What happens when a lifelong surfer gets caught in the snare of a new game? When his excitement overcomes normal protocols and he’s compelled to share his “precious” experience and his glorious new mission?
The dreadful affair of the vulnerable adult learner surfer, the great replacement championed by the WSL, has been documented at length on BeachGrit, gifting its writers a brilliant hunting season.
Our game-bags filled quickly and early.
From The End-is-Night dept: VALS are the future surf, an apocalyptic scenario too real to ignore, Brave Professor at the Surf Institute declares war on Malibu VALS, Can a vulnerable adult learner actually show us the way?, Killers: Leashless VALS overrun Gold Coast, and so on for years.
It culminated with a series on Academy Award-nominated actor, the sexy no-longer-a-butterball Jonah Hill, anointed patron saint of VALS in, Actor and new Malibu local Jonah Hill cements position as “patron saint of VALS” with release of first epic surf shot, Actor famous for playing “sexless butterballs” and VAL pioneer Jonah Hill buys $9 million “windowless monolith” at Malibu colony, Heir to Miki Dora’s Malibu throne Jonah Hill pulls ultimate power move; woos an wins heart of surf instructor.
There’s quite a few more but y’get the picture.
The gravest crime of the VAL, as you know, is his, her, their, enthusiasm for the sport. Eyes bright, happy they’ve found a brother, sis, in arms, they’ll engage about your fins (“Dunno, had ‘em lying around”), the volume of your surfboard (“Ah, five-nine by nineteen, maybe two-and-three-eights”), leash length (“Had it for five years, comp cord, maybe”) and so on.
And we roll our eyes and we yawn.
But what happens when a lifelong surfer gets caught in the snare of a new game? When his excitement overcomes the normal protocols of conversation and he’s compelled to share his “precious” experience and his glorious mission with his new comrades?
Jiujitsu is full of vulnerable adult learners and I was, still am, one of ‘em.
I should’ve been acutely aware of my station, that the camaraderie I felt with my rolling partners was a chimera; that the friendship and the trust they felt was something only available to those who had spent years strangling each other.
Like surfing, grappling gyms see a lot of people swing through, get all hot for the sport, find it too hard, and split after a few months.
So, and like surfers, a newcomer is viewed through slit-eyes and a restrained engagement. Talk to me in five years is the unspoken order.
But, man, like a VAL you just can’t help yourself. Gimme some single-leg takedown tips, show me how to finish that kimura, look at this buggy choke/fly-trap on Instagram, let me drill the flying armbar with you, brother.
It’s the jiujitsu equivalent of riding a two-thousand dollar eight-foot log at Malibu, struggling to one knee in the whitewash, raising your arms and yelling ‘tube’.
When I spar, I thrash like a panicked chicken in a hen-roost. My elbows hit black belts in the face, knees belt ‘em in the guts.
In the case below, we see a ten-minute roll before class with my kid. My heart redlines at 180 beats per minute as the ten-year veteran of the sport sends me into a blind panic with multiple multi-limb attacks. I have to leave the room briefly, sick at heart, holding my breath.
The hour-long class that follows is a piece of cake, alongside other beginners, doesn’t kick the heart beyond 155.
Couple that with a fifty-two minute surf in a rip-bowl that requires constant paddling, and where my heart doesn’t quite hit 180 but does stay above 145 for most of it, WHOOP under a John John Florence rubber band, and I almost hit the mythical strain level of 21.
(Quick reminder: the WHOOP records strain on a scale from zero to 21 over the course of the day, zero being David Lee Scales, 21, Kai Lenny. Twenty-one re represents the max cardio load you can handle in a day. The WHOOP doesn’t measure miles, steps, so much as how your body is responding when you do it.)
And, yet, and still, back at jiujisu I VAL out every chance I get.
For my jiujitsu podcast I mention to my black belt pal Johnny that I plan on getting a trademark move from each of our guests, a double-leg takedown from MMA guy Richie Vas, a heel-hook from leg strangler Jeremy Skinner, a guillotine from Brazilian superstar Charles Negromonte.
Johnny looks at me.
He surfs. He’s seen it before, the enthusiasm, the joy, the need for connection, camaraderie.
“Don’t,” he says.
Next week: Is jiujitsu gonna work in a surf fight?