The longer you surf, the more ingrained it becomes in your basic human nature. At 79 years old, I have been painfully out of the water for something like the last ten years after continually riding waves for something like the 50 before that.
As it happens, Debbee and I live around the corner from a heavily used San Clemente surf break, about a hundred or so feet above sea level. Nearly every day, I am able—sometimes forced—to observe others searching for parking, and their unloading and reloading and stacking and selective choosing of stuff to take down to the beach and then into the surf. From my vantage, I have been able to get an idea of who exactly surfs, their habits and their mistakes, and all the rest that comes with it. As such, I can’t help but judge each individual or group that comes and goes from street to shore and back again.
I also often watch their waves being ridden, looking for something to catch my eye. In recent years, I’ve noticed that everyone pretty much does it in the same pattern, using the same logic to solve the problem. The sameness weighs on me. While observing a lineup of, say, 40-plus surfers, it is very rare that anything new strikes me. They seem like a field of slightly varied clones. I guess that’s fine with them, and that’s fair enough. You have to be out of the water to even note the sameness. And, truth be known, I’d rather be wet.
Feature Image: There was a time when surfers were known by immutable stylistic approaches—not mere technical mastery. Eric Penny, Petacalco, circa 1970. Photograph by Craig Peterson.