It's always worth it, right?
The opening lines of 'The Average Surfer's Guide' lament that, as a young lad of 15, my friends and I would venture out into any surf conditions. Ice, wind, rain or snow, it didn't matter back then. The enthusiasm of youth and growing up in a region of fickle surf conditions probably had a part to play. South West England suffers excruciating flat spells in the summer months. Barron weeks of boring, calm waters is enough to make any surfer go mad.
I remember a scene from the cult British surf movie Blue Juice where the lead character JC and his friend Shape are sat on an rugged cliff top chanting an ancient Hawaiian prayer to end the flat spell. For my friends and I, it was very relatable and much the same for us. When a swell did finally arrive, we were out there. No matter how bad it was.
These days living in Orange County, California, I am a spoiled for waves. The wind is light and offshore almost every morning and there are surfable waves for 300 or more days of the year. I have become very picky when it comes to surfing. Over recent years I've often made excuses to not surf if the waves were not quite good enough. I feel kind of ashamed of that. My younger self would be disappointed.
Lately though, I've been venturing out in more dynamic conditions. I've made a promise to myself to improve my surfing and enjoy the ocean more this year.
A few months back, I checked the Huntington Beach Pier surf cam and saw some very inviting, clean, waist high waves breaking. I grabbed my board and suit and walked the ten minutes to the Northside. Either the camera had lied or the conditions had changed. Because, when i got there, it was 2ft and choppy, really choppy. The onshore wind was getting stronger by the minute, there were only 3 guys out and it looked less than inviting. I figured i'd walked this far, so I paddled out anyways.
Since I can remember, I've never surfed well in onshore conditions, I always find the takeoffs harder for some strange reason. After I'd fumbled around on a couple of unsatisfactory waves I noticed a couple more surfers had joined me in the line up. I recognized them both as high level professionals. It's not uncommon to share the lineup with pros in Southern California. Especially if you surf in Huntington Beach or San Clemente. I often think that strange. Imagine if you were playing soccer with friends in the park on a Sunday morning and Ronaldo, Messi and Harry Kane showed up to share the pitch with you. Surfing is very unique in that way.
I watched the two pros trade waves for a while and couldn't work out how they were doing it. How were they making these crappy waves look like good waves? I caught a couple more but struggled with my line and turns in the bumpy, rugged conditions.
That's when I made the decision to surf more this year. To not make excuses and to get out there. It's always worth it, right? There's always something to learn? Even in crappy surf? There's an old saying that goes something like "There are no bad waves, only poor equipment choice and a bad attitude"
Since that North side session with the pros, I've been going out on random days and in random conditions. I may not always get waves that satisfy me. Sometimes I may even get frustrated while I'm out there. But, I always feel better when I'm walking back up the beach after the session. Surfing beats almost anything else I could've been doing.
There is always something to learn. Even on bad days, I'm subconsciously learning and progressing while I'm out there. Learning from mistakes, learning to move quicker and react faster to ever changing waves. I'll often take my GoPro out with me and stash it in my chest zip. It gives me another fulfilling activity to pursue while I'm in the water. Aside from surfing and the therapeutic effects of being in the ocean I have the challenge of capturing some beauty in a moment. Even if it is onshore.
So, for me, this is the year of saying yes to surfing. I'll let you know how it goes.