Some of you who read this may be laboring under the impression that I'm a good surfer. Rest assured that's not the case; more accurately, it's no longer the case.
Back when I first started, I was an obsessive machine. I'd go out every day, regardless of the conditions, for hours at a stretch. It was easy - I was younger, in great shape, with a job that allowed for dawn patrols every day. And I had an extremely forgiving board, my first, a 9'2" Brewer performance longboard. It was maybe too easy - the time to challenge myself on new equipment and in bigger surf was squandered; I got comfortable, and had that board not been snapped in two on a particularly big day I probably would've ridden that board, or copies of it, right up to the present. I used to think it was two things - my choice of equipment and the fact that I'm no longer in the water 2 to 3 hours a day, five to seven days a week - that led to my decline. Not the case, as I realized yesterday.
Whiff and family came down to Casa Avant for the big Halloween weekend festivities, thus I got the chance to paddle out with the man himself on Sunday morning. We did the north coastal sweep, checking out spots that will remain unnamed, finally settling on one of my new favorite locations, Semi-Secret Beach Break (henceforth known as SSBB). Sometimes the mornings here even impress me, and here we had the makings of a Perfect Day - offshore breeze, brilliantly clear water, a handful of guys in the lineup, and ridable stuff.
Ridable, that is, unless you're me.
The session was a struggle. Out of position (too far outside), weak-ass paddling (to be sure, I was hungover, and I strongly suspect that I've got some sort of rotator cuff issue, but that's no excuse - hell, there was an Old Guy on a log paddling with one arm behind his back - literally! Whiff will back me on this! - and catching waves), too far back on the board, leisurely pop-ups...all of which I could have gotten away with on the longboard, but the weapon of choice was the Hogfish, and you don't fuck around with the Hog. I got my shit together on one wave, enough to actually get up and make the drop. I've had a couple of decent sessions on the thing, but yesterday was not one of them. (And by "not one of them", I mean "absogoddamlutely mortifying".) At least Whiff caught a few, and got to experience north coastal San Diego surfing.
But every surf session affords one the opportunity to learn something. The lesson: the good ride is earned, not given. At one point, I made an offhand comment to Whiff about my poor wave selection; his response was along the lines of "I just go for everything." (And catches it, too. "Novice Surfer" my ass.) The truth was found on that one wave that I caught - it wasn't so much technique, or timing, or the wave itself. It was a brief flash of razor-sharp focus and intensity - when people talk of "hard-charging" surfers, that's the ineffable quality of which they speak - and that's something that I seem to have forgotten. Too busy trying to compare dawn patrols with walks along Walden Pond, I guess...