Can you describe one of the most challenging aspects of surfing to you?
When I first started surfing, I was under the impression that it would eventually get easier. That false impression turned into an unscrupulous lie which I continue to feed myself to prevent quitting. But in all seriousness, surfing is too dynamic to ever become easier. Everything’s constantly in flux: your body, equipment, demeanor, conditions, etc. This is both the principal challenge and the major draw: that novel feeling every time you step in the water, progression being perpetually in check. That’s what has kept me hooked.
As I get older, I’m beginning to inhabit all the terrible clichés about endurance, agility, and flexibility. The frightening bit is that I’m not actually that old so perhaps I’m doing something to expedite this ungainly transformation. I suspect it has what to do with sitting at a desk for 6-12 hours a day, which can be just miserable. Proper maintenance is essential for being able to function in the water. Reminding myself to stretch a couple times a day—especially on days when I’m not surfing—is something I have to force myself to do.
What is one of the most redemptive or rewarding parts of surfing?
No other activity has enriched and buoyed the relationship I have with myself and others congruently. While it has become increasingly rare, I do love surfing alone. But surfing with a group of close friends evokes unparalleled joy. As a recluse by vocation, I spend long periods of time without socializing. The healthiest and most dramatic way to break that kind of mania is to jump in the water with a buddy. If I get frustrated when surfing alone, I’m liable to remain that way for the rest of the session. Friends don’t let you stay pissed off. Even though it exists as a profound solitary pursuit, surfing has a double life where I’m constantly rediscovering the importance of friendship and interaction.
What has surfing afforded you in your life?
It has afforded me a valid reason to be selfish and a little reprieve from being a miser of time. I’m tyrannical about time management, which is something I think a lot people can relate to—especially writers, as is their wont—so there’s no better feeling than occasionally blowing everything off to go surfing.
As a surfer, it’s always fascinated me that all the same pathologies and inclinations of an addict are at work—impulsive, selfish, myopic—but instead of being hung-over or strung-out, after a surf session I have equanimity. It’s playfully subversive, or maybe just disingenuous. That’s not to say surfing has effectively curbed my drinking or provided much temperance. But maybe one day; I’m hopeful.
How long can you go without surfing?
I can go long periods of time without surfing, and I often do. It began not so much by choice, but by necessity, having never lived in a place with consistent waves. When I’m surfing for days or weeks on end, it’s all I think about. When I’m not surfing every day, and busy with other things, it very seldom crosses my mind. But there’s always a breaking point.
How and when did you fall in love with surfing?
The first time I surfed all day, which is to say the first time I sat in a line up all day and caught one wave. When I lay down that night, charred and exhausted, I closed my eyes and involuntarily saw set waves feathering towards me. That was—and still is—a completely unique sensory experience, like some kind of psychic programming. I was pleased to find out that that happens after every full-day of surfing.
What’s one of your pre/post-surf rituals you hold dear?
Bullshitting in parking lots is imperative.