Postcards from the Bleeding Edge
Tuesday, June 03, 2003

 

Real surf



I decided, if I'm going to be awake and semi-alert, every day, at 4:30 AM, I might as well drive to the beach, catch dawn, and catch some waves. Screw knocking myself out in a futile attempt to get 8 hrs of Zs in a row - maybe I'm just wired for 4 1/2 and a 2-3 hour doze. I'm definately wired to need exercise, solitude and a brand-free environment...

Hit of monday - Ana Nuevo - a beach break, just like the one I grew up on, only colder. Only 5 other surfers, all day. Surfing monday was like lining up pinballs in a machine. A set came in, everybody politely took the inside position on their wave, and rocketed down the beach. I

remembered being afraid to come there because of the sharks and then I thought: I'd rather face sharks than face route 17..

I spent a lot of time driving monday, in something of a fugue state.

Today, for the first time in two decades I managed to get up, get out of the house, and get to the beach before dawn. And catch some waves. I wiped out a lot... maybe broke a footbone near my middle toe, but I had a blast. I was done before 9, and, having purged my limbic system of a lot of stress. I took care of some pressing problems - by 1PM, I'd done everything I set out to do on monday.

I loved surfing back when I was 14, and I hated swim team.

Swimming is competition - there's a pecking order - a coach yelling at you to perform better when it's impossible - as you compete with people that had years of growth on you. You get harrassed in the dressing room, you puke before the meets from the stress, your mind can't stop thinking about doing anything, anything else besides one more lap. Your libido lives on overdrive. You're blind without glasses and everyone tells you there's a hole in the girl's bathing suit ahead of you. Your eyes hurt from the chlorine. You see the same, blurred, 25 meters of scenery over and over and over and over again for 3-4 hours at a stretch, day in, day out. For what? So you can cover 8 or 12 laps a few fractions of second faster than someone else? What's the point?

After a year and half on swim team, I lost it. I hated swimming laps. I hated meets. About the only positive thing I can say about swimming laps is that it's good anerobic exercise, and perhaps... the screaming coach, the senority hiearchy, the stress, and the harrassment were all intended as a not so gentle introduction to the dog-eat-dog corporate world.

I hated every minute of swim team.

Surfing, in contrast, is just you. And the wave. If a wave beats you, it doesn't care. You don't care. You just... try to learn from that wave... and catch the next one. You don't go for the biggest waves - just the best shaped ones. All waves are unique. You catch one, you slide down it, you manuever, you live in brief symbiosis with it, and after sharing that brief moment of life within the tube if you're lucky, you kick out. The wave roars up to the beach to expire and flow back into the sea and you say "thanks for the ride".

Sometimes you get caught inside when a set rolls through. You dive through the icy froth clutching your board, upside down. You get beat around and down, you spin, and... the impact of the cold water flushes your limbic system and attitude through your suit. You claw to surface - glad to be alive - and paddle like hell to get outside the point.

And then, you sit. And wait. And clear your mind. For the next wave.

Now, that's a few beautiful things about surfing. Too bad only in these past few days I remembered it. Because when I quit swimming, I also quit surfing - the emotional crap, the guilt - my parents, and coach, and teacher, and teamates had laid down on me about it confused me, made me quit both sources of stress. It took me a while longer to quit surfing entirely - it took being busted for cutting gym class (to spend 4-6 hours surfing) before I quit...

I then spent my exercise time not getting picked for basketball, or baseball, or football, idly kicking a medicine ball around when they cut the school budget one more time, instead of doing something I loved, and hating everything, and not understanding why.

If my foot ain't broke, I'm going surfing again in 7 hours. I have some catching up to do.
 
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David Täht writes about politics, space, copyright, the internet, audio software, operating systems and surfing.


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