Stab Magazine | Can Stop, Will Stop: Why Do People Quit Surfing?
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Can Stop, Will Stop: Why Do People Quit Surfing?

The most common exit points for a once-upon-a-time stoker.

Words by stab

Since you’re here reading this right now, it’s safe to assume that you haven’t hung up the leash just yet.

But I’m certain you could rattle off a handful of friends who have. Whether it’s staying dry for good or resigning your stick for the annual summer vacation. 

For those of us still deep in the non-substantive addiction that is surfing, it’s difficult to imagine spending more than a week on dry land, let alone rarely, or sometimes never catching a wave upon our feet again. 

So what drives a man, woman, or prosperous grommet to give up on surfing for good in exchange for a landlocked life?

Most surfers start young—whether it was through peer interest at a surf club, or a parental shorey push upon a service station boog. People usually dive head first into surfing in their pre or early teen years, when the thrill of surfing is at its most innocent and naive.  

This is the easiest and most obvious entry point, but what about exit points. What’s the catalyst that makes someone give it all up for good. 

And just to be clear, we’re not talking about surfers who once dabbled over summer break, or claimed to surf after participating in “learn to surf” for school sport. We’re talking about those who lived and breathed surf; not necessarily professionals, but someone engaged enough to chase swells, surf before work and was so dedicated they signed up every semester for “learn to surf” just to score a hit of the good stuff. 

Although the majority of friends started surfing around their early high school days, this is also where we reach our first exit point…

The pre-18 hump

The years leading up to the legal age for drinking, smoking and writing-yourself-off in Australia are a big deal.

At 17, Australians enter their final year of schooling – permitting they made the distance – and the cracks in a once-peaking surf interest begin to rise.  

Scoring your provisional licence at 17 is a big up for surf trip potential, but at the same time a larger hinderance arises adjacent to every keen grom’s surf interest: the introduction of booze, drugs, and an exponentially growing interest in the opposite (or same, for that matter) sex.

However, at this age it isn’t always procuring contraband and VB which stifles time spent surfing. Quite frequently those who are more academically inclined find themselves strapped to a desk, book and pen aiming towards what seems like the “be all end all” of your livelihood – the HSC.

Anecdotally, at least half of my once-surf-obsessed grom-hood pals threw away their surf interest before they hit 18. They might peruse a few Insta clips, or remain informed of the latest World Champ’s, but it’s a rare day to see them setting foot on the sand with a stick in hand.

The licence to beer isn’t good for your surfing.

In hindsight, it is tough to pass up the plaque of external offerings which land on your plate in those later teen years. If you do manage to make it over the 18 year old hurdle though, you’re likely locked in for another year or two – at least until…

The full-time job

If you land at Uni, depending on your friend circle, you’re in the clear until the degree is over.

However it’s a different story if you dive straight into work. A part-time job is tolerable, but if you lock straight into full-time work, you’ll be waving those early and afternoon sessions goodbye.  

A move to a city far from the coast, locked into an 8:30 to 5:30 grind, and no right mind wants to spend their weekends fighting the crowds at a beach break in close proximity to the unwashed masses… I’m not even sure whether surfing on the weekend even truly constitutes surfing – it’s an entirely different pursuit.

People try the juggle at first, but quickly notice their texts to friends that once said, “Surf?” are replaced with ones saying “Beers after work?

The full-time excuse could come at any age, as bills start to pile and income struggles to keep up with the outgoings, it’s tough to avoid this all too common anti-surf hurdle.

Well, at least your exorbitant wage will allow your to buy one of those dreaded neoprene suits.

The ball-n-chain

The surf aesthetic is a trendy, attractive trait, and those with complimentary facial structures reap the full rewards of the combination.

Put simply, surfers tend to be good-looking.

Even the most stubbornly independent bachelors and bachelorettes mingle for a while, only to find themselves falling… and what was once a bit of fun can now only be described as, “serious”.

Sure, the early days are littered with afternoons at the beach—most girls don’t seem to mind stealing a tan while you sneak in a quick few. But trust us, these days are numbered.

You might not even notice the gradual decrease in your surfing time, drunk on Sundays spent at the winery with your girl and her friends.

Objectively though, there’s change.

Forget surf trips with mates, forget weekends chasing swells—unless you’ve snagged a boo who surfs, too.

Oh, and if they say they’re willing to learn, don’t bother; there’s nothing worse on this globe than teaching the disinterested fresh the basics of surf.

You can also be sure that it’ll end up with an awkward car ride home where the only object breaking the angered silence is the 10 foot log sitting beneath the seats.  

I hope you like stand up paddleboarding!

Family life

If you haven’t succumbed to the allurements of alcohol, illicits or the indulgent dollar bill, then you may have fallen into a common surf hurdle. Starting a family.

When the mortgage settles in and the pack begins to grow, getting out for a dawn patrol starts to slide down the list of priorities.

In saying that, if you’ve managed to hurdle the plethora of obstacles that come prior, you may have a fair shot of pushing through the other side.

At the very least, you can take solace in pushing your groms into waves when they’re of age.

In the mean time, you can have a blast of a time at home like Dane down below!

Physical ailments

An injury can occur at any point, but as the Sands Of Time trickle south, your chances of recovering from a hard knock deteriorate.

Regardless of how psyched you are on surfing, there often comes a time when your aching limbs and bones can’t take it anymore; especially if launching yourself skyward is a large part of your typical surf routine.

It happens to the worst of us as easily as the best: Kelly Slater, Owen Wright ,and Mark Mathews have all spent extended periods dry-docked the past two years.

An injury may not always be severe enough to place you on land for good, but more often than not, you’ll make the disheartening and shameful transition to a 10 foot log, or even sadder, a SUP.

But hey, at least you’re not a skateboarder. Surfers are a pack of kittens in contrast to the constant injuries they sustain.

The number one killer – you “stop giving a fuck”

Occasionally, there’s no outside influences reducing one’s surfing habits.

Sometimes, people just stop giving a fuck about surfing.

They turn from a full-time frother, to a complete and utter neg.

Disillusioned with the scene, they take up another outside activity, lambast late-adopters for killing their beloved: surfing is dead!

Or, even worse, they flip their boards on Gumtree and permanently reside in the Disqus catacombs. It’s a steep and deep rabbit hole from there.

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