All Gogganses beware.
As you know, this weekend found me awash in ill-deserved wave at Kelly Slater’s Surf Ranch there in Lemoore, California’s cow stink. I was supposed to be training for the greatest trilogy fight of the decade, running, squatting, pushing up, rolling around in pajamas on a squishy mat suffocated, but opportunity knocked and I simply had to re-face the machine that once brought me low, ripping my left arm from its socket as easy as a glance from Ritchie Vas.
Two days of surf were on hand, two heats per day, and while surfing has not registered as an “activity” on my WHOOP strap (buy here, use BeachGrit code for much savings), I wondered if technological advancements might create fitness, revenge, improved surf style and all knitted together.
A triptych of triumph.
Now, for clarity’s sake, Surf Ranch runs the day by slotting guests into one hour heats, with each guest typically surfing two heats a day, pre and post lunch. During Surf Journalist Day, some three years ago, the heats featured four or five surfers and waves were as precious as Jonah Hill.
I surfed four before my shoulder was undone. Derek Rielly surfed maybe six. Maximum, seven. Chris Cote, could not have surfed more than eight as the absolute winner.
This weekend, my Saturday heats consisted of three people. One, wife. The other, friend who had not surfed in quite some time. Surf Ranch kicks out one right, followed by one left, every 4 to 5 minutes. That meant, roughly, 15 waves during the heat, five “priority” per person plus all the poaches* that could be stomached.
It was the first of the day, air in the low 60s, water in the low 60s, and people panicked for 4/3s even 5/4s booted and hooded. I had a secret weapon, a once-brined Billabong Furnace Comp 3/2 all black, and knew it would be plenty warm plus give me a flexibility advantage.
I was correct, surfed around nine, poorly as evidenced by thoughtful video review afterward, but surfed nine whole-ish waves nonetheless one more than Chris Cote.
Afterwards, in the wood paneled locker room, personalized wood paneled locker, below my gorgeously printed “Charles Smith” nametag, I checked the ever-clicked WHOOP app on my cellular smart device and it measured 13 on the strain meter for the activity.
Thirteen and wow.
Running three miles, pushing up intermittently, planking, pouring sweat, almost dying well over an hour registered me an 11.4.
Surfing in the regular ocean didn’t register as an “activity” at all but maybe kicked to six.
What sort of magic was this?
Surfing an artificial wave the key to a solid right hook followed by a quick jiujitsu somethingratherelse plus decent-adjacent wave twerk?
Ashton Goggans doubly smashed?
Hope sprang eternal, in my treacherous heart while I snacked on healthy nut-based snacks, drank healthy coconut pulps, waited for my second heat.
One o’clock pm, air mid-80s, water upper-60s. Poorly surfed, again, though top turn to down carve nodding at coming together. Ten plus waves. Strain 12-esque adjacent.
Kelly Slater had unlocked the secret to eternal viability (environmental not included).
After a fine dinner organic dinner, a delicious gluten-free breaded chicken business, I was beat. Fight beat. Truly and properly exhausted. Shoulders aching, neck unable to twist, torso never able to twist but now mostover.
Chased the exhaustion with late night In n Out, not gluten-free but mustard fried with chopped chilis plus cheese, across the street from hotel, the very same In n Out across the very same street that the very Alejandro Moreda lusted over and still beat.
Didn’t sleep much due physical pain and thank you, in advance, for your sympathy.
Except surfing the basin a fitness revelation.
Next morning, first heat, early morning, muscles aching, neck not moving. Water colder, air colder. Same three surfers, wife, Nova Scotian, me. Billabong Furnace Comp not faltering.
Twelve waves poorly surfed.
Last heat, a super one with twenty extra minutes tacked on to traditional sixty, only wife and I, Nova Scotian being relegated to another heat, nearly unheard of in the annals of Surf Ranching.
She a goofy, I regular.
She took all the lefts save the ones I poached. I took all the rights save the ones she poached.
The wind was blowing south, a rare occurrence, opening up the barrel for her and she becoming barreled while I got blown out the back on poached lefts, attempting Andy Irons off the lip.
I worked on turns, poorly, but countless waves surfed, poorly, but surfed nonetheless, a number of waves I can’t even remember to this moment not even caring. Only thinking about form, head, arms, unmovable neck, rotten torso.
Not hundreds, a mathematical impossibility, but hundreds-adjacent.
At the end of that super heat, back in front of my “Charles Smith” locker, I re-checked WHOOP.
9.4 strain and after hundreds of waves.
Dropping precipitously from its initial glorious heights.
And it was then that I realized, familiarity breeds conceit. The heart paranoid and striving, the heart that beats fear of failure, is the heart that pushes strain, and thereby fitness gains, and a person to the next level.
Once any odd thing is encapsulated as a known it dips, dips, then dips some more.
Keeping paranoid is what keeps us progressing.
I’m actually ready to fight, to enter the paranoid fresh wasted.
All Gogganses beware.