"Avoiding eye contact is a very important rule to follow when encountering weird men in the wild."
Ever so often, Derek will email and ask if I’ve seen any weird men lately. The answer is pretty much always yes. Simply by leaving the house, a girl inevitably encounters weird men. It’s wild out there. Men find so many ways to be weird.
The other day, I went to the gym, where I do dumb jock things. There I saw a guy on the stairstepper on his way to nowhere. His shorts were cut so very short. They just barely skimmed over his butt, leaving not much at all to the imagination. I’m not sure how everything stayed in there. I think you’ll understand when I say that I did not stick around to find out.
You would have thought that would be enough for one day. But no! Over at the free weights, there was another weird man! He was doing a set of curls or some other important weightlifting thing. Suddenly, seemingly at random, he took off his shirt and flexed in front of the mirror. Who even does that? I avoided eye contact, which is a very important rule to follow when encountering weird men in the wild.
I would love to imagine that our favorite pastime was safe from weird men. Sadly it is not. After so much flatness, some meager surf appeared in my neighborhood last weekend. It was nothing special, but enough to float a surfboard, which is enough for me. California, it’s been slow around here lately.
As usual, the forecasts proved far more exuberant than the reality. Only a fool trusts the forecasts at this point, so my expectations were low. I stared at the horizon and watched the ocean’s colors shift. I felt the breeze of pelicans skimming over my head. These are essential parts of surfing, as essential as the wave-riding itself.
Then I saw him. Dims Guy. You’ve probably seen him, too. He’s the inquisitive shark circling the lineup. You can try, but once he has you in his sights, there’s no escaping him. He doesn’t want your skull. He wants your dims.
What are you riding? He’ll ask the question like it’s the most original thing in the world. It is not, but if I’m feeling nice, I like to uphold the pretense. A little gift.
Are you the kind of person who knows your boards in all their beautiful fractions? Do you have all these numbers tucked away in your tidy brain? I am not this kind of person. My brain is a dumb mix of bad jokes, discarded sentences, surfboard fractions, and the millimeter increments that divide the right saddle height on a road bike from one that is completely wrong. And yes, if you were wondering, road bikes are stupid.
Whenever I encounter Dims Guy, I wish I could rattle off all those fractions without even pausing. I imagine his expression if I succeeded in this feat. The surprise! The joy! I feel like surely he must live for those moments when we can tell him exactly how big and how wide and how thick our boards are, down to that last, perfect sixteenth of an inch.
I do not live for this kind of thing. Like a normal person, I have surfboard measurements stuffed in my phone. They’re right there next to an archeology of grocery lists, that important thing I forgot to do, and what I needed at the hardware store last week.
And you know what? It’s fine. This is a fine way to go through life in my opinion. But I do feel like I am disappointing Dims Guy every time.
So there I am, sitting in the bad surf, waiting for the waves to come. Surfing is so much waiting and so much optimism. Of course, another set will come. It might not come today, but it will come. There will always be good times if we wait long enough for them.
In the meantime, bad waves and long lulls are Dims Guy’s time to shine. Without all that surfing to get in the way, he can cruise the lineup with impunity. Eventually he’ll get us all, one by one.
I see him coming from a long way off. I hope for the escape a set might offer. But the ocean is not feeling generous. The ocean wants me to talk to Dims Guy. The ocean doesn’t care that I can’t remember any of the fractions. The ocean is an asshole.
I’m riding my weird, little twinfin that’s pure joy even when the waves are total despair. We should all have a board that makes us laugh in shit waves. Depending on where you live, you may need more than one, in fact. Lately, I have been thinking that I might need one for every day of the week.
As Dims Guy approaches, my mind flashes back to Surf Ranch. Not now, brain! Like the ocean, my brain is also an asshole. Reluctantly, I recall a spirited discussion with Sam George at Surf Ranch.
Is my 4’10” twin a surfboard? Emphatically, Sam said no. It is entirely too short to be a surfboard! I did not know until right then that there were rules about such things. A shaper (hi Christine Caro) designed it to be a surfboard! With the right rocker and everything! I ride waves on it. Also, I have short legs. Surely this is enough to win the argument.
It was not, but I remain convinced that if you can stand on it, and ride a wave on it, it is a surfboard. If Ryan Burch rides an unglassed blank, that chunk of foam magically, in that moment, becomes a surfboard. Italo Ferreira famously learned to surf on his father’s cooler lid. That improbable floating object, too, became a surfboard once he put it under his feet and rode a wave.
While my brain replays this whole Surf Ranch ordeal, Dims Guy approaches. Suddenly he’s right there next to me. Here comes the inevitable question: What are you riding?
I flip over the board and gesture vaguely. He likes the moontail, and tries to guess the dims. What is that, 22 or 23 wide? My brain, still stuck at Surf Ranch, freezes. Come on brain, we got this one. Just say a number. Any number will do. My brain refuses to generate a number. Yes, I say.
Oddly, Dims Guy looks satisfied by my answer which wasn’t an answer at all. Nice board, he says. I tell him it’s my anti-asshole shield. It keeps me from being an asshole. Being the earnest sort, he doesn’t quite get it. He’s here for the numbers, not the jokes. I do not know how to go through life without the jokes.
As Dims Guy drifts off, a set comes. I scrap into a corner and stand up on my surfboard that isn’t really a surfboard. We glide along for a time, just vibing. Then I do a little turn and throw baby spray. It’s cute.
As I’m paddling back out, I remember that Sam gave me a coin from Indo. I don’t know why he had an Indonesian coin in his pocket at Surf Ranch, but at the time, it made as much sense as anything else I’d encountered out there. I remember looking at it, and sliding it in my pocket. Like sure, why the hell not. The coin says 500 on it, which sounds like a princely sum.
Maybe someday, it’ll buy me a wave somewhere. A girl needs her dreams. But I’m sure wherever I go, a weird man will be right there waiting for me. Even with a magic coin in my pocket, there’s no escape.