What could be worse than this? Just wait. Photo: Johnny Jungle
In Defense Of The Barrel Dodger
There are seedier vermin among our ranks.
Let us admit that barrel dodging, while embarrassing, does take a certain level of chutzpah.
You were there. You paddled out. You dropped in. That you failed to enter the tube is unfortunate, but 3 out of 4 steps is still 75%, which is technically a passing grade. Swell dodging, on the other hand, is an utter failure and the ultimate form of pussery.
A swell dodger purposefully avoids entire days, trips, or regions that could potentially provide a tube. He will "drink too much" the night before waves and "forget to set his alarm." He'll "run out of funds" for a trip, despite the fact he celebrated his Bar Mitzvah the week prior. He'll tell you that "Reunion Island has too many sharks". We all know this is bullshit, yet, in most cases, these excuses are met with empathy and the swell dodger's cowardice is swept under the rug.
Because there is no Instagram page to shame those who sit idly and twiddle their thumbs. The only person the swell dodger has to face is himself, and despite the quiver of hand-mirrors in his arsenal, somehow he's convinced himself that wave modesty is, in fact, the best policy. He has justified his own pusillanimity.
Some famous swell dodging examples include: Filipe Toledo, when an ankle injury allowed him to stomp high-impact airs en route to a US Open victory, but didn't allow him to go straight at macking Teahupoo in 2014 (for a point of comparison, see: Kelly's broken-hoofed victory in 2003). Then there's my anonymous friend*, who failed to surf Baja Norte's swell of the decade because he “had work” and “was afraid to call in sick”. And lastly, I would consider anyone who’s surfed the wave-sheltered bay of Sandspit to fall into this category. So yes, you can be a barrel hound and a swell dodger in one fell surf.
But swell dodging isn’t always on purpose. Sometimes you pray for waves, like genuinely plead with Poseidon, Huey, or whichever deity you attribute to maritime wind generation, and nothing will come your way. The entire month of September, I was forced to watch the east coast, my home coast, peaking like gun sales after a mass slaughter. On multiple occasions I pitched ideas to the boss-man but, despite being sympathetic to my cause (Ashton too hails from the east), he didn’t see it as a viable option. The company was in the middle of an acquisition and Stab in the Dark was set to launch, so the timing just didn't work.
But let’s talk about timing for a minute. Let’s talk about the fact that I left California yesterday, for the east coast, for a long-planned family wedding, and how completely fucked that is. Because as I bid the Pacific adieu from 3,000 feet, I saw something I hadn’t seen in months. Maybe years.
They were lines -- long, strong lines. The likes of which produce waves, the likes of which I'd like to ride. As I chase east, California is getting its best south swell of the season. Maybe be the century.
But the east coast has been harvesting tropical fruits for a month straight... surely there’d remain a few sips of nectar for Poor Old Me.
Wrong-O. Zilch. Nada. It’s flatter than Kansas and more crumbly than a Nature Valley bar. And so here I sit, laptop engulfed by my quickly chubbing tummy, what's left of my muscles cramping from saline deficiency (Most of my sodium intake comes from small sips of ocean water, just like Rasta.), my mind quickly but surely turning to mush.
Morgan was right -- surfing is necessary. I am a sad little man without it.
I’ll return to California on Monday, at which point the swell will have shriveled and warped into a Lilliputian form of its same lineage. From Jaime to Tyrion Lannister.
Never have I wanted to be a barrel dodger so badly. But today, I am swell dodger. Hear me weep.