Stab Magazine | Subdue Your Surf Rage By Watching South Africa's Next Tour Surfer, Matthew McGillivray

Subdue Your Surf Rage By Watching South Africa’s Next Tour Surfer, Matthew McGillivray

Smooth rights, mellow tunes.

Words by stab

I’ve calmed down as I’ve aged. Seeing a therapist for anger management has helped. I’m still fairly high strung, but I can control my emotions, more or less. Maybe not by normal human standards, but pretty well by my own.

So it’s been a while since I got truly upset in the water. Partially because people tend to follow lineup etiquette on Kauai. But mainly because I just don’t want to spend the rest of my life as this perpetually angry person.

But, yesterday, I backslid a bit. The sun was shining. The trade winds were calm. The surf was shoulder high and fun. Fairly consistent. Nothing world-class but, with the exception of some guy in his early twenties, there was no one out.

Near-empty sessions with a total stranger can be a great time. You can make a new friend, trade waves, hoot for each other. Enjoy surfing in the manner non-surfers imagine we always do. It can be something special. A bright moment in an often frustrating world. 

But when the only other person in the water paddles to the shoulder of a punchy right, looks back, and blatantly stuffs you… things turn sour quick. It’s such a dick move. The perfect way to ruin someone’s day.

When he does it again on the very next set… you might find yourself seeing red. I sure did. All that old anger came roaring back, bubbling away below the surface. “Freak the fuck out,” the lizard brain screamed. “Fucking get him! How dare he?”

Stay calm. Don’t yell. It’s super fun, there’s no reason to let this get to you. You can handle this.

Which works great, until he sits right next to you and you hear yourself begin haranguing him.

“What the fuck was that about? You’re really gonna make me paddle battle you? It’s only the fucking two of us out here and you’re gonna drop in? What the fuck are you thinking?”

“Sorry. I didn’t think you’d be able to generate enough speed to make the section.”

Wrong thing to say buddy. Wrong person to say it to. You’re lucky I’m not still in my twenties. I’d be out of my mind with rage right now.

I know better than to say these things. Or to act on them. It’s not worth threatening people. It doesn’t feel good to make a stranger feel fear.

When I’m angry my face turns red, my jaw clenches, my eyes get wild. I wasn’t trying to chase him out of the water or get him to paddle down the beach. But he did the latter. Left me to my own devices on the best peak.

It took about twenty minutes to cool off, by which point I remembered why I try so hard to avoid those emotions. Both our sessions went from something nice to something not. And while we were both to blame I can only control myself.

I wish I’d watched this collection of Matt McGillivray clips before I paddled out. Smooth surfing on South African rights set to a pleasantly mellow soundtrack. The lasting effects might’ve helped keep my blood pressure low. Kept my temper reigned in. Helped me avoid scaring a total stranger because I lost my cool over something that really doesn’t matter one fucking bit.


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