Surf culture?

I’ve been thinking up this last and final Hawaiian blog for a couple of days now, since just after I posted the last one… but now that we’re back home and I haven’t slept since yesterday morning when we woke up, I hope it’s not noticeable in my writing. I know I won’t be able to sleep until I write about it.

I thought that now would be a good time to review my thoughts on surf culture since we’ve done a few trips over the last year while immersing ourselves in and around it. I know I have so much more to learn about it, but at this point I have made a few generalizations, whether or not they are correct or not from other peoples point of view; its mostly based on my observations and opinions formed by them around the subject. You can feel free to disagree.

Let’s start with simplistic explanation of the act of “going surfing”.  You head over to the surf break of choice, board in hand, eyeing up the wave as you approach, hmm and haw over the nature of the break, direction, wave size, wind, and of course, size of the crowd. You fasten your leash, drop your board in, take a deep breath and drop on, starting the long (or short) paddle out to your desired area of the break. You relax for a couple minutes, catch your breath, feel the burn in your shoulders and start to eye up the crowd. Who’s out there? How good are they? Are they local or visiting? Will you have to compete and stand up for your wave, or will you be the confident one, not worried about anyone else, just there to catch some waves? I have learned this can make or break your experience on this particular day, so don’t rush and take the first wave you see as potential.   you head out it’s a whole new game, you need to assess the situation, eye up the crowd, the wave, etc.

Looking a bit deeper, imagine a visual where the strong, confident surfers float around in a hypothetical inner circle. They don’t move much, they’ve earned their spot at the center. Others are watching them, respecting them,  maybe, depending on how they carry themselves with others, and on the wave. They don’t seem to wear rashies, they are very tanned, toned and relaxed. They know what to do, and nothing phases them, just waves. That’s what they’re their for. I like this. I respect their calmness and knowledge and skill. This must have taken years to achieve. You can learn a lot from these people.

Outer hypothetical circle is a little looser, more crowded, people “fighting” for space and status on the wave. They may have experience, and may have confidence, but they still are outside the local core group. They may have gained respect, if they follow the rules and the etiquette. If they mess up and look like a rookie they move out, lose respect and lose waves. These people move in and out of the circle, each time they come out to the break, they work hard to maintain their status in line. They enjoy their time on the waves, but I think might be often frustrated by localism because they just can’t quite get in to the middle circle, and I don’t think they will.

Then there’s the floaters on the outside. This doesn’t include beginners that are out there for a 2 hour lesson and may never do it again, but people like us, who try to max out surf time with each vacation to try to improve and gain stamina, control and skill. Each time you head out on a surf trip, you have to struggle to even get close to the outer circle.  We surf so rarely, its hard to keep up. I might move well in and out of the waves and the people, may paddle like a strong surfer, and try to portray confidence, but I’m not there yet. I’m always on the watch for both waves, and people, and if I have to do too much of both I get nervous and a bit anxious and then my rookie-ness shows.

Each time we go out I feel a bit better, although some days shake me up and others give me a high. It’s fun and hard work at the same time. A strange combination. After just 3 weeks, and nearly a dozen surf days I’ve noticed changes in my muscles, stamina, and confidence. I like it and I wish it could continue. Josh and I are both feeling like its time to get back on the waves, after two days of no surfing, but to no avail. It’s winter. It’s land locked Calgary, and now we have to wait before we can struggle back into the line up of floating around the surf circle once again. I look forward to it because this time I feel like we progressed closer to calling ourselves “surfers” instead of people who have tried surfing.

Well, with that said we head from board meetings on surf boards, to board meetings at the office. A sad day.

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