spent approximately 4,600 hours doing something that I still miserably suck at. That’s half a sojourn around the sun. That’s 1.35% of my waking life.
Yet, I still suck.
I’ve been playing cat and mouse with my inability for some time, but never have I felt the dark warmth of the belly of the feline beast more than when watching some psychologically scarring video footage of myself from a recent session. If you’re considering this, but you suspect your own sub-mediocrity, be warned that it’s something you can’t unsee and you’d be better served staring at that photo of Messier 87 for an hour contemplating the fact that everything that exists, everything you know, everyone you love, likely came from and will thus return to nothingness. (Spoiler alert: In the end, darkness wins.)
It was the first time in nearly two decades that I’ve seen myself on video playback and it was like happening upon a clip of my parents on Pornhub. It was like, after a lifetime of severe, untreated nearsightedness, I got LASIK surgery and discovered that I look like an ogre who lost a fight to a bigger ogre. It was like I got kicked in the nuts by my nemesis after he and my wife, fingers clasped, informed me that my 3-year-old son is not actually of my own seed.
Whatever veil of delusional innocence I had been living behind was at once pulled back, leaving the stark, sobering reality that the level of grace my surfing carries is akin to that of the titular character in the 80s absurdist comedy Weekend At Bernie’s. If you’re not familiar with the film and therefore the reference, Bernie is dead. I look like I have some form of micro-amnesia whereby I’m perpetually coming to from a blackout on a second-by-second basis to the startling realization that I am, in fact, gliding upon the surface of water. Look, Ma. It’s wet!The post-mortem biopic of my surfing life would be called 5000 First Waves. My turns look like an alien trying to copulate with a human having not yet figured what goes where. My pumping looks like I’m trying to actually sink my surfboard underwater. My tube stance is a dookie crouch. But the worst part is the way I would pseudo-casually exit waves with my too-cool-for-school-Slater-nose-wipe-non-claim-claim like I just did something of a measurable amount of objective worth, like anything beyond the mere success of staying afloat just transpired.
Among the strangeness of realizing that Italo surfs better switch than I do regular, the thing I can’t quite reconcile is how supremely sublime something that looks that hideous feels.
I often go to concerts where bands jam and meander into territories heretofore unknown. At these shows, if I’m inspired, I dance. I noodle my legs, torso, arms and head around in rhythmic fashion as I surrender to the flow and connect with Mother Melody. Sometimes, I’m so moved that I compulsively make that boobie-motorboating sound when their jams peak. I’m sure it looks ridiculous, but I don’t care. It feels great in my body. If a video of me doing this concert-noodle were aired on national television, with my name superimposed beneath it in flashing rainbow letters, I genuinely think I’d laugh it off and very well may feel a bit of pride.
If only I could apply this level of casual acceptance to the recent revelation that my surfing looks like John John’s would the day after someone broke both his kneecaps. (DON’T BREAK JOHN JOHN’S KNEECAPS!) But I can’t. I find no humor in the fact that, on a good day, my surfing looks like that of a man twenty years my elder with three herniated discs in his back who’s a day late on refilling his pain meds.
And for this, I feel shame.
Not why do I suck. I suck because I didn’t grow up near the beach and wasn’t taken hostage by surfing until I was 22 (Can one be grandfathered-in as a VAL?)… or because I’ve never taken a lesson or been instructed in any way whatsoever… or because my constant, pre-mature-ejaculate-level frothing supersedes my ability to maintain any flow… or perhaps because the fundamentals of wave sliding are just beyond me.
No, the itchy, whiney why? that I can’t quite scratch is why do I care so much? I know… the act of surfing itself is a ridiculous, meaningless endeavor blah blah blah Chas and the entire Beachgrit premise that’s neither productive nor consumptive on a sociological level blah blah blah Aaron James and is as arbitrary as going to a bucolic meadow to catch apples falling from a tree or eating a bunch of caramels with Minnie Driver but it still means something to me, though that meaning is often as elusive as a shifty beach break peak.
Personal relationships aside, it kind of means, well… everything.
And I suck.
Like, Frankenstein-night-surfing-after-he-took-too-many-hits-of-blotter suck.
And this leaves me full of sorrow.
It would appear that life is a process whereby — if one keeps at it — youthful fantasy violently collides with reality in something often referred to as “adulthood.” Personally, I’m still fishing pieces of shrapnel from this collision out of the lower backside of my torso. An applicable term may be arrested development.
Maybe it’s my love for (Stockholm syndrome with) surfing that illuminates the fact that I suck. Buddha says you care = you suffer. Hold on a sec… suffer… surfer… suffer…surfer…suffer…surfer…suffer…surfer… Maybe I just suck at caring. At loving things. Maybe I’m like Lenny in Of Mice And Men and surfing is the bunny rabbit that — while I intend to gently caress — I strangle to death.
I won’t stop. No way. I can’t. I’m a helpless hostage. But, for psychological preservation, I feel I must do something about the fact that I’d likely lose a heat to Jordy if he were wearing both an eye patch (#realnotdecorative) and a straight jacket.
Maybe the answer is to stop trying to surf like those aquatic freaks my mind, expectations and endorphins have been inundated with through the torrent of surf porn I ingest on a regular basis. Maybe I should stop punishingly defining myself by standards of performance I haven’t a chance of achieving. Maybe I should stop defining any of it.
Is that even possible?
My inner naive idealist, the one who waxes my board and lives in a state of denial about my inner bitter asshole, the one who ends up surfing most of the session, says it is possible. He says it’s possible to one day find harmony between my capability and my expectations. To marry my hustle and my flow.
Moving forward, I shall attempt to leave my efforts and execution of this kinetic act of buoyancy undefined, since that’s the essence of why I’m self-destructively drawn to it in the first place; that barb of the hook that won’t stop tugging on my cheek.
Someone somewhere probably said that surfing is an expression.
Suppose it’s time I try to surf like… myself?
What’s that even mean? Could it be fun? How would I gage my success? How would I know if I’m doing it right? Where would my approval come from? What if they laugh? Could I ever be so bold as to plant my flag on an isolated atoll of identity as such?
Have you attempted this?
Do you… do this?