Enjoy Bass Strait…

I arrived at my local break and chatted to a local. ‘You had a look at the beach yet?’ he asked. ‘Nope.’ I pulled on my wetsuit anyway. ‘It’ll be ‘right.’ He gave me the ‘you-are-such-a-kook’ facial expression and left … Continue reading

Teeny weeny waves are still fun

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I love having a long(ish)-board that I can ride on little waves. Little waves do wonders for your confidence. I think a lot of surfers forget how fun just messing around in the white-water can be. Because I am in the awkward transitional stage of abilities, I can appreciate both unbroken and broken waves and the varied rides they provide.

I met a woman the other week during a sunset surf that rode a Mal. Similar skill level but a bit more mellow. I connected with her immediately. I asked, ‘Have you tried any unbroken waves yet?’

Her reply was, ‘Once. I had a bad experience so I just stick to little waves. It’s more fun.’

I love her attitude. I also love that she’s honest. Not many surfers will tell you ‘I’m s***-scared of those waves’, but I bet a lot of them do have the occasional ‘Oh dear God mother Mary’ moment. I guess that’s what surf lingo translates into when we say “they charge”: they-go-headfirst-into-that-wave-even-though-they’re-scared-s***less.

Having a mellow surf just in white-water is what I’ve taken to doing on the low-tide when the unbroken sets get very steep and “dumpy” – that doesn’t help my mission of NOT nose-diving. There’s no surf rage in the white-water either. It’s a great place to be. I hope I never forget what it’s like to be that stoked surfer in the white-water.

Dumped, bumped and thumped but still stoked

The surf was thumping last night. And by thumping, I mean I got absolutely well and truly thumped!

I admit that I had to stomp out of the waves and sit on my board and wipe away some tears. I’d been hit in the head with my board, got pulled under and dragged back by gargantuan lumps of seaweed that thought my leg rope and my ankles were the best things to clutch onto, got annihilated by the rip currents, nose dived, landed in awkward positions on the shallow sand banks and even felt my hamstring go TWANG just trying to get out into the line-up (try catching waves with an unrelenting muscle – it makes for comical attempts to stand up). So at a certain point, I had to get out. I had to remove myself from the water.

Removing myself was probably the best thing I could have done. I got my breath back, could massage my muscle until I could move my leg more freely and watch other surfers for a while. It was low-tide. The swell was at about 3-5 ft., so those waves were steep as hell and the guys out the back attempting to do cutbacks were just being swallowed or dumped…head first. So those waves weren’t right for me. I just wanted to have fun; enjoy a sunset surf at my favourite place in the world.

So I forgot my first attempts. I went back into the water and caught some smaller unbroken waves and some bigger broken waves. I just needed a moment to appreciate my situation and calm my nerves; accept that I’m not a good surfer…yet. The only thing that will help me become a good surfer is practice, and I can’t practice if I get down in the dumps about being dumped.

I ended up having a really great time. Sometimes it helps to remove yourself and get some perspective on things if you’re feeling overwhelmed or frustrated. Heck look at me. I had to leave the water and sniffle like a baby before I could go back in on reset and still feel the stoke. The stoke is all that really matters.

Groms and the cycle of the stink-eye

You know that awkward, uncomfortable, miserable moment when you’re faced with a little kid that is twenty times more talented than you are and one glare from them can make you feel utterly unco and crappy about the little bit of progress you’ve made? Well, I do.

I was having a gentle surf (while I’m working on repairing my back) when a grom gave me the stink-eye. The kid could not have been older than nine and he was absolutely charging. A miniature Mick Fanning. Well. I’ll be damned. I sat up on my board and watched him for a while. Did I feel bad that I was kind of hoping he’d make a mistake? Not really.

That grom will be a future world champion; it would not surprise me. I’ll be the bitter old crone still nosediving! I love children and I love to see them out there and excelling, but I really wish they would cut back the attitude. I didn’t even do anything wrong and yet I was a pest to him because I was obviously not an awesome surfer. The next generation should be decreasing surf-agro, not perpetuating the cycle.

On another note, I did actually cut off an older surfer a little later. It was at sunrise, a hot day and a long weekend at a popular beach. There were about seventy of us out in the line-up as early as 7am. I went to angle my board for a wave and couldn’t see the guy at the peak to my right because of the sun glaring off the water. I spotted him (thankfully) and pulled back out of his way – he still bailed anyway, just to be safe. I was so apologetic I was practically kissing his hand. ‘I’m so sorry mate. I didn’t see you there. I tried so hard to get out of the way. Are you all right? I’m so, so sorry.’

He waved his hand and smiled. ‘No worries. I knew you didn’t see me ’til the last minute. It’s all right.’

‘I’m so sorry.’

‘Don’t be. I’m not an agro surfer. I’m not good enough to be!’

What a great attitude he had. I’m glad I encountered him (shoddy though it was). I hope there are plenty of surfers out there modelling that behaviour to the gung-ho stinky-eyed grom I’d encountered earlier just in the line-up. But it begs the question: why do we think that a less-skilled surfer has no ownership of surf agro? Why should being a good surfer excuse bad behaviour and attitude? Why? Because they’re good at surfing? That seems a bit silly to me.

The line-up should be a place of (imagined) community. Down-time and fun-time, social and natural. I shouldn’t be getting the stink-eye for a variety of non-surf related reasons like I’m a woman, a little older than most kooks, a beginner surfer, a longboard rider or that I don’t look like Alana Blanchard or I’m not afraid to say hello and spark a conversation.

I really hope that groms pick up on the good surfing etiquette instead of the agro surfing etiquette that gives them a God concept just because they can surf well. It just goes to show how important good role models are I suppose.

My spine. Oh dear god, my spine.

My weekend forecast is not filling me with excitement. It’s been over a week since I last surfed and the pounding I took (in my mind as I went over the falls I thought I could break my leg here; luckily I didn’t) has resulted in a back-located niggle that was so intense last Wednesday that I actually got physically ill and had to miss two subjects at uni. The pain relented during the week and I avoided the surf to rest up so I wouldn’t make it worse. Now a week and a half later, the pain has worsened and I can’t even arch my back to do a pop-up on the floor without screaming. My spine. Oh dear god, my spine.

So it looks like my weekend surf will not be happening…again.

I’ve tried Ibruprofen, Nurofen, Paracetamol, Paracetamol Plus and Codeine and Codeine Extra…
I’ve tried Magic Goop and Tiger Ointment, and massages (from an obliging boyfriend; how very sweet), and hot baths and cold baths, walking and resting, stretching, core strengthening exercises and Deep Heat and Voltarin. The pain is only getting worse so I think I have to admit defeat and mosy on off to the doctor for a referral to a spine-cruncher or physiotherapist so I can hurry up and finally get back into the water.

That being said, I think I will head down to Port Phillip Bay and just go for a paddle, just to try and loosen up those muscles sans the jolting of the waves.

Ocean 1

Kook 0

Why does it have to be so challenging?

Life!

But more so, making that transition from whitewater to unbroken waves. You thought I was going to get all pessimistic on you there didn’t you.

So here’s where I am with my kook skill level:

On 7’6″ Minimal
*paddle paddle paddle…I’m not getting anywhere. Hey cool. The wave’s lifting me up. Paddle paddle paddle paddle. Grunt grunt grunt. The nose is digging in…Hello face plant into the water.*

On 6’4″ Fish
*paddle paddle whooo I’ve actually got some speed on this thing. Holy Jesus Hell Dogs Jiminy Cricket I’m at the top of the wave. What do I do? Can’t get up. Can’t back out. Sugar that’s a long way down the face. Insert some more nervous babbling. Over the falls I go.*

On one board I have the problem of not having enough paddle speed, causing the nose to dig in or just seeing lots of unbroken waves rolling past me (I’d prefer the nose dive to missing wave after wave to be honest); on another board I have the paddle speed but I’m too far back on the board and getting stuck right on the lip with nothing to do except wait for a brutal rough and tumble down the face of the wave. Trying to find the correct placement on the shorter board was a steep (and I mean steep; low-tide unbroken waves with barrels was quite the place to try out a shorter board I tell you what) learning curve but the paddling is so laborious on my Mal that I miss more waves than I catch and I get frustrated.

I’m hoping that other surfers have faced this unbroken-wave-challenge-o-rama also and I’m not just hopeless!

I watch video after video of pro surfers in their element and try to pick-up tips but then I’m out there staring down the face of what looks like a 20 foot dragon (when in reality is more in the 3-7 foot range), it’s incredibly hard to get it right. Practice makes perfect right? Then I’ll be the best at going over the falls. Hooray, go me.

Sharing the stoke

I packed away my boyfriend’s wetsuit as well as mine when we embarked on our trip. Wednesday morning I said to him, ‘We’ll go to a really good beginner beach so you can have a go.’

He had no excuses. The wetsuit was in the car and we were there at the beach within five minutes.

I handed over my board and let him carry it into the water. ‘Are you nervous?’ I asked.

‘A little bit,’ he admitted with his eyes on the horizon.

‘Just have a go with the board. Don’t worry about standing up or anything,’ I said, planning to take him out to the sand and teach him to stand up once he got the feeling of the rush the wave gives you when it shoots you forward. Isn’t that where all of us get addicted as beginners before we challenge ourselves to the real fun of riding unbroken waves?

‘Catch this one. Turn the board around. Hop on.’ He followed my instructions begrudgingly. He caught the wave. And do you know what? He bloody stood up on the thing first shot!

He made his way back out to me in the breaking waves and puffed, ‘That is so fun!’ He kept trying and got better and better, standing for longer periods. Was I surprised that he could stand up on his first go? Not really. He windsurfed for many years. You know, that sport that was popular in the ’90s when we were all watching Tom Carroll rip it up at Pipeline?

He has great balance. I’m proud that he felt the stoke.

The best thing I’ve ever heard him say to me, apart from I love you, is: I want to go surfing again.

He’s already moping that he won’t be able to come with me for my next session. So now I’ve got some competition in the household! He’s going to progress a lot faster than I am and I actually appreciate the rivalry because it will push me to challenge myself more.

I’ve converted an old windsurfer to surfing. He’s willing to front some money for my next board. His reasoning? Hurry up and get a shortboard so I can have yours. No worries, darling. Challenge accepted. Now to keep practising so I’m ready to step down to maybe a 6’8 or 6’6, possibly even a 6’4 because I’m only 5’2 tall and don’t weigh much. Bring it on baby!

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His second-day of surfing and look at him go.

My surfing bible

I’m very much a “list” kind of person. After my surf lesson yesterday, I went home and wrote out all the vital key points that my coach told me to remember. I thought I’d share them here on my blog so other beginner (ahem future World Champion cough cough) surfers might find them helpful too.

1. Use the rip current to get out.

Australian waters have notorious rips and hundreds of people drown in them so it goes against everything we’ve been taught since learning to swim to go in a rip. Rip currents will only take you to the back of the waves. That’s it. Swim horizontally to the beach to get out of them if you’re caught in one. Do. Not. Panic.

2. Sit further back on the board.

Waiting for waves is the time to sit up and relax. I tend to sit in the middle of my board and since it’s “a bus” it makes it hard to spin it around to catch the waves. By sitting further back, the tail will sink and will make pivoting easier. I can practise this at home in the swimming pool.

3. Keep your spine straight when sitting on the board.

As a horse rider, this one should be easy to remember!

4. Support the board with my knees (while sitting).

It will even make turning easier.

5. Slide my board under me rather than trying to jump back on it.

I’m short. I’m in over my head in the water very quickly. By sliding my board under my legs I’ll save myself a lot of energy than trying to clamber on top of it.

6. Keep my toes touching the tail.

7. Paddle power comes from long reaches; aim for the nose of my board and dig in.

8. Paddle power is better than paddle speed.

Paddling quickly will get you there no faster if you’re not reaching enough!

9. Trust my board.

“It will not nosedive; the nose will go down but that’s what it’s supposed to do on an unbroken wave. So trust your board.” Lalalalalala NOSEDIVE. Hmm. This one will be tricky!

10. If my nose drops too much, push back on my knees.

11. Don’t do headchecks. Feel the wave.

You’ll become unbalanced by turning your head to check if the wave is coming.

12. Catch the wave before you ride the wave.

Vital advice which I’m glad that I seem to already do. I’m glad I do something right!

13. Don’t bend at the waist when standing up.

14. If you lose your balance, use your head. Put it over your front foot so your balance is centred again.

This was gold advice. Worked immediately. No more wobbling about for me!

15. When the wave slows down, step forward on the board with your front foot. Even following through with the back foot too if you really need some momentum.

16. Look to turn.

Pretty obvious. But it makes it a lot easier to predict where other surfers are going too. Where they’re looking is where they will go. (I’m trying to be a considerate kook.)

17. When tackling the impact zone, put both hands on the deck of the board, straighten elbows and jump high, pushing against the board with a knee (if you can).

This was extremely helpful too. Part of the intimidation of surfing is being assaulted by all that water crashing in your face. My board is non-duck-divable so I found this advice really helpful. Pushing your knee against the board as you jump also gives you more leverage to get higher so you don’t get pummelled in the face.

 

I hope some other people get some help from my bible.