Category Archives: Surfing

Stupid: +1, Brain: 0

Today’s Music: Snooks Eaglin

Went surfing Sunday.
Probably shouldn’t have.

Forecast was 8 knot wind, blowing from offshore, with 1 to 3 foot waves. Perfect for a beginner.

Actual conditions were:
Wind: Fast and strong. Coming parallel to the beach. Made for a very difficult paddle out past the breakers.
Made it even harder to walk down the beach with the board. I was literally spun around by my board catching the wind. Twice.
Waves: 3 to 6 foot. There was a lull every so often, so unlike the last trip, when the waves were 4 to 8 feet with no letup, it was at least possible to paddle out.

Frank was there when I got out of my car. I heard him before I was him.
“Look at you! You’re an animal!”. And when I turned, there he was , with a big grin on his face.
Frank runs the NY Surf School, the guy who taught me to surf.
Frank and I have the same attitude – any day spent surfing is a good day, any time you get your feet under you, it’s a ride.
So I have an affinity for Frank. He gave me good advice on getting a board, without trying to steer me to a particular store, he gave me good advice on a wetsuit, without trying to stress a particular model or seller.
Frank is good people.
So when I walked over to say hi and asked if I could borrow or rent a rashguard, I was ecstatic when he said “Sure, I have an xl for you. Keep it”.
Frank just wants everyone to have fun on the water.
A little while later when I was on the beach looking for an entry point, he came over and said “You look cold. I have an extra wetsuit you can use, just return it at the end of the day”.

So now I had my board, my rashguard and a wetsuit over it. I also put on my gloves and boots that I had from my scuba days. So I was ready to go in.

NY Surf School class getting ready to charge in.

The wind had other ideas.

Out of habit, I had set up camp near the right side jetty. I needed to enter near the left side jetty.
So I pick up my board (which is just wide enough to make it uncomfortable to carry under one arm) and head diagonally down the beach to the entry point. And get spun left. And right. And pushed back. And pushed sideways.
But I made it. Eventually.

Now I’m all set. I wade in to about thigh high water and watch for a lull, my hand on the nose of the board to keep it from straying.
And I realize – I’m in over my head. I’ve taken a bunch of lessons with Frank and his crew, learned the basics and gotten bunch of rides.
But the amount I know about surfing can be poured into one of my surf boots without dumping out the water first.
And here I am, standing, for the second surf trip in a row, at the edge of something way beyond my abilities, that for me to try would be incredibly stupid.

Those of you who know me know what happens next. Those of you who don’t should be able to guess.

I charged right in, turning off the brain and turning on the stupid.
Waded deeper, catching the waves against my shoulder, and the second I saw a lull, I hopped right up on my board and started paddling for all I was worth. Which sadly wasn’t much.
I was able to stay on my board, which made me happy. Let’s face it, being on a surfboard (unless it’s on your lawn) is pretty cool. And I managed to balance my weight, keep the nose pointed into the waves, and keep paddling.
I kept my head up and my arms working. When a wave came, I braced for impact, kept my weight forward and let it roll over me.
It wasn’t enough. I couldn’t force my way against the wind enough to get past the breaker line.
So I headed back to the beach, sorry I hadn’t made it, glad I had tried, and ecstatic I hadn’t died.

Dragged my board back to my spot and saw the wind had buried my blanket in sand.
Had a message from OtherPaul on my cel. He was stuck in traffic and should be there in about 30 minutes.
Frank (my new hero) came over and gave some useful advice about managing the paddle out.
I flopped in the sand and considered this while waiting for OtherPaul and smoking a cigarette.

Other Paul finally made it and we headed out. I learned two other things yesterday at the beach:
-That’s going to be my last day as a pack-a-day smoker
-There are effing push ups in my future.

Ever been around a pack-a-day smoker who quits? Unpleasant. And I hate exercising. I’d rather do whatever it was I’m exercising for than exercise in preparation.
(another reason there are more points in the Stupid column than the Brains column.)

So let us sum up:
Wind: very difficult to paddle through when it’s strong and at the wrong angle.
Waves: can be disorienting when they toss you about
My Board: Coolest. Board. Ever. At least, it looks very cool.
Smoking: Bad for surfing. And breathing
Upper body strength: non-existent
Sand: In everything I own
Brains: nowhere to be found.

So what am I going to do?
Pushups, exercise, cut down on smoking.

Because I’ll be going back out – Halloween-ish, Thanksgiving-ish and New Years Day.
It’s too much fun to not. Which is pretty damn stupid.

But maybe not…


Today’s Music: Orianthi

Made it to Rockaway beach yesterday. About 10 am, I set up my gear on the beach, waxed up my board, and checked out the waves while I stretched.
They were big. 5 to 7 footers rolling in, a continuous undulating seascape.
There were very few people out on the water, maybe 4 sitting on their boards past the breakline, waiting for their wave.
I finished my cigarette, strapped on my leash, headed to the waterline, and…stopped.
The waves kept coming in. Usually, there will be a set of waves, then a lull, another set, another lull, etc…
There was no lull. No. Lull.
The waves just kept coming, big, hard, relentless.
I stood at the waterline for five minutes trying to find an opening to paddle out through the incoming waves. There was none.

So in the grand tradition of Stupid People everywhere, I charged the breakers, jumped on my board, and paddled like hell. First wave landed directly on my head. I shook it off, flapping my arms as hard as I could, getting the most powerful strokes I could. A quick look over my shoulder showed I was making progress, getting further from the beach.
Next wave started to crest, lifting my nose in the air, then crashed right into me, the froth and whitewater blinding me for a few moments. Managed to hold on to my board and stay prone on it. I got in a few more paddles.
Then came the third wave.
If I had gotten a little further out, I could have paddled right into the crest, up and over the face, and I might have been good. But I couldn‘t get a little further out before it broke.
The face lifted my board almost vertical. I gripped the rails, holding on tight. I could feel myself being pushed back toward the beach. Then the board stopped.
I had been pushed so far back by the incoming waves that the tail of my board buried itself in the sand just offshore and locked itself there.
I slid off the board, unglued it from the sand and waded a bit further out, looking for the elusive opening.
There was none. So back to the towel, and to watch from the shore while I tried to warm up.
There were a few other people trying to paddle up. I watched them, hoping to see a way out.
They couldn’t find one either.
The waves would come. the surfers would get pummeled. the boards would go flying.
I saw one guy make it out about 20 yards. then a wave knocked him off his board, which went flying, then shot back – retracted by his leash. Before he could get back on, another wave caught him. Board went flying. then another. He chased his board all the way back to the beach.
Saw two others go through the exact same dance. Boards everywhere.
A girl came out, panting, carrying her board on her head, panting heavily.
“Bit rough?” I asked.
“Not worth it” she said. “Too much chop, no lulls, and the waves are pounding”. She shook her head and headed back to her towel.
OtherPaul showed up a few minutes later and got himself squared away and headed to the waterline. He went in to about thigh high water. And stood. For fifteen minutes.
I went over (having changed out of my wet clothes because I was freezing) to see what was up. He looked over at me, and proving he is probably smarter than me, said “Yeah, thinking I don’t want to die today.”, and headed back up the beach

But we did go out after for delicious fish tacos.
So it wasn’t a total loss…