Figuring Out The Rules Of Surfing

Figuring Out The Rules Of Surfing

We’re on the coast of California and there are surfers everywhere — on the sidewalks, riding bikes with surfboard racks, driving around in VW vans and dirty old pickup trucks, and, of course, in the ocean. They’re fun to watch, but for every second I spend marveling at somebody actually surfing, I spend probably 1,000 seconds wondering about the surfing sub-culture. I want to learn to surf, but that’ll have to wait. For now, I’m happy trying to decode the rules of the wave. Here’s what I’ve figured out so far:

Jogging is the only appropriate way to head to the beach.

Dude, the surf’s up! Let’s go — we have to hurry, hurry, hurry, man.

Everybody I see heading towards the sea is jogging. Nobody walks. There’s no hanging loose when it comes to getting to the beach. Getting to the beach is a rushed affair. You get your wetsuit on half-way and run for it. No shoes allowed, surfboard held perpendicular to body in one arm like a load of too-long books.

Stretching is key.

After hurrying to the beach, some sort of calm comes over surfers. It’s time for Tai Chi or yoga … or just stretching. But there must be stretching. And one must always face the ocean with a concerned but calm expression on one’s face. Will the waves last another 5 minutes? Yep, quit worrying.

One must not show any modesty.

Cold water + tight clothing = not a lot held back. No worry, it’s against the rules to be modest. You’re a surfer, man, every girl swoons for you. Totallly. And if you’re taking a beach jog between trips to the waves, best to let your shorts sag down to just about penis-exposing levels. Chics dig that.

Surfing is sitting.

A long surfing run seems to last about 10 seconds, max. Most of the time spent ‘surfing’ is spent sitting out in the waves, which certainly sounds appealing, but it’s a little misleading in the naming department. Take bicycling. If you’re a bicyclist, one assumes you spend much of your time on a bike turning the pedals and riding the thing — you don’t just sit next to it on a hill and ride for 10 seconds every 10 minutes. If you’re a runner, you spend most of your time ‘running’ running. Skiers ski down an entire mountain before getting back on the lift.

Surfing is more like fishing, but fishing isn’t called catching. Surfing is really about fishing for waves and waiting and being patient, and I think it could use a new name. But I still want to learn how to do it.

Surfing: a jog to the beach in funny clothing, a stretch, and a patient soak in the water waiting for a wave.
Surfing: a jog to the beach in funny clothing, a stretch, and a patient soak in the water waiting for a wave.