05 February 2005

When Did I Lose My Fear . . .

of the whitewater and crowds? This question leads me to yet another question: When does one cease to be a kook?

See, here's the thing. Unlike many beginning surfers, I was quite aware of the fact that there were always other (i.e., better) surfers in the water. I always assumed I was in someone's way, so I tended to either stay away from other surfers or, when it was crowded, stay out of the water altogether. Since I had very little control of the board, I worried about hurting someone. So, a crowded lineup unnerved me. I couldn't handle it. If the break got crowded after I got in the water, I'd get out. I was just plain scared . . . and rightly so. Fast foward one or two years to the present. I went out today at 26th Street in Manhattan Beach. The funny thing is that I didn't really notice that it was crowded out there. Now that I can angle into waves, turn, and almost kick out, I hardly notice the people around me unless I'm talking to them. I'm not going to say I'm not a kook, but something has changed. This session was probably the first time that I realized that the crowds no longer scare me. I'm still somewhat nervous when I paddle into a crowd. I think, though, it's a fear of someone having a shitty attitude. It's not a fear of my own abilities. I'm no pro. I don't even know if I'm an intermediate surfer. Still, I can easily avoid people who know to simply stand still if I'm surfing by or at them. Beginning surfers take note: when in doubt, simply stay put until the other surfer surfs by you. If you have the ability or knowledge to paddle quickly into the wave and get over it before it breaks, do so. If not, then just stay where you are and trust that the person up and riding will simply go around you. (Of course, if the person up and riding is a beginner, you're probably doomed!)

I used to believe that longboards and whitewater don't mix. You can't duck-dive the things. And whoever said turtling was a good was to keep from being worked is and was a fucking idiot. That turtling shit is useless. I got to a point where I was terrified to paddle out. I didn't mind being out with the big waves on the outside (even if I was too afraid to ride one). It was the impact zone that I couldn't handle. I'd see the whitewater coming at me and I'd panic! The funny thing is that during those years, I've steadily moved onto bigger boards. You'd think my fears would have multiplied, right? Well, I guess moving up to a 9'6" log forced me to face and conquer the fear. If a big wave comes roaring at me before I can paddle over it, I simply look back to see if anyone is behind me and then ditch the board. There's no way I want to be tangled up with that log while I'm getting worked. I've even gotten up the courage to punch through waves if I can catch the tops of them just as they're breaking. And I've finally figured out how to properly do that push-up thing when the whitewater comes roaring at me from a wave that's broken ahead of me long before I could reach it. Today's waves sometimes seemed to be non-stop. They didn't have much juice, but getting past them was still work. If this had been even a year ago, I probably would have psyched myself out while trying to paddle out after catching waves in. You do get better with time. I'm glad I've surfed enough to remember my earliest days as a surfer.


At 2/12/05, 5:30 PM, Blogger CherrySurfer said...

Surfsister - Alot of what you are writing about helps give me perspective as I try to advance to even the kook state! I'm a 50 year male living in the desert who is slowly working through the process of learning how to surf. I try to come to the coast every month or two but even that can be difficult with work obligations.

I too tend to stay from real crowded breaks, particulaly where there is not a clear spot to paddle out which is not right in front of the lineup. So far, in about 2 years of working it, I have gotten to the point where I can paddle out (usually, sometimes catch waves and sometimes stand but, unfortunately, not until after I make the drop. This summer's project will be to get that pop up happening quicker so I can turn rather than riding straight in.

Next trip to the coast will be the first weekend in March unless the weather really stinks. I pretty much have to put up with what I get since I have to plan surf trips around work.

I'm not sure where you ride but San O is about as far north as I get; I usually stay in O'side and try to find something between Cardiff and O'side with occaisional trips to San O. I hear what you say about the rocks - they sure make for a long paddle since they are difficult to walk on.

Anyways, I hope you keep the blog going - your experiences are helpful for others

At 2/17/05, 6:23 PM, Blogger srfdad said...

Surfsister, Never, ever, ever, ditch your board under any circumstances, especially when there are any other surfers in the water. I am an surfer, in my late forties, average talent and even I can manage to hang on to my board in most situations. And I surf without a leash. A good trick in large surf is to fall to the side of your board, and pull the side of its' nose into your gut. At this point pull the nose under and through the wave/whitewater. I have used this technique in very large surf and found it to work very well. Also, all beginners should learn that it's their duty not to stay put, but instead, paddle behind the surfer riding the wave under all circumstances. Maybe that means eating some whitwater, but so what? Too many beginners have not learned that it's the surfer who is paddleing out who has the duty of staying out of the way of any surfer who is riding a wave.


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