Artist interpretation of Cormac and I
How To: Enjoy Surfing When You're A Cynical Prick
Teach an idiot to surf.
If you're anything like me, surfing may have become somewhat of a chore as you parse through your mid-20's. The one hobby you couldn't get enough of through your adolescence has been overtaken by an urge to socialise (read: binge drink) and woo women (or men) into going to bed with you. In addition, the move to the city for work has you fighting for shit waves amongst shit, angry people, and eventually you have the realisation you haven't enjoyed surfing for the last six months. You're not a surfer anymore, now surfing is just something you occasionally do—most likely to keep your hair blonde.
Being the only person who 'surfs' in a group of people who opt for placid bays with beverages over any spot with waves, I've often been asked to teach, or at least take someone surfing. Typically, I refuse. I've taken girlfriends (coincidentally, they're all exes now) surfing before and let's just say it's always ended in a fight without them getting to their feet. Whether I was a shit teacher or their co-ordination was out of whack, they were all thoroughly unenjoyable experiences.
That was until two weeks ago when I caved and promised to take a friend, let's call him, Mac Foley, surfing. He hadn't surfed in 10-years and barely got to his feet when he did. I hadn't surfed in over a month and struggled to do a single turn on the best of days. At first I was hesitant, then I remembered fights with close friends you aren't fucking aren't all that common.
In short, it's the most I've enjoyed surfing in 12 months.
In long, well, keep reading.
It was only a year or two ago I realised I'd never surpass being a 'competent surfer'. Someone who can take off on a biggish wave, do a (very average) turn or two, been barrelled maybe twice, and fruitlessly attempt airs that always end up off the back. As this lack of progression became astoundingly clear, I threw in the towel. And when I did surf—to keep my hair blonde of course—I probably only got to my feet 75% of the time.
This apathetic approach however changed when I was reminded of how absolutely horrendously hard it is to learn to surf. In the two or so weeks I've surfed with Mac he hasn't gotten to his feet (and stayed there) once, has been caught in a rip, stung by two bluebottles, and once made it out the back after a one-hour struggle.
No, I'm not a complete and utter sadist basking in this poor learners pain. What has psyched me out is the utter joy on his face after paddling for a wave, nosediving on takeoff, then whacking his head on the sand. That stoke, as lame as it sounds, is contagious. Seeing somebody surfing so horrendously shit and still enjoying themselves made me realise I should be thankful I can even trim across an unbroken face. On par with skating, surfing is probably the hardest individual sport there is and if you're even somewhat competent you should be thankful you can enjoy the difference between pumping waves and onshore slop.
I realised that being good isn't what is enjoyable about surfing. Like the piece I published two years ago about giving up on your thruster, I re-realised surfing was simply about enjoying yourself. Surf like shit, ride crap waves, and throw your 5'10" three-fin in the bin unless it's at least 3-foot and offshore. Instead of surfing with people above your skillset who make you strive to thrive, surf with people who can't or don't give a fuck. Maybe you'll actually have fun for once. Despite the Inertia-esque adage that the best surfer out there is the one having the most fun being a load of tripe you may as well enjoy yourself even if you surf relatively shit.
So, if you know someone learning to surf, or wants to start, I recommend taking them. It'll put you out in small, lacklustre waves you would typically turn your nose up at and have you nostalgic for the times you yourself pined for knee-high rollers. Instead of trying to replicate what you've seen people do on your pro model on Vimeo (I bought a Black/White after Chapter 11, safe to say Britt Merrick would be suicidal if he saw the surfing I did on it), take out a foamie, or fat 'funboard' and paddle out with your pal while they learn the essentials of duckdiving. Talk them into waves which will send them into the sand without fail. And even let out your inner angst by defending them against an angry local when they inevitably get in someone's way.
This article isn't just a piss-poor (or half-pissed) attempt at humour either. I'm being serious. The most I've enjoyed surfing this last year wasn't scoring relatively uncrowded Sandon Point or on a holiday down south, it was out at two-foot, bluebottle plagued Maroubra 'teaching' a friend to surf. He might not have made it to his feet for more than a second yet, but when he does I expect a powerful, substance-less, second hand high from his own state of ecstasy.
Since starting this surf-teaching journey—in reality I haven't given him a single tip other than to buy a foamie instead of a hand-me-down shortboard—I've even gone surfing on my own. What's more surprising is that I also enjoyed it. Going out with no expectations and not caring whether I did ten turns or none led to a fun surf in semi-crowded city shit. While I standby the statement that riding a funboard is an essential step into enjoying your average surfing in very average waves, now I'm convinced that teaching someone to surf is another step in the art of learning to love surfing once again.
Instead of quitting early and letting your beer gut take complete hold, go surfing with someone who isn't a cynical cunt just yet.