There are very many reasons for jumping in the primeval soup on a surfboard crouton.
Convention tells us that we don’t even need a reason, it’s just what we do. Given the choice between surf and not surf, well there is no choice. Being utterly predictable is what in part helps makes us such perfect walking clichés.
But have you ever considered the liberating, taboo-crushing defiance of the herd’s collective conscience, by not going surfing?
I’m not talking about kooking it by sleeping through the dawnie alarm, being hung over, or by missing out due to work timetabling. I’m not talking about being landlocked, on lock down, etc.
I’m not talking about just generally losing interest, having the stoke flame extinguish. Getting fat, old, jaded, bitter, lazy, or to put it another way, into motorcycles.
I’m talking about actually deciding not to surf, and that being a positive, informed choice, a force for good.
Some like to cite tired, baseless surf maxims like, ‘When I paddle out, I leave my troubles back on land’.
Do you though? I’ve always considered that one of surfing’s biggest lies. I never found an iota of truth in that. If I do have troubles, they’re more likely to race around in my head in the surf non stop, and amplify, than be subject to a temporary amnesia, courtesy of Creatures of Leisure velcro doing the Men in Black neuralyzer trick.
I’ve always preferred the humble frankness of ‘Just gonna jump in for a quick piss’. But that’s by the by.
They also say you ‘Always feel better after a surf.’ Sorry, fake news. The opposite of truth.
You always feels better after a dip in the sea, certs. Nude, clothed, hot, cold, drunk, sober, high, low, alone or in a squad, a dunk in the brine is a 100% feel better after experience.
But paddling out on a board and trying to have a session can be a great way to ruin that dip, with expectations, with entitlement, with… hope.
Rather than leaving terrestrial stresses on land, and all that nonsense, it sometimes works the other way. You start out fine, or at least neutral on the joy / anguish spectrum. You try to surf, get pissed off for all sorts of reasons, and actually feel a mix of relief and regret once back on terra firma.
Just me? Didn’t think so.
Surfing, I love you, but sometimes you let me down. And because I love you, because real friends can be honest, I’m going to be. Hope that’s ok.
The Bullet Dodge
There are a certain number of hours in a life, and a certain amount of other stuff that needs doing, other than surfing.
Scoring epic waves is still as awesome as it always was, but recently I’ve been exploring this new kick, where at 9am I’m agonising whether to go look up the coast, thinking the wind might come/tide will kill it, end up not going, and then, around lunch receive anecdotal evidence that it was in fact, shite. And the joy, the pure stoke I get from realising that I, through my own sageness of forecast/ocean reading, through great choices, through prudence, have won myself three hours of potential epic in the near future. And they add up.
The You Go on Without Me – I’ll only Slow Us Down
Sacrifice has gone out of fashion a bit. Lambs, human infants and the elderly, the end crusts of pasty – all used to get sacrificed for what was perceived to be the common good. In the Great War, men threw themselves atop the brutal barbed wire skeins of no man’s land so that their comrades could rush on over them. But you can actually apply that noble act to shred. Is it good? Classic? All time? Well it’s almost certainly gonna be ram up, heaving, people soup. By deciding not to go, what you’re saying to your friends – and (this is the best part) enemies – is, here you are brother, sister, have my great waves on this epic day of days. And remember, the best thing about act of selflessness in 2019 is the chance to Instagram a meme of it later.
The Dinner Paradox
Every year around late May/June I find myself faced with the same quandary. Tide, wind, swell are aligning perfectly from 7pm until dusk, around 10pm. That left, the left of lefts is set to get mind-alteringly fucking good. But: Dins dins.
Only a madman would attempt to surf their best shred with a belly full of delicious whole food plant based cuisine, groaning in discomfort and regret at going for that 7th taameya (Egyptian broad bean falafel, obvs). So what, eat after then? What, like come home, knackered, and start cooking? A 22h30 garlic and onion chop for a 23h00 start? Utter madness.
Then there’s the just had lunch food coma, the 8 month preggers carb belly. There’s the low blood sugar hole. Sure, go ahead, laugh. Be the ageist bully…. but when you get a bit older kids, you’ll have to face facts, too. Meal times matter.
The Timetable Clash
Believe it or not, even content creators, even freelance surf prose maestros sometimes have to dance to the beat of an non-shred sympathetic drum. Doctors appointments, airline flights, child births, these are easy to reconcile, they are immovable, non-negotiable, there is no mental dilemma. You simply timetable your surfs around them. The problems start when surfing, potentially very good surf conditions, clash with events that while not vital, not expensive to miss in a financial sense, could actually be more fun than going surfing, depending on what the waves are like. England’s fortuitous yet mesmerising run in Russia 2018? Easy.
I’ve watched every minute of every England major tournament match since Mexico 86. That’s not about to change. But what about… Springwatch. I cant iPlayer in France, so it’s either live, or a grainy 720pixel youtube, 2 days later. Hmmm. I really like Springwatch. I love surfing, but not when it’s shite. Packham, Strachan, Burke… and the Welsh one vs looked ok when I checked it, but now a bit fat and suddenly crowded evening peaks. Not an easy call to make. Sure, I want to achieve tunnel vision (even if the odds are slender), but I also want to know, did the reed bunting chicks get predated after the forced fledge by the pine marten? Fuck it’s more brutally compelling than GoT, and that I can watch anytime.
I’m gonna give you some cold hard facts of life now, because I think you’re ready. And sure, some of the above, is opinion, conjecture, subjective. This however friends, is facts. It’s science. The wind is going to come up. It’s not bound to, it’s not probably gonna, it is going to come up. It really is. It’ll blow onshore, raging onshore, gale force even, at some point in the future, at every surf spot on the planet.
The question is when.
We need wind of course. Wind makes waves (apart from tsunamis and inland surf lagoons). Wind is the result of the energy imbalance between equator and pole. More solar radiation is received at low latitudes than high, and wind is how that energy imbalance gets reconciled.
But is it going to come between the surf decision making stage, and the paddle out stage stage, because that is the worst of the worst.
The hierarchy of wind come up goes this: Best case scenario, it doesn’t. Not for a few days. Second best: just after you’ve taken your leash off, reaffirming just how very good your timing is, how in tune you are with the rhythms of Momma Earth. Next worst, during your session, spoiling things, but hey, you had a few before it did. Next: Before you got to the beach. Worst of the worst: As you’re paddling out. Because that way, Jah or Huey, or whoever, had the cuntishness to let you see it glassy, to let you touch it before He took it all away.