Full Moon Surfs, Impassable Puddles, And A Few Nights Spent Sleeping In A WSL Commentary Booth
A reader-submitted collection of nonconformist surf stories.
“Opportunity cost” is a term used in economics to denote the cost of possibility incurred whenever you do, well, anything. If you choose to allocate your time to something, you’re inevitably missing out on something else.
Surfers deal with opportunity cost, often unconsciously, every time we go surf. The thought that we might miss a favorite beach break firing if we go check our favorite slab — or vice versa — is a source of never-ending anxiety. Robert Frost seemed to understand the concept of FOMO when he wrote The Road Not Taken.
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;
Though the poem has been referenced as a cliché literary landmark since its genesis, Frost acknowledges that it was merely a joke made at the expense of an indecisive friend.
Essentially, it might not fucking matter which way you go at the fork in the road.
Still, we love to hear glory stories that stem from unorthodox decisions. So, in a recent Joyride, we asked our Stab Premium members to send us a story about when taking the road less traveled (literally or figuratively) led to a positive surfing experience for them.
Below are the best responses. Make sure you stay for the last one.
Gabe Federico-Matthews, 33, Torquay
I’ve been obsessed with the fact that there are squillions of waves going unridden every night… which feels like a cruel irony when crowds are so dense around home. It’s pretty tragic, but at one point I even purchased a waterproof head torch and night vision goggles (that turned out to be; not-to-spec, and well, a toy, respectively). I know I’m not Robinson Crusoe here, but I didn’t know if the night-shred would be feasible/fun or just a pitch-black nightmare.
After years of talking about it, a mate and I vowed to paddle out in the dead of night. There were enough caveats that neither of us thought it would actually happen: we agreed it had to be 2ft, offshore, a full moon and a clear sky. Lo and behold, a week after we shook on it, we looked at the surf and weather forecast and went, “Oh shit.” So, we drove out to a mellow point break and got there at 4 am. The night was crisp, and we were decked out in 4/3s, booties, and hoods.
The white orb was freaking radiant; we couldn’t get over the fact that we were casting a defined shadow from the moon with no other light source around. We could see little ribbons of whitewash, moseying down the point. We were already giddy at the prospect of fun, uncrowded — albeit monochrome — waves, and as we were wading out we saw this proper-thick shooting star. We were pissing ourselves at how ridiculous the whole situation was, and we proceeded to surf for two and half hours. Super fun, novelty factor dialed up to eleven, until one other bloke paddles out at first light. He goes, “How is it? I slept in.”
Pat Early, 27, San Clemente
I was living in Santa Cruz going to community college. I had just finished a challenging math final and I was hoping to surf afterwards to celebrate the end of my first college semester. Unfortunately the day was windy and rainy, so I completely wrote off the option of surfing. Watching surf videos at home was the next best option. Soon into my couch-locked surf film bender, my friend (a local) called me and asked if I wanted to join him to go find waves outside of town. I thought he was crazy, thinking to myself, “It’s completely blown out and stormy!?” But I figured, sure beats sitting at home. We hopped in his 4-cylinder 1989 Toyota pickup truck and started driving. It was an adventure with zero expectations of finding good waves.
Miraculously, the more we drove, the storm started to calm. The wind switched offshore and we rocked up to a fickle and localized beachie about 25 minutes later. We actually couldn’t believe what we saw: perfect six-foot, offshore A-frames — every other wave seemed to be a makeable barrel. There were maybe four guys out, spread across different peaks. We started frothing so hard it felt like being a grom on summer vacation at the beach with a lunch bag full of candy. We quickly suited up and proceeded to get barreled together for three hours. A day I will never forget!
Will Holmes, 27, Port Macquarie, Aus
A few mates and I were planning a surf trip a few years ago and we had seen that the WSL had some comps in Taiwan. We hired a van in Taipei and surfed and camped down the whole east coast. One night during a storm our tents broke, so we drove to Jinzun Harbour (where they do the comp) in search of some shelter. It was too late for us to book any accommodation anywhere. We found that the WSL shipping container booth — where they do the filming and commentating — was unlocked. We all brought our bedding in there and slept overnight to shelter from the storm. In the morning when we woke up, we were greeted with perfect waves. The experience was so nice that we ended up staying in that shipping container for a couple more days.
Phil Picton, 41, Diamond Beach, NSW, Australia
Ten years ago I scored my dream job on the north coast of NSW, so my (now) wife and I moved from north of Sydney to a sleepy little town close to a world-famous point break. I thought life was set, but after eight great years and with two new kids, my wife had a yearning to be closer to our families further south. So the tough decision was made to take the road less traveled and move to my wife’s hometown which, even though it is coastal, is known more for its fishing and production of NRL football players than it is for its surf quality.
Honestly for the first few months after moving, I was bummed. Seeing forecasts and footage of northern NSW spots constantly firing while I was chasing my tail was so depressing. Within a few months my fortunes changed. I had infiltrated the small, tight-knit surf community and built friendships and a home for my family that we’d never had in the eight or so years of living up north.
Taking the road less traveled (by most east coast NSW surfers) to this little town has made me happier and more positive about surfing than I could have ever imagined.
Jye Myers, 28, South Coast NSW
The year is 2010. I’m a 16-year-old aspiring photographer with all the gear and no idea, shooting a bunch of bodyboard kids from Dapto (a town nowhere near the beach). That wedgy wave that has been popping up in Ando and Noa’s clips of late was primarily a bodyboard wave back then, and this was where we were headed. To get there generally you park in a carpark and walk along a 750m beach to the next headland. We had heard talks about a private dirt road that would drive you right up onto the headland and eliminate that beach walk, but there was a big puddle along the way.
With some heavy persuasion of the driver to go this way, we found the track (we were undergunned in an old Subaru Forrester with no 4WD capabilities) and approached ‘The Puddle’. Instead of creeping through slowly, we all got out of the car while the driver/owner reversed about 50 meters, psyched himself up, and went full speed, aquaplaning about 5 meters before coming to a complete stop and sinking rapidly. The driver instantly opened his door to get out and the inside flooded with water. All our belongings in the car were now submerged and muddy.
All five of us stripped off to underwear and jumped in the puddle — which was chest deep — and we attempted to push the car out. This didn’t work at all, as we were skinny 16-to-18-year-olds. In a last-ditch effort to save the car, myself and another bloke ran, in only underwear, to the farm we could see up the hill overlooking the road. The owner of the farm offered to pull the car out with his tractor for $60, which was a lot of money for us at the time (I got the impression this was a regular occurrence for this man. I am still under the impression that he dug that puddle way deeper than what it was originally so surfers and bodyboarders would stop using the road).
Somehow the car kicked over with a jumpstart from the tractor driver. We headed to the local IGA, bought kilos of dry rice and loaded up the inside of the car to dry it like it was an iPhone dropped in a toilet.
The two-hour drive home in 30-degree heat with rice cooking at our feet consisted of about 10 push starts of the car.
This did not lead to a positive surfing experience, but it did lead me to suck it up and just walk the beach from then on out, and many future positive experiences were had.