I’ve been up here in Ventura all week continuing my mission to become and actual surfer. Im not sure what exact level Im art now, but it’s somewhere many many multiple rungs lower than professional. But slightly above novice. I think? At what point can you even call yourself a surfer? Is there a hard and fast rule? Im not sure. Ive got a friend wee call Action Jackson. He calls himself AJ. He’s a surfer. Or so he says. Ac apple of decades ago, back in the 90s, he used to always sneak out of the bar early and tell us he had to beep early to go to Long Beach or to Rockaway to surf. We all thought that was bad ass, because surfing is bad ass. It’s not just anyone who can head out into the ocean and ride a wave. A fact I’m becoming intimately aware of every time I paddle out and give it a shot. But day in and day out, weeks and months and years on in, Action Jackson was always going out surfing and coming back and telling us about the crazy waves he caught. And it always fascinated me. How could he drink so late, but then get up so early? And then drive all the way out to the shore and have the energy to surf gnarly breaks and then make it back to Manhattan in time for his day job? I was always in this sort of awe about him when he would regale us with tales of his spring adventures.
Until social media became a thing. And then AJ started posting videos of himself “surfing”. Turned out he was a boogie boarder. WTF?!? I felt slightly less fucking furious than I did the day I finally found out that wrestling was fake. AJ wasn’t a SURFER. Was he? Certainly not… I mean, I used to boogie board as a kid. And by boogie board, I mean, I would body surf. Surely boogie boarding was the same thing, except with the broken off front end of a surf board to hang onto. I always wondered what the guys who were actually surfing thought of that. Of course I had to share that video around to all of our mutual friends. They were all as stunned as I was. How had we all been taken by this insane level of fuckery, we all wondered to ourselves?!!?
So I finally confronted him about it. And was upset as fuck. HE claimed that boogie boarding WAS surfing. Because surf was the term fort the wave, not the activity that you participated din on the actual wave. I immediately called bullshit on him and said there’s no way in hell any surfer would consider him a surfer. I also conceded that, sure, what he was doing was cool as shit. And that it was admirable that he would haul his ass out to the far flung NYC beaches on a daily basis and get out there in the water and etc some waves. I never contended that what he did wasn’t cool as fuck, and pretty awesome to boot, just that he was misrepresenting himself as surfer.
Im still not sure if that’s true. Because I haven’t exactly been Chatty Cathy with all of the surfers at the breaks Ive been visiting in SoCal. I’ve got a few fervent supporters who have been supportive of me in my mission to become a n actual surfer. I just down want to come off as a jabroni.
I think what really matters is that you just get int hw after and paddle out, day after day, and keep on trying to catch waves. There’s no set parameters for what makes surfer. Except for the one major tenet of “Don’t Be An Asshole” But I think even that one is malleable. Real cool dudes wouldn’t try and steal a wave from a newbie who clearly paddled into it first, would they? Well, that’s the thing. They WOULD. If the newbie wasn’t acting respectfully enough. Thinking about it in these terms, it almost makes me feel as though Im trying to join a motorcycle club, where there’s a hierarchy. Which is sort of true. But there’s a pretty much unending amount of pavement out there. And only so ,any good waves. More than hierarchy, it seems to become a show of respect.
I’ve heard lots of stories about fistfights on the shores of Southern California beaches at the popular surf spots. Because newbies come in and act like jerk offs and mess up the order of things. And that’s pretty unacceptable. If Id been hitting the same break every day for months or years, Id be pretty bummed out if some newbie came and tried to take my wave.
Which I guess makes me proud that I’ve thus far been accepted into the community. I know my place. And I proudly accept it. That said, I still haven’t even stood up, really. Ive finally started actually catching waves. Being able to identify them on the horizon, and position myself properly, and paddle into them, and catch the waves… I just haven’t managed to stand up on the board for any actual discernible amount of time. And by discernible I mean, one full second. Like an actual One-Mississippi. But I keep on trying. I didn’t even know it was possible for a human to measure time in increments of split seconds. But since I’ve been trying to surf, Ive been doing it. I’ve been put there in the cold water in my wetsuit on my surfboard and Ive been catching waves. And I’ve been pushing my body up so the only part of it that’s touching the board is my feet. And I keep getting just a liiiiiittttle bit more time on my feet before I fall right off, and once again become one with the ocean. But I keep paddling. Back out, and getting back up.
Because I take great pride in the fact that, while I might not be an actual surfer, yet… I’m not a fucking boogie boarder.