No one would see me crossing the street and think, “Woah, that dude definitely shreds.” Regardless, I still think surfing is for me.
I’m moving to California and I’m gonna surf.
Never done it before. Haven’t even taken a lesson. There’s no part of me that thinks I’ll be particularly good at it either.
Looking at me, you’d probably assume I’d be rather bad at the beach. Bald, pasty white, and sporting a ginger-tinged beard. I’m latino by blood, but for some odd reason, my appearance screams Celtic. Definitely not Coastal.
And after two years of beating my body to shit with bar food and budget beer while grieving a death, my abdomen looks like a half-roasted marshmallow that’s been dropped and kicked around on the floor– shapeless, white, and lumpy, with odd hairs sprouting from strange places.
There are abs under there. I’m working on it.
No one would see me crossing the street and think, “Woah, that dude definitely shreds.”
Regardless, I still think surfing is for me.
Ballsy logic from a guy who’s never achieved a true suntan and hasn’t even made an attempt at standing up on a board before. But I’d never skied or guided whitewater rafting trips before I moved West either. Flying blind into an unfamiliar sport is kinda my thing.
Water, whether frozen or fluid, has been the one consistent throughline of my life since I ditched New York City. In brief bursts while paddling or skiing, my brain goes silent.
But, I have to admit that, in the beginning, I got into mountain sports partly because I wanted to be seen. Get good fast, get cool pics, get acknowledged and announce my arrival on the scene. Maybe one day become the whitewater Jimmy Chin. Young, insecure and desperate to prove something after walking away from life as an office grundle, I wanted it known that I was really doing it.
That faded with time on river and snow. Eventually, it was mostly the action itself that provided satisfaction. I still posted outrageous shit about how incredible I was with paddle or pole in hand, but the intention was just to entertain or aggravate my friends. Attempts at accelerating my improvement eventually became about making myself happy.
But I don’t want any of that with surfing. No goals, no competitive urges, no hard-ons for recognition– externally or internally.
The way I envision it, I’d like to get in the water before the sun’s finished putting on her makeup and stepped out the door. The time of day when (I assume) the only other people out there will be surfers so seasoned, they’ll take one look at me bumbling my way through the waves, and not risk conversing with a kook.
That’s what I enjoy most about my imagined intro to surfing, and why I want it– the removal of room for ego, the doing it alone and the quiet.
A lot of shit annoys me. Restaurants that serve ranch instead of bleu cheese with buffalo wings. Vineyard Vines shirts. Sanctimonious Instagram posts. The tone that gossipy booster club moms talk in. Clammy hands. Italian subs with no prosciutto or roasted peps. Groups that walk shoulder-to-shoulder at a snail’s pace down the sidewalk on Saturday afternoon.
That last one chaps my ass way more than all the others. Nothing makes me boil more than when others affect the pace at which I can move or engage with the world as I desire. Somewhat irrational, I know. Like my abs, I’m working on it.
But that’s another reason why I want to surf. I’m ignorant to the sport, but not ignorant enough to think that every day the beach will be empty for my pleasure. That’s not what I’m getting at.
What makes my peaches swell, is the idea of an activity that’s powered by the individual from start to finish. I’ll have to step around umbrellas and kids digging holes if I’m not up early enough, but there won’t be any serpentine gondola lines to wait on, or forced, close-quarters conversation on a chair lift. No dependence on paddle partners or agonizing waits as my half-brained friends orchestrate a shuttle drop at the take out.
Drive to the beach, put the board under my arm, walk and commune with the water on my time.
I’m under no delusion that I’ll one day be a great surfer. Nor do I want to be. I just want to do it, be pleasant to others as I learn, lug the board back to my truck, then fuck off with the rest of my day still intact, no thought of status or progress on the mind.
I don’t look like a surfer nor do I know dick about how things in that world really work. But, from my limited research, I’ve surmised that I should avoid being seen with a Wavestorm in my possession, and that it’s a subculture that runs on respect. I like that.
Understanding how to operate in that sort of space is how I made it in the whitewater world. I never became a master, all-star river guide. But I did turn myself into a solid Class IV boater, because in the early stages, the silverbacks saw someone who was willing to listen and always defer to them. I’ll try to do the same thing surfing, though again, without any goals in mind.
I just wanna learn to stand up and stay there for a couple seconds, man.
It won’t be a perfect process. I’ll get mollywhopped on a reef, lose my board or, knowing my luck, see my prick turn all red and pink after a jellyfish sting. I’m sure I’ll unintentionally fuck up decorum and etiquette at some point too.
Local’s will get pissed at me in the lineup some day (that’s what they call it, right?). But, I’m ok with that.
I’m a dirtbag river guide, a ski town bartender and a Cuban refugee’s kid. I’ve always been good at getting punched in the face.