Posted by: martinworster | September 8, 2010

99. SURF CITY US EH?

Take the Tube or get tubed?

Despite seeing recent footage of a man in a kayak filming two baby Great White Sharks near the beach at San Onfre,  a famous surf spot 30 miles south of here, I am well and truly back in surfing mode. After five years of learning I can proudly say that I now surf. It took long enough. I like to think I am fairly physical, I spent many years on a skateboard, a few seasons flinging myself around the hill on a snowboard. Surfing took a lot more effort.

At times I was close to giving up. Those many times included puffing and wheezing in the whitewater, having difficulty even just paddling out to the breaks, falling off on easy waves etc etc. Then there are those sphincter tweaking days when the swell-ometer tells us that the waves are packing 6 foot plus of Pacific punch. Double overhead. Yikes – even triple over head. You sit on the beach and look out, psyching yourself up, heart racing, blood pumping. Looking at the surfers drop in on waves that tower over them. 

To be honest when it’s this big I generally bodyboard as I’m still not adept – or don’t have big enough nuts yet – to drop in on the big bombs. It’s all in the mind. When the waves are bigger it generally means you have more time. Not that it’s easier. If you get minced by a big wave, you are well and truly MINCED. The other thing is my local wave, Santa Anna jetties, is notoriously fast and hollow. It’s a beach break and the rides are short and hectic. It’s like the crack cocaine of surfing. A quick hit and short high followed by long periods of salivation waiting for the next fix.

At the risk of sounding like a pretentious toss pot, there is something deeply spiritual about surfing. (I know, I am a pretentious nut sack). It’s such an etheral sport – the rides (at my local spot) are so short and quick they’re hard to remember. I did actually get – the Holy Grail of surfing – tubed on one of the larger days. Ie the wave was big enough that it curled over providing a glassy cavern for me to luxuriate in. I do remember this – for an ephemeral moment – happening and then the wave quickly ate me up. To have really cracked it I should have raised emerged from the aquatic tunnel and then raised my fist after conquering this freak of nature.

You can tell when it’s bigger days as the waves can be seen from far off, menacing walls of water steadily moving closer from the horizon. You don’t want to be caught out in the impact zone when these bigger sets come in. I have been many times. You can be right in the wrong spot and see that this big wall of water is going to land right on your head – you just have to duck dive and let the energy wash over you, hoping you don’t get caught up in the turbulence. If you do it’s a free ride in the washing machine, pummelled round round till you don’t know which way the surface is.

It can be frustrating as you are surrounded by surfers who have been surfing since they can walk. A lot of pros live here. You can be waiting for waves and for every one you get the agile Kelly Slater impersonator gets six waves. Looking down the line it always looks better than where you are. Generally I stay away from the pack who wait at the sweet spot where the wave breaks best. I can’t be bothered with any testosterone fuelled aggro.

I am lucky to live here and have this opportunity to surf whenever I can. Getting tubed here sure beats taking the Tube, a feat I used to accomplish every day whilst living and working in London…

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