Bad news for kid-hitters, advises Jen. "It ain't the old days anymore!"
Welcome to the first episode of Ask Doctor Jen. I am not an actual doctor.
Well, I am, but not that kind of doctor.
I do not know anything about human anatomy, but I could, if necessary, solve your history problems. This is not an especially relevant skill.
But who said writers were practical people? If you’ve ever spent time with a writer, you will know that practical things are not at all our strong suits. Try if you can to get us to remember to pay the bills or buy groceries or show up somewhere on time. It’s impossible! We are hopeless.
All of which makes me totally, 100-percent qualified to offer advice on the internet. You have problems, and someone has to help you solve them. So here I am. Let’s solve some problems!
Dear Dr Jen,
My brother in law is a VAL. How can I avoid surfing with him at Christmas?
Dear Rick Deadman,
We get to choose a lot of things in life, but family just isn’t one of them. Too bad your sibling married a VAL and you are stuck with the consequences forever. Good job, sibling! Honestly, you deserve something extra good from Santa this year. But you can’t avoid surfing with your VAL brother-in-law unless the surf is flat. Maybe start hoping the surf will be flat. Or a good, solid onshore wind. These are your only escapes from what is sure to be surfing purgatory.
Take him to the easiest spot in your town and put him on a big ass board and try not to hate it too much. You could surf with a paper bag over your head, but it might get soggy and people would have so many questions. So just own it. You are taking your VAL relative surfing, because it’s Christmas and that’s the kind of thing we do at Christmas. Make him buy you lunch, maybe. This only seems fair!
Sorry I can’t get you out of this one! Don’t hate me too much!
Dear Dr Jen,
my girlfriend is moving away for a year, what board should I buy to numb my bummer?
Dear WeirdAl Merrick,
Choosing a board for another person is like, Idk, deciding what underwear you should wear. I do not know what underwear you should wear. I mean, hopefully, you are wearing something!
There’s two ways to go with this choice. You can buy a board you already know and love — it’s a sure-fire trip to fun and won’t let you down. Or, you can try something new. I am super into trying new boards, though sometimes, it can lead to frustration! Like, fuck this piece of shit, why did I buy this, I can’t even surf this. This is a thing I have said once or twice! Usually, I figure it out just fine and it was just a passing thing.
Here are some boards I would like to buy right now: If I had good waves coming my way (Ha ha, not in the summer, fuck!), I would buy a Ghost. I am so, so intrigued by that board, after fondling one at a local shop. What is even up with all that double concave? I don’t know how that would even work, but I would love to find out. I would also be tempted to buy a CI Happy, because of the name. I’m so, easily swayed by marketing, it’s almost embarrassing! At least, I’m willing to admit my failings. Also, channels. I have never had a board with channels. What does that even feel like?
For mediocre to good waves, I’d like to have a MR-style twinfin — an actual twinfin, though, no fucking trailer fins. A twinfin has two fins, this is a rule. Fun, fast, whippy: Those boards look fun. I would so ride one, if I had one!
If you have bad waves, I don’t even know what to tell you. Buying a board to surf in bad waves is super depressing and should be avoided — especially if your girlfriend is heading off to do girlfriend things for a year. That’s a long fucking time, dude. I hope you find good waves and a fabulous board to ride. A guy should have some compensations in life.
Dear Dr Jen,
Is it ever a good idea to teach either a current or potential significant other how to surf?
the foot of slater
Dear the foot of slater,
During the summer, I frequently visit a beginner-friendly break. The reasons for this choice are long and stupid and not worth dwelling on. Anyway. Last summer, a man would often paddle out with his girlfriend and try to teach her how to surf. This process involved the man yelling at his girl from across the lineup in an effort to tell her what to do. This was not at all effective!
Do not teach your girl how to surf by yelling at her in the lineup. It is a bummer for everyone involved, actually.
Surfing is a weirdly difficult thing to teach someone how to do when you stop to think about it. How well can you explain the strange alchemy that transforms you from lying on a surfboard to standing on one? And that’s not even thinking about the whole question of what to do once you’re standing on a board.
If you’re going to teach your SO to surf, you will need to cultivate your chill. Take them to a stretch of beach break without too many people around. Help them learn to paddle and catch waves without standing up. Try, if you can, to explain the process of standing up — but mostly, you’re going to have to be ready to cheer them on, as they trial and error their way through it — just like you did.
If your SO has ocean experience — boogeyboarding as a child, swimming — it will go so much more easily for them. Sames, if they’re athletic. Make sure they do know how to swim! Around here, I keep seeing people who want to surf, but they can’t fucking swim. I don’t understand this decision. Surfing takes place in water. You should know how to swim before attempting it!
Recognize that you are facing a tall order in teaching someone this weird, chaotic, joyous dance. Be ready to step back and let them fail — and reassure them, that fuck, this thing is hard to learn, but once learned, almost impossible to forget.
Dear Dr Jen,
I can’t land an air. Do I need to eat more avocados or less?
Avocados are good food. Everyone should eat avocados. They will not, however, magically make your airs better. I’m afraid that landing an air requires practice and blowing a lot of fucking waves until you succeed. This ritual is all very tiresome, but necessary.
To summarize, eat avocados, yes. Then find a rampy beach break, maybe with some wind on it, and keep hopping. Try not to break any bones during this process. Broken bones are a bummer, if we wanted broken bones we would all be skateboarders and not have to wait for the tides and surf and dumb shit like that. We would just go skateboarding and you’d probs already know how to do airs. Okay, hope this helps. Good luck!
At what age should a grom be responsible/accountable for their own actions in the water? As in, at what age can I yell at a kid and it’s not frowned upon?
A short story for context: Surfing a fairly fat right-hand reef break on my new mal about a month ago (I’m normally one of your tiny twin fin types, but horses for courses etc) and a friendly head high set approaches. I’m deepest and spot the thing early, paddle in, stand and start to descend down the glassy face. Nice. A grom (male, age ~14, seemingly local because no parents with him) who had spent my entire paddle-in um-ing and ah-ing about whether to go left or right around me has, in the end, ended up sitting directly under the pretty well-defined takeoff spot. He bobs in the water, next to his upside-down board. What the hell, kid. This 9ft mal don’t do crowd navigation like my smaller craft. Sure enough, big fin gash in the bottom of my formerly really pretty mal. $110 repair job courtesy of the bank of Kook Kahanamoku. All I could do at the time was shake my head at the kid and say he needs to do better than that. Went in and grabbed my twinny, kid was gone when I got back out.
Should I have been harder on the kid to really make the point? Did I deserve this for seeing Torren Martyn videos and buying a mal?
Dear Kook K,
My dude, you have violated the first rule of surfing in crowds of mixed abilities: Never ride a pretty board! It will always end in tears. Save the fancy resin tints for the experienced crew or a (hopefully) less-crowded weekday sesh. I am generally a fan of smaller, more maneuverable craft in situations where groms or really, anyone, might make bad decisions in my proximity. Softops are also good for this situation! Running over groms is, on the whole, not a good life choice.
Likewise, for yellin’ at other peoples’ kids, no matter how well-deserved. I know, I know, schooling groms is tradition! But this ain’t the old days anymore. Sorry! You have to be at least sorta nice to the kids.
It is totally good — and even encouraged! — to explain to wayward groms and beginners how to avoid future mistakes. Do not sit under the peak and flail! This is very good advice and you are not a bad person to offer it to the grom in this situation. But yelling at groms is not ideal! Channel your inner chill and explain how not to suck to the kooks. I can’t guarantee it will work, but at least you tried — and the rest of us will thank you for your efforts.