"Those who did make it out among the real men and women became traffic, at best; land mines at worst."
The big fifty-year thing is closing its blinds in California.
Whether you ate straight from the buffet or watched each day’s waves on your phone snuggled in your bed, you saw some of the best rides from the coast in years. Heaps of audacious drops, barrels, and escapes from the best in the west.
You likely also noticed the mass of bodies that had no business going out…
Piles of blissfully ignorant VALs failing to get out past the whitewater. No timing, no duck diving, no experience evidently: A timid walk into the shore break, a few frightened bird arm swoops, then flipped up and back to whence they came, rung bell in head and such.
Those who did make it out among the real men and women became traffic, at best; land mines at worst.
Just look at all the reports from the past few weeks of dangerous conditions created by the unlicensed. It’s endless.
And it made me wonder why these fools, wet and without hope, would ever believe they could ride waves of such temper.
Where are they getting such whimsical ideas? Pacific Beers ads? There’s got to be more.
I think reading is to blame.
It’s overrated. (You’re here, after all.)
A Google search of “How to surf and survive big waves” returned a full run of written advice. Sites untrustworthy as a fat junkie.
For example, the article “How to Survive a Wipeout Like a Pro” found on booksurfcamps.com suggests that when faced with complete obliteration, one should be measured and consider the following:
Jump away from your surfboard.
Jump as you would in shallow water.
Jump butt first.
Cover your head.
A simple and profound checklist to run through as your lungs are ripping apart and your leash bow-tied around your shoulders.
Or how about the piece “Big Wave Surfing—101” on leux.com.
Here a curious newbie can learn everything required to conquer the big stuff.
If the sections titled, “Where to Find big Waves” and “Surfboards for Big Wave Riding” aren’t enough, the how-to portion brings it all together.
Make sure you do some “underwater rock running” and plenty of “yoga.” While they’re at it I’m surprised the site doesn’t recommend diving the reef with Chandler when it’s flat.
I’m all in for people trying to lift their ability level to that of their guts. Everyone has the right to play the lottery. And I’m all for ignorant risk-takers and those insecure about their talent because they have none.
But there are just certain activities which seem more fitting to be described on a page than attempted. I want to read about a candy-assed reporter and his friend kidnapped in Lebanon; I do not want to get dusty.
And as for surfing massive swells, no set of instructions found on simplysurf.com is going to help.
If a person earnestly reads these sites as a means to big-wave heroics, it should be a bright red flag to that person that he or she is not equipped.
An admission: I once sought out bowel-shaking waves in South America and found them. When I stood there cotton-mouthed scared on the cold sand face to face with blue-black walls, I turned and walked home, pallid, ostensibly having left my testicles in my other suit. After spending a week lying face down in shame, I regrouped.
I did not, however, turn to E-WikiHow.
But I’m nobody.
So, for some corroboration, I asked a pageant line of big-wave greats if they learned to surf by reading.
Here are the reports:
Darryl “Flea” Virostko (3x Mavericks champ, Fleahab founder)
“I never read about how to surf especially big waves. These sites really don’t bother me because I’m not looking for this crap.
“We learned from experience and the older guys helping us out in the water. Getting donuts and figuring it out. We worked our way up with the size surf we rode. Learning how to ride bigger boards. And just bring it great surf shape.
“There’s so many surfers now and a lot of them are beginning so I could see why these sites exist.
“I think people should put in the work but I’m not letting these sites bother me. They definitely make it more crowded with people that have no etiquette or understanding how lineups work. They’re missing the stuff that’s learned in the water. I just think it’s unsafe for everyone, but what, you’re gonna police the web?”
Nic Lamb (2016 titans of Mavericks champ, creator of the fabulous Icebeanie)
“I learned by observing taking consistent action and putting myself in a surfing environment. I started with small waves and progressed gradually to larger and larger surf.
“I’m all for learning and absorbing knowledge however application and environment is superior to information. I’d check the author and their background. Big wave surfing is risky enough. Be cautious who you take advice from make sure they have a track record otherwise you are taking on additional unnecessary risk.
“Look, there is so much nonsense out there with the blind leading the blind.
Some things can’t be googled. You must immerse yourself entirely. On the one hand sure some of this stuff is a how-to be a liability handbook. On the other hand, I say leave it be and let the chips fall where they may.”
Felipe Pomar (1965 World Surfing Champ, rode a tsunami in 1974)
“I think there are pearls of wisdom in that material, and you have to be experienced enough to recognize them.
“In my day there was nothing in written form about riding big waves. I learnt from surfers that were older than me and gave me advise, shared surf stories, and personal experience.
“My best advice is that you learn to ride bigger waves incrementally by surfing bigger waves (being exposed to bigger and bigger waves) until you find your personal limit. Another would be to always surf with a mate, or two and do not attempt to surf big waves unless you are a confident swimmer. Last advise be careful of being overconfident, that can be deadly. Always remember that the ocean, while beautiful, and sometimes peaceful, is not your friend.”
So, Godspeed to all those ambitious readers out there. You are as brave as you are stupid. At least the worst of Roman insults does not apply to them.
“Woe to him who can neither read nor swim.”