Ah, the hazards of scoring a decent L.A. break all to oneself. One minute I was standing on two feet in the shorebreak. The next minute I was . . . not.
When I paddled out, I was thinking that getting back in would be a dangerous task, one fraught with much trepidation about injury to either my person, my board or both. The high tide, which was getting higher as I basked in the glory of scoring TPWSRN to myself for an hour, had forced me to spend a good five minutes trying to time my entry into the water. Just when you'd think it was safe to make a run for the ocean, the water would quickly suck back out. As another wave approached, you'd have to decide whether it was prudent to stand your ground, while the rocks around you tumbled over your feet and themselves, or retreat a few feet, again waiting for the proper moment to try and jump in. It took me at least five minutes. Actually, it was probably closer to 10 (as I am a patient surfer, one who already has a board at the ding repair and really doesn't want to have two of them there at the same time).
Once out in the water, I made a run for it.
Windswell. Yea or nay?
For me, it depends. If I see that the waves are breaking with some power, rather than just popping up and disappearing, I'll take on the windswell. And that's what I did. I guess others didn't see what I saw, so they passed. Mind you, windswell waves can frustrate you to no end. It's a matter of being patient. Waves will pop up out of nowhere. They will also roll right under you.
Eventually, peaks will come your way. They certainly came my way. Over and over and over again. I didn't have to worry about anyone dropping in on me or me accidentally returning the favor. I wasn't forced to pull out of waves for fear of running over people on the inside. I could simply surf to my heart's content.
There was nobody there!
After about an hour, I could see the writing on the wall. Fatigue was setting in. Paddling for waves, especially given the rising tide, was proving fruitless. The final straw was when I lost the board and had to swim in. That was my cue that the tank was about to hit "E". I no longer possessed the reflexes to keep it from scooting away. That meant it was time to go.
As I'd anticipated, there was even less beach than before, yet there seemed to be even more rocks. Getting back to shore unscathed was going to take some doing. Still, I was certain I could somehow find a way to get in without any excitement.
Color me incorrect.
I really thought I was clear . . . until I was on the ground. Actually, I was on the rocks before I knew what hit me. One second I was up. The next second I was lying on my back, hanging onto my board for dear life, hoping against hope that neither one of us would get dinged.
As luck would have it, the board and I emerged from that battle without a scratch.
This is one of my mantras for 2013. I didn't get a chance to ride my surf mats much last year. The broken ankle gets all of the credit for that. Even after I was allowed back in the ocean, my ankle and foot were still too swollen for a swim fin. The mat riding highlight of the year, for me, was the Paipo Stokefest down in San Diego.
The ocean, that day, was quite generous to the prone-riding tribe. That's why I came dragging out of the water the way I did. I literally had nothing left.
What did I get the rest of the year in terms of riding my mat? A rock.
I've vowed to put the mat on equal footing with my boards in 2013. Thus far, I've taken my mat out twice. The first time was at the home break. I rode a board, got disgusted with the conditions rather quickly and then switched to the mat. The mat really does save a session. The mat will provide when a board just won't work.
During this session, the tide started sucking out quickly. I had fun on my board for about half an hour. Then, the tide ruined everything. I still wanted to be in the water. I switched over to the mat. Session saved!
A couple of days ago, Glenn and I took mats to a spot that was welcoming the arrival of the recent swell. The waves weren't as cooperative as we would have liked. This spot, which normally delivers a nice shoulder, wasn't feeling very well. The waves weren't as tame as we know them to be. Glenn would later say "I got my mat handed to me!" Yeah, it was a bit of a tough session. We both got rides, but we had to work for them. Getting caught on the inside with a mat is almost an exercise in futility.
I actually don't mind mat sessions like this. I'm a big believer in paying one's dues. I think I've said that many times on this blog. If everything is handed to you on a silver platter, you lose the ability to appreciate the value of hard work and experience. A session like that one allows you to make some deposits in your fitness bank. If nothing else, I got a good workout, one that will payoff when I get the mat on some decent waves.
Surfing used to be a counterculture activity. Now? Surfing is about as mainstream as a thing can be. Everyone wants to be associated with surfing . . . except for black folks. If you're black and you say you surf, people say, "Oh really?". Of course, that means, "I know you fell down and hit your head, thus giving you delusions of some kind since everybody knows that black people don't surf!"
Anyway, surfing is, in my mind, what everybody does. It's what everybody aspires to do. People in other parts of the country want to come to California, learn to surf, get famous, be cool, get rich and stay here. (By the way, it's terribly crowded here. There are deadly sharks in the water. Everyone you meet is mean. Your new car will certainly be stolen the day after you bring it home, if you even get it that far. I don't think moving to California is the best idea. In other words, as the bumper sticker says, "Welcome to California. Now go home!")
Anyway, one of the things that draws me to the mat is that it's different. It's the same thing that draws others to paipos and handplanes. You want counterculture? Try riding a wave from a position of equality. By that I mean, get yourself down to the wave's level; stop thinking the best and only place to experience a wave is from above it. You haven't seen a wave until you've seen it from its base, slowly forming into a literal wall of water. You haven't ridden a wave until you've felt its energy—in your core, in your shoulders, in your legs. Surfing a board separates you from the ocean in some ways. Riding a mat allows you to feel that energy. The mat is molding itself to the wave beneath it and the person on top of it. Your fins and legs are in the water doing their best to help you steer.
I just can't articulate how different the mat experience is from surfing. Granted, I surf more than I ride a mat. I love my surfboards. I actually find it fascinating that my best surfboards were designed by the man who makes my mats. There's something to that, I think.
I say all of this to say that I will be on my mat more this year. No more broken bones. No more catastrophes. I'll get another set of fins. I'll spend more time with my mat tribe.
I've gotten a few inquiries of late regarding my blog's lack of updates. Do you know the saying "You can't fake the funk"? Well, that sums up how I felt about my blog in 2012. Remember, that was a year which began with me destroying my ankle. Unbelievably, the year went downhill from there. Did you ever? I can blog when I'm drowning in stoke. Yes, it's true that I'm almost always drowning in stoke. However, 2012 was different. It tested my mettle on every level possible. Blogging is a difficult thing when you're not feeling it. Rather than be a downer, I opted to turn away from the blog for most of the year. It was easier to do that than fight the urge to write, "Life sucks, and then you die." Life doesn't suck. We are all going to die eventually.
I learned today that Pabs has died. He'd recently written about a pain he first experienced while surfing: "As I quickly moved to pull off of the wave, I felt something
POP just under my left chest muscle. I was completely surprised and shocked by
the sensation, as I fell off of the board and into the water." This was something that never quite got better. He'd worried, ironically, that this injury would prevent him from surfing again. Ironically, I think that "injury" was, as he wrote, "the beginning of the end". No, I'm not a doctor. I don't even play one on TV. I just have a hunch.
His close friend left this comment on Pabs' final blog post: "Dear Friends of Pablo(Paul Koontz - the author of this blog):
am so sorry to tell you that Pablo died this last Sunday night, January
13, at St. Joseph's Hospital in Eureka, CA from a pulmonary artery
embolism. His obtiuary is posted in the Times Standard online
newspaper(www.Times-Standard.com). Pablo was my best friend and one of
the finest people that I have ever has the honor of knowing. We have
been surfing together for many years, and it is hard to imagine paddling
out without him."
I'm not a big fan of shortboarding. Oh, I don't mind watching it; I have no interest in trying it and failing (flailing??) at it. This video came to my attention about 10 minutes ago. I've been in this kid's company in the water. That was a few years ago. His skill was obvious then.
He's since gotten bigger, stronger and better.
With that said, black folks still don't surf. It's physically impossible. It's culturally unheard of.
If you see someone with dark skin and a bit of kink in the tresses on a surfboard, you need to have your eyes checked.