Tag Archives: surfing

Simple But Not Easy

I was surfing with some friends from Colorado who are visiting Mexico. They don’t get to surf very often, but had a good time surfing out in the sun and warm water here. As I watched them adjusting to the other surfers in the water, I was struck by something I read once, “power is never given, power is taken.”

The group of surfers waiting for a wave to show up is called the line-up. Your position in the line-up is the equivalent of your power and you can interchange “line-up position” for “power” in what I just quoted above – “a line-up position is never given, a line-up position is taken.”

It’s been many years since the Aloha spirit prevailed in surfing. At most spots there are now more surfers than waves available, so there’s a sort of athletic Darwinism at play. The weaker or less skilled surfers are always noted, and then disregarded as having any real shot at catching (m)any waves and they’re usually avoided if they’re too far out because they often make mistakes that can hurt other surfers. This isn’t done out of meanness, it’s just how things have developed and an order establishes itself as surfers come in and out of the line-up.

Even though a few surfers might paddle to catch an approaching wave, the main rule is that it belongs to the first person up and riding and the others are expected to pull off of it. On bigger waves there’s sometimes the feeling you pick up on in basketball photos of one player slamming a dunk over the player guarding him, or maybe it’s like the famous “look” Lance Armstrong gave to Jan Ullrich, taunting him to follow up a steep climb in the Tour de France. Power is taken.

Somehow weakness is sensed within the line-up, like a dog somehow sensing fear. You can feel it when you first paddle out, particularly if you’re by yourself at a new spot because “the line-up position is never given.” But soon enough the pecking order is set.

I guess this situation is a metaphor for life. Friends surfing with each other cooperate with one another, and friendships are formed in the water too. And it’s all fun. But the operating principle these days is competition more than cooperation. And everyone is subject to the same code that “power never steps back except in the face of more power” and that’s part of the fun because the only real loss is a wave; and another one will show up soon.

It’s Not All About The Wave

Here’s a photo of my friend, Brian, and me returning from surfing at a favorite spot of mine. The way in and out is via a verdant jungle path.

I really love surfing and the things that come along with it, like using this path. It’s a beautiful little trail, so even if the surfing on a particular day isn’t good the journey to and from the beach will be a little trek through a beautiful tropical landscape.

Besides actually riding a wave, there’re other aspects of surfing that are fun. For example, if your board is short enough, you’ll be able to pass under (duckdive) under approaching waves when you’re paddling out to surf. To duckdive, just shove the nose of the board down as deep as possible and then step down hard on the tail. You’ll pop out of the back of the wave ready to keep paddling out. ¬†The whole wave will have simply passed over you. When done right, it’s a very smooth and tranquil sensation. Somehow it feels like magic, slipping smoothly under a wave that moments before was going to crash on top of you.

Normally, surfers don’t talk about duckdiving a wave. It’s something that’s done to get out to where you want to be. For me, it’s an underappreciated part of surfing, and is a nice prelude to ¬†hopefully catching a wave when you get out to the break.

If you want to see what surfing is like, the surfing portions of “Blue Crush” capture the feeling of surfing on film pretty well. Story line aside, in “Blue Crush” the surfing sequences feel very real. Even most of the waves they ride are normal Hawaii waves. The majority of surfers, including me, will never surf the giant waves that creep into the public news landscape. So the waves, even the bigger ones, shown in “Blue Crush” are within the range an average surfer might encounter. Plus surfing in Hawaii is tops, on any size wave.

If you broke it down, the actual time most surfers spend riding on waves is counted in seconds for most rides. A normal ride would usually be under a minute! Accumulating a total of more than several minutes riding time during a day would be counted as a rare and special day. Surfing is quite a bit like fishing; most of a fisherman’s time is spent fishing not catching.

All of the activities associated with surfing like getting to the break, chatting with your friends, duckdiving, studying the ocean’s vast horizon, and just being out there make surfing the attraction it is for those of us who enjoy surfing.

P.S. A side note. Saturday, Kelly Slater, secured his Tenth World Surfing Championship! His point lead now is that far ahead of his competitors; and the season is still not over. Slater is largely unheralded in the general press even though this is like Micheal Jordan winning ten NBA titles or Lance Armstrong winning the Tour de France ten times.