With or without you: Quit surfing to get ahead

Stu Nettle picture
Stu Nettle (stunet)
Surfpolitik

476600457.jpgI flew out of Coolangatta seven days ago. Sat myself down in a window seat for the flight home. After takeoff the wing dipped and the plane slowly arced across the coastline, and as it did I spotted the Quiksilver Pro contest structure atop the point at Snapper. From a thousand feet I marvelled at it's diminishing size and its physical insignificance; what had seemed so big just a few hours prior was now a speck against the broad Queensland vista. From this height even the strip of beach and coastline that all Gold Coast life revolves around appeared nothing more than a thin epidermis as the Earth's horizon stretched out in every direction.

It wasn't the first time I've had such thoughts while flying out of Coolangatta. In my experience each visit to the Gold Coast requires a recalibration of perspective. The reason, I've come to believe, is that my version of a surfing life bears little resemblance to that which is put on display at Quiksilver Pro time. At that time the idyll stares down at you from the billboards, haughtily adorns every surf shop, and articulates itself in the tourist brochures. It's ubiquitous and the effect is oddly disorientating. I surf, they surf, so why does it all feel so fucken foreign?

I understand that surfing means many things to many different people. But up there, at that time, it doesn't feel like surfing can be a multitude of things. In fact it feels like the inverse of that. It feels like surfing is a singularity. It feels like surfing is an aggressive, overbearing monoculture.

So each departure from the Quiksilver Pro feels like an escape, and the escape triggers a bout of existential pondering such as the one I recently had on the plane. But what to make of this newly rejigged worldview? You've gotta make sense of these feelings while they last and follow them to wherever they may lead. And with this in mind I went to the office and turned on the computer...

One of the first stories I came across concerned US surf journalist, Jason Borte, and his decision to stop surfing for a year. The idea of abstinence appealed, if a bit dramatic. In my younger years I took similar, though shorter and hence less severe, sabbaticals moving away from the coast when I felt cloistered by the beach. At those times I felt the need to be surrounded by non-surfers, to view the surfing culture from afar. To get some new perspective.

As it happens, Borte's motivations weren't too dissimilar to my own. “I hope to discover some things about myself and about surfing,” he said after I contacted him, sounding very much like someone seeking new perspectives.

Yet if my impulse was due to a clash of values, Borte's self-imposed exile – and it is self-imposed, he has no injury or impediment – has a basis in experience. Borte isn't moving away from the coast or away from surfers, “My only restriction,” he says, “is that I won't ride a wave, so I still follow the sport, operate a surf camp, and take my son to the beach.”

There's no 'greater' goal in Borte's quest. “I'm not religious,” he answered when I asked about asceticism, “but I like the notion of self denial.” And so it is the simple act of riding waves that Borte will deny himself. “I'm very much looking forward to January 1 assuming I make it that far.” In the meantime Borte will document his travails in his cheekily titled blog, How Surfing Ruined My Life.

It was a refreshing exchange. Borte's actions felt like the antithesis of the vacuous 'All we do is surf' jingoism that sells boardshorts on the Gold Coast. Rather than playing superficial dress ups he's delving much deeper into his identity, both as a surfer and as a person, and he's taking the path of most resistance to get there. I thought his action admirable and I couldn't help but wonder if I could do the same. To take a year long vow of abstinence and shock my system into feeling.

At the same time I was conversing with Jason Borte, Tropical Cyclone Lusi began moving southward from Fiji. It's trajectory took it towards that empty bit of ocean above New Zealand's North Island. Call it the sweet spot of our swell window, where a well-placed low pressure system can provide uniform long-range swell to the whole East Coast from Central Queensland south to Eden. Tropical Cyclone Lusi did just that and on Sunday I had one of the best days of surfing I'd had in many years. When it was over, after four surfs and a hundred great waves, I stood on the beach with a mate speaking half-hysterical jibberish, a full moon rising over the horizon bathing the still-peeling waves in iridescent light.

What became clear as we drove home (still wearing our wetsuits and zinc) was that it's easy to get caught up in the myriad activities that surround surfing. That between great sessions there's much empty space and we fill it with pro competition, or content marketed corporatism, or fashion, or music, or the many other aspects that compose our culture. We fill the empty space with the culture itself. So much culture that it sometimes overwhelms. Yet at certain moments clarity is provided and a new perspective becomes clear: in the end all that really matters is riding waves. And any path leading to that realisation is a worthwhile one.

Comments

mk1's picture
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mk1 Wednesday, 19 Mar 2014 at 9:46am

Having spent a few years landlocked overseas I realised in the end how much I miss the ocean rather than surfing. Being in and around the ocean is a critical part of my life and surfing is just one of the possible means to that end.

abc-od's picture
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abc-od Wednesday, 19 Mar 2014 at 9:48am

Very nicely written, but I'm not giving up surfing for anything. I think I'm well past the age where angst or confusion bothers me so much that I'd feel the need to take drastic action. Aside from this website I interact very little with the surfing culture anyway so I don't get bogged down in the clutter.

yocal's picture
yocal's picture
yocal Wednesday, 19 Mar 2014 at 10:06am

I was off the board for 8 months with an ACL tear. The hiatus was awesome for my surfing I reckon... I started to think about what I wanted to improve, and how much I should jump at an opportunity to score good waves.
Best thing about it was getting into bodysurfing while I was in recovery.

Craig's picture
Craig's picture
Craig Wednesday, 19 Mar 2014 at 10:24am

Almost the exact same situation to you Yocal.

Being out of the water for a few months after knee surgery not only got me more into surf photography, but also made me experience the ocean in a different way.

I also body surfed for a couple of months with a hand plane to strengthen my leg and I have never had so much barrel time in my life. Out in perfect offshore 3-4ft Manly beaches body surfing puts you right in the energy! It also gets you fit really quick as you have to swim constantly and there's no resting on the board.

Then from there I borrowed an old 8ft single fin off Stu and got so familiar with it, I was surfing 4-6ft reefs on the South Coast and heavy beachies back around Sydney.

I think this helped my surfing as well, ironing out small flaws and developing more flow.

Now I'm back to my normal shorties but always switch up the board for conditions.

Haven't bodysurfed for a while, must do it soon.

Ps. I can't go a few days without surfing, it kills me, so I have to go for an amazing adventure walk or other such activity to stimulate the senses.

thermalben's picture
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thermalben Wednesday, 19 Mar 2014 at 10:30am

Craig wrote: I can't go a few days without surfing, it kills me, so I have to go for an amazing adventure walk

Does it always have to be an adventure? And, an amazing adventure at that? Or do you settle for nothing less?

Craig's picture
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Craig Wednesday, 19 Mar 2014 at 10:36am

Well, it can't just be a walk along the Esplanade at Manly, has to be somewhat interesting!

thermalben's picture
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thermalben Wednesday, 19 Mar 2014 at 10:46am

Really? I would have thought a walk at Manly in the right kind of weather could be quite stimulating :)

yocal's picture
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yocal Wednesday, 19 Mar 2014 at 3:46pm

just add a pair of suspicious dark sunglasses

evosurfer's picture
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evosurfer Wednesday, 19 Mar 2014 at 10:17am

After flying up to snapper last Friday and Saturday being super hyped for perfect waves and seeing absolute perfection for 2 days and having spent a total of 12hours surfing which include 3 surfs with a grand total of 6 waves I also now revaluating my surfing time. So I can certainly understand why one would do this. If you cannot ride any waves why put your life on hold to go surfing. I have done this all my life might be time to hang up the fins.

wally's picture
wally's picture
wally Wednesday, 19 Mar 2014 at 10:46am

I think the secret is not to be too fixated on the minuscule bit of time when you are actually riding a wave.
Enjoy the swim, enjoy every duck dive, enjoy every paddle over the top, enjoy every moment of just bobbing around, the wind brushing across the surface of the water. That's the surfing experience.
Occasionally you ride one, nice.
Surf culture. Largely nonsense. The waves don't even notice we're there.
Love a bodysurf too.
This 1 and half minute vid, with Mark Cunningham and Kelly Slater talking about bodysurfing, says it pretty well.

wally's picture
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wally Wednesday, 19 Mar 2014 at 10:47am

Sorry, here is the bodysurf link.

blak's picture
blak's picture
blak Wednesday, 19 Mar 2014 at 11:12am

When this bloke's body is old and broken, he will regret the year of surfing that he missed out on.

stunet's picture
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stunet Wednesday, 19 Mar 2014 at 11:34am

Yeah, I don't know. I mean, read some of the posts here, people having enforced time out of the water who find other ways to enjoy life and smell the roses. Certainly Borte may regret missing a few waves but if new feelings and experiences arise then he is a richer man for it.

alakaboo's picture
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alakaboo Wednesday, 19 Mar 2014 at 11:13am

That was a very well written piece Stu, because until you got to the resolution in the last couple of paragraphs I was going to call you up and tell you what an idiot you were.

stunet's picture
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stunet Wednesday, 19 Mar 2014 at 11:38am

Thanks for the frank response 'Boo! As a wise man once said: "Each man has to find his own way." Fortunately my way has been lined with cyclone swell.

alakaboo's picture
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alakaboo Wednesday, 19 Mar 2014 at 4:00pm

Given the discussion I thought I'd come back with a more considered response.

I guess like many I'd been considering my commitment to surfing recently. Living an hour from the surf and with all the other normal constraints of a dad in his thirties I hadn't been in the water much. Couple that with a torn rotator cuff and a bulging disc last year and I spent a lot of time on the sidelines.

The worst thing for me is not actually missing the surf or even missing the good surf, it is getting the chance to surf and being shit.
I came (back) to surfing late, I'm never going to be great and I've come to terms with that. But it is recognising that you've become the archetypal weekend warrior that hurts the most.

The feeling that your hands have got no feel for the water, that you're late getting to your feet and when you do they feel like lumps of clay. That you misjudged the tide or the sand is not where it used to be, that you brought the wrong board. Pulling back on the late takeoff as you're worried you just might not miss that bloke on the Hypto paddling up the inside.
To feel all this AND to recognise it, that is the hardest thing for me to deal with.
Feeling like Brando in On the Waterfront

So I was thinking about whether I really could be bothered to make the effort to stay out of that rut. To stay fit, to drive when I think it'll be good even when nobody else is keen or can clear the diary, to have boards that compensate. To continue to only take jobs that allow me the flexibility. To choose a car based on the fact they can fit a 6'6" behind the seats.

Then came Lusi.
Sunday wasn't the day for me. I spent a lot of time in the water and the fitness work paid off, but it wasn't clicking. It was more crowded than I expected, even given the jellyfish shitwind. My lack of water time was apparent, I was grasping at positives. A good takeoff here, a halfhearted turn there. A brief cover up followed by a beating.

But Monday, Monday was golden.

And I think Borte is a twit.

stunet's picture
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stunet Wednesday, 19 Mar 2014 at 4:19pm

I'm glad you took the time to get all that down 'Boo, cos reading it made my arvo.

Cheers,

zenagain's picture
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zenagain Wednesday, 19 Mar 2014 at 4:26pm

Me too, loved it 'boo.

Just that one day can keep you going for ages.

Sweet.

mcbain's picture
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mcbain Wednesday, 19 Mar 2014 at 11:29am

There is something tragic to be seen in a middle aged man who's life long obsession with surfing has left him at a loss with what to do when the conditions aren't perfect or the crowds are too thick - staring out to sea at the lookout - grumbling.
It took me some time to realise, but there is life - lots of it - outside of surfing. This makes those last few days of surf all the more sweet.

stunet's picture
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stunet Wednesday, 19 Mar 2014 at 11:47am

Hey Wolfcastle,
Not too sure if you're referring to Jason or myself but I think you're wrong on both counts. I don't want to speak for him but I don't think "conditions not being perfect or the crowds too thick" is his reasoning, and I know it isn't mine.

In part I see Jason's action as akin to the author, can't recall her name now, who wrote "The Winter of Our Disconnect." Seeing her family was overwhelmed by online activities she unplugged the whole family then observed how things changed. It was a bit of a pop psych book but made great observations about the affects of time spect on front of a screen. And Jason is a writer too, I've no doubt he's observing and documenting the changes in his behaviour.

mcbain's picture
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mcbain Wednesday, 19 Mar 2014 at 1:11pm

Neither you, nor Jason - I like the article and Jason's approach. Rather the perennial dude at every surf check point that has lost the urge to surf - but has nothing else.

turner's picture
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turner Wednesday, 19 Mar 2014 at 11:37am

To a large extent being a surfer can limit the ways in which you view or appreciate the ocean. How many times have you looked out there on a small onshore day, and either said to your mates, or thought to yourself "Nah, that's shit"?

Why is it shit?

Is it shit because a number of elemental forces are not cooperating in order to provide YOU with a recreational opportunity?

Pretty sure the ocean doesn't give a shit about that.

Giving up surfing might be a bit extreme, but perhaps from time to time it's necessary to step back from our surferpocentric perspective and find other ways to look at/experience the ocean.

deckstrus's picture
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deckstrus Wednesday, 19 Mar 2014 at 11:39am

I'm out of the water for a year with a very severe tibial plateau fracture sustained from a kite surfing lesson on Mauritius whilst on honeymoon. It was a gift from a friend. Nice.

Its now been 6 months and its been a very hard road. I've been in a LOT of pain but its slowly starting to subside. During this time I've barely even thought about surfing, its been much more basic than that, its been about managing the pain and getting my leg moving again.

Good news is that after 20 years of doing it (half my life) I've given up smoking ciggys. Bad news is my immobility and giving up smoking ciggys has meant gaining 10kg weight in 6 months.

I've got so much metal in my knee now its not funny. I'll never get the same range back and they tell me I'll get arthritis in my 50's.

Craig I've taken onboard your comments and think I am going to follow your track. I am already in to my photography and am going to get back in the water body surfing and then perhaps a long board too. Great advice.

Hopefully I can get back on a short board again one day.

freeride76's picture
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freeride76 Wednesday, 19 Mar 2014 at 11:51am

With a young family and work-time needed to pay the bills, just being able to go surfing, or fishing or have some interaction with the ocean is a fucking privilege and a blessing.

Giving that up on some kind of whim - or so I could get hits on a blog- just comes across as the worst kind of self-indulgent wank to me......especially when the bloke is maintaining a business based around surfing.

The idea that going surfing has to make you some kind of mono-cultural blockhead is junk too. Surfers can read and write books, interact with broader cultures and ideas as easily as any other group.

the-spleen's picture
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the-spleen Wednesday, 19 Mar 2014 at 12:04pm

So many stories about injuries that kept people out of the water... and Ive got one too. When I was 24 I had a head on crash that shattered my left leg from the knee down. There were other injures (neck and back) but it was my leg that kept me out of the water for the better part of 18 months.

After the trauma of the crash passed the reality that I couldn't surf hit hard and I got very depressed. A lot of things happened but long story short my life subtly turned in another direction. I reconnected with school fiends and uni friends and I got interested in things I simply wouldn't have cared or had the time to when I surfed.

I began to realise how much time and energy surfing took up. Surfing has a tendency (a bad tendency I think) to reward those who are "hardcore". The guys who just surf and do nothing else are looked upon fondly and for the first time in my life I saw through that and began to see it as really dumb. I'd always thought non-surfers were jealous of surfers but I also realised that was just something surfers told themselves.

Ten years later and my leg is scarred but almost 100% better. I surf a lot and funnily enough I've fallen out of touch with non-surfing school friends again. I'll never be a hardcore surfer but I'll never fully be cured of the bug.I'm not too sure what I'm trying to say except that I think time out of the water can be a very good thing.

mk1's picture
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mk1 Wednesday, 19 Mar 2014 at 12:20pm

Excellent comment all round! The time and energy required to be a very good surfer (not pro, which allows travel and time for other pursuits) usually requires a singular focus that cuts out wider growth. It is possible to have both but its not common.

Unfortunately I see the old surfer drunk spending most of his time in the pub as the end product of this devotion - a slow decline in interest in surfing combined with a lack of depth to appreciate other aspects of life.

freeride76's picture
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freeride76 Wednesday, 19 Mar 2014 at 12:17pm

Mate, you can apply that argument to anything. Seriously.

That line that surfing is somehow special in terms of rewarding the "hardcore" is just a myth that keeps getting perpetuated, usually by surfers.

Same thing applies to fishermen, or golfers or rockclimbers or writers or artists or horseriders, chess players, tiddlywinks champions or businessmen. The more time and application the better people get. And the more they have to sacrifice in other areas of life. Most people are generalists, some people specialise and get good at something.

It's no secret and its definitely not unique to surfing.

the-spleen's picture
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the-spleen Wednesday, 19 Mar 2014 at 12:25pm

I know its not unique to surfing. But I was a surfer, a very involved one, and I couldnt see beyond it until I stopped surfing. I'm in absolutely no doubt you could interchange the word "surfer' for "fishermen" (or whatever).

mk1's picture
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mk1 Wednesday, 19 Mar 2014 at 12:31pm

"you can apply that argument to anything"

Firstly hat doesn't preclude it's correctness, secondly I believe surfers are on average more socially isolated than other sportspeople. Perhaps due to the vagaries of the ocean, the sheer time it takes to get good or just that surfing is an adolescent sport without deep community ties, but surfers tend to get locked away in surfland for the majority of their formative years in a way that writers, artists, horseriders, businessmen wouldn't (leaving chess players as a peculiarity going by the only one I have ever met).

wellymon's picture
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wellymon Wednesday, 19 Mar 2014 at 7:17pm

Yep I burnt all my boards Sunday night, chucked them in the fire whilst camping down South.
Woke the next morning, drove into the little town and do you think I could buy any fucking marbles, especially the Steelo's....?
Gutted.

freeride76's picture
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freeride76 Wednesday, 19 Mar 2014 at 12:34pm

I guess I take issue with the value judgment that this is somehow "Bad".

It's the same for any human activity.

An inner city musician probably has a far more limited intellectual, scientific and naturalistic horizon than a lifetime surfer.

freeride76's picture
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freeride76 Wednesday, 19 Mar 2014 at 12:36pm

"or just that surfing is an adolescent sport without deep community ties,"

Strongly disagree.

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freeride76 Wednesday, 19 Mar 2014 at 12:39pm

MK1, nothing could be a more mainstream activity in Australia today than surfing.

Our PM surfs, our former treasurer, attorney general, minister for the environment and education.
Our most celebrated international author surfs.
Dentists, doctors, lawyers etc etc.

The suggestion that surfers are somehow one dimensional people is just an old archaic remnant of seventies surf culture.
It's well past time we took it down the back paddock and put it out of it's misery.

mk1's picture
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mk1 Wednesday, 19 Mar 2014 at 2:00pm

I would drive a delineation between the individual and surfing/surf culture.

I agree, the average person who surfs will probably be a pretty decent, rounded person 1 on 1. However as surfing is an individual pursuit, these people don't make the visible culture of surfing, sure doctors, dentists & lawyers surf but they don't represent it. Australian surfing culture is adolescent in both age and attitude. It's brash, punk and drunk all in one. It has no formal cultural ties and spurns them as a matter of principal. I've lost count of the amount of people who say to me "I tried surfing, and I really liked it but i can't understand why everyone is so aggressive". Foreigners learning to surf in Aus are usually pretty shocked to discover this.

Having recently taken up rock climbing, I'm amazed at the level of open support shown for other climbers. If you are high level in golf, their will often be links to the broader community through the clubs, memberships, etc. In surfing, links to the community are spurned. Surfing's anti-social youth first nature excludes itself from a deeper social involvement that is left for individuals to indirectly pick up and counter.

Sheepdog's picture
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Sheepdog Wednesday, 19 Mar 2014 at 1:17pm

Surfing is an incredibly selfish, narcissistic pursuit.... Everyone of us wants "that wave", whether it be the the one you scored on a solo sesh' when you selfishly snuck out of bed at 4am leaving the wife and kids defenceless in your cave, or whether it be the bomb standout wave on a sunday morning, the one that gives you bragging rites at the arvo pub session. Everyone saw YOU.... Even the tourists.... For a fleeting moment, you were the star.... All part of the "buzz".....
We chase a wave for that "feeling". The "feeling" doesn't put bread on the table. It is purely for the "self". I have seen relationships ruined... I have seen sane men turn into selfish violent animals protecting THEIR territory... "Localism" is just another side effect of the extreme selfishness that surfing entails. "Fuck off!! It's mine!!!"
Those that are naturally selfish, born narcssistic, can live an entire lifetime surfing every day if possible. Everything else takes a back step.
But not everyone is born that way.... That is why many surfers in their late 30s to late 40s often have to jump off the "me me ME" wagon for a while, because they have to reconnect with their true identity.... Watching their kids grow up, loving their partners, sharing THEIR life with those close, and wanting to share others lives with themselves, those dear to them that do not surf....
My recent battle with melanoma, and then moving to care for my dear dying father has made me look at things so differently..... I could've stayed up in Qld, gotten some unreal barrells last weekend, but no amount of barrells could compare to spending an extra 1 1/2 years with my dear dad... Rip mate.....
I'm now back on the "me me me wagon", and loving it.
But time out is needed for some folk. I'm one of them.....

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silicun Wednesday, 19 Mar 2014 at 1:22pm

Agree entirely SD, a good balance and a bit of perspective in life goes a long way

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silicun Wednesday, 19 Mar 2014 at 1:20pm

Interesting article Stu, thanks. One thing that struck me is the idea of the "culture" being the overbearing part of surfing ie the commercial aspects, competition, forums/websites and other media etc etc. This is understandable for someone in Jason's position or in your position Stu. Being involved in surf journalism, selling boardies, competition you are surrounded by it all the time. Its seems odd that you would give up the act of surfing as opposed to giving up these features of the culture. I think in that position I would try to abstain from writing about surfing, being involved in the commercial side of the culture, "following the sport" and get back to basics - going for a surf, taking my kids to the beach.

stunet's picture
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stunet Wednesday, 19 Mar 2014 at 1:38pm

Ahhh...what a sensible reply. It's true that I surround myself with more 'surf culture' than the average surfer, it's my job after all. However, it's not just culture per se, when I engage with aspects of surf culture I enjoy - the words of Matt Warshaw or Steve Shearer, the humour of Lewis Samuels, or even just a thoughtful response on a forum - I feel better for it. A part of me feels enriched. So although I say "all that really matters is riding waves" I can't help but be drawn to these other things. 

 

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blindboy Wednesday, 19 Mar 2014 at 4:09pm

That's what I did for a long time silicun. Surfing and everything associated with it were dominating my life so I kept surfing and dropped everything else. I stopped writing, stopped competing, stopped looking at mags, broadened my interests and my circle of friends and didn't look back. I still haven't sat through a surf video! These days I am obviously a bit more involved but a long way from where I once was.

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freeride76 Wednesday, 19 Mar 2014 at 1:34pm

ah Doggie, point taken mate but is it any more selfish and narcissistic than any other thing people do?

Anymore selfish than the bloke down the pub everynight, spending all weekend on the punt? Anymore selfish than the bloke who practices golf three arvos a week then spends all day Sat on the course?

People seem to be taking surfing and surfers in the extreme case but I see plenty, the overwhelming majority of surfers......run businesses, tradies, people from all walks, family men etc etc.....get a couple of go-outs when they can, enjoy their surf time and juggle it all as best they can just like everyone else.

No more, no less adjusted or maladjusted than anyone else.

And people do put bread on the table with it. PLenty of 'em. The bloke who is quitting surfing makes a living off it, and presumably seeks to make a buck off this whole sabbatical.

For every bitter old cnut with nothing but surfing I'll show you fifty stoked retired or semi-retired blokes stoked off their gourd they can still paddle-out and get a few.

Look at the people on this site. Look around at the mainstream. Surfing isn't a fringe activity anymore being undertaken by wild-eyed zealots who do nothing but surf. It's an ordinary recreation like anything else.

Anyway, said my piece. Hope the convo rolls on.

freeride76's picture
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freeride76 Wednesday, 19 Mar 2014 at 1:35pm

"Interesting article Stu, thanks. One thing that struck me is the idea of the "culture" being the overbearing part of surfing ie the commercial aspects, competition, forums/websites and other media etc etc. This is understandable for someone in Jason's position or in your position Stu. Being involved in surf journalism, selling boardies, competition you are surrounded by it all the time. Its seems odd that you would give up the act of surfing as opposed to giving up these features of the culture. I think in that position I would try to abstain from writing about surfing, being involved in the commercial side of the culture, "following the sport" and get back to basics - going for a surf, taking my kids to the beach."

Agree x a million.

sidthefish's picture
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sidthefish Wednesday, 19 Mar 2014 at 1:44pm

It's as serious as you take it. As others have said, Mr Borte should spare us the blog, go break a leg instead.

those of us who have suffered horrendous injuries will all agree. Actually going thru the wringer in any capacity is a great wake up call if you can come out the otherside without being bitter n twisted .

So this Borte guys blog is s'posed to be like AA for surfers ? I'm about as interested in that as I am in Cori Schumaccers "pro surfing destroyed my world" whinings.

That said I have met many people who have let their seriousness of surfing turn them into horrible people.

fuck, there are some BIG problems in the world, but surfing isn't one of them, surely. If it is in your world then you are a cockhead and fully deserving of your suffering. lol.

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stunet Wednesday, 19 Mar 2014 at 2:20pm

Sid, I don't think he's wielding the blunt instrument you think he is. What he's doing sounds ike a personal approach; got less to do with Surfing, than his own relationship with it.

You're a reflective fella, surely you can see how people sometimes become defined by their activities, and how that can halt further development. Never had that thought whilst on a Vipassana retreat? 

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zenagain Wednesday, 19 Mar 2014 at 1:51pm

Good post Sheepdog above and good article Stu.

I had a kind of forced hiatus from surfing for almost 5 years, living in FNQ and then relocating to Sydney. In that 5 years I rekindled my love for fishing and became quite a hopeless golf addict. I never really missed surfing as for most of my life it was all I really knew. It kind of defined me in a way and one day I jumped on a plane and it all stopped.

Chance got me back into surfing and I realised how much I missed it. But in that time and now, I think I've struck a balance. I have a wife, a business, I still play golf and still fish and indulge myself in my second real love, snowboarding.

However, the ocean has a grip on me that I don't think will ever let go. I never sit on a headland grumbling to myself about the conditions because I know that one day the perfect waves will come again, they always do. I'm just really thankful that sometimes one of those beauties comes my way.

PS I agree with everything Freeride has said above.

freeride76's picture
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freeride76 Wednesday, 19 Mar 2014 at 1:57pm

If you ever come back to Aus, I'll pay you in advance for some Japanese lures and seabass tackle.

zenagain's picture
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zenagain Wednesday, 19 Mar 2014 at 2:05pm

Lures aren't cheap here but not sure what they run in Oz now. Looking at about 1200yen for a small plug or minnow (AUD$13).

Last year I got into fishing with an old guy for 'Ayu' where you use a huge pole, no reel and you use another Ayu as a lure fish. They are fiercely territorial so attack the invader and hook themselves. You then change the lure fish for that one and so on.

Check it out, you fish in really fast water and it's a real art. I won't lie, I've spent hours at it and only caught one. Maybe this season....

Anyway, back to the thread.

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alakaboo Wednesday, 19 Mar 2014 at 3:25pm

That stuff looks pretty nuts, Zen.
Used to watch this show to get my kids back to sleep

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zenagain Wednesday, 19 Mar 2014 at 3:53pm

He's kinda on the money there, but there's a bit more to it than that. It's not a bad way to kill a bit of time. That's the kind of countryside in my area. I look a bit out of place fishing with the old crusties though. They've got all the gear (as the Japs tend to do) and I just wear my boardies and booties.

Ayu is so delicious though. We thread it on a stick, salt the fins, cook it over hot coals and eat the lot- head, fins, bones, guts and all. Oishi!

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freeride76 Wednesday, 19 Mar 2014 at 2:07pm

"In surfing, links to the community are spurned. Surfing's anti-social youth first nature excludes itself from a deeper social involvement that is left for individuals to indirectly pick up and counter.'

Not sure where you are mate, but that is definitely not the case around here - Far Northern NSW- and it's not the case on the Goldy or Sunshine Coast or Sydney.
Surfing culture is part of the mainstream around here. Completely integrated into the community. At every level.

The above quote might have been true in 1969 or '73.

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freeride76 Wednesday, 19 Mar 2014 at 2:08pm

"Lures aren't cheap here but not sure what they run in Oz now. Looking at about 1200yen for a small plug or minnow (AUD$13)."

That lure would retail for thirty bucks in Oz.

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zenagain Wednesday, 19 Mar 2014 at 2:14pm
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freeride76 Wednesday, 19 Mar 2014 at 2:52pm

zenagain wrote: Lordy!

http://www.biwa.ne.jp/~y-ogura/hyper/hyper.html

hahaha, nutballs.

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Craig Wednesday, 19 Mar 2014 at 3:10pm

Epic!!

Great diagrams.

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zenagain Wednesday, 19 Mar 2014 at 2:16pm

Please excuse getting off tangent.

Back to it chaps, this is an excellent thread.

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roubydouby Wednesday, 19 Mar 2014 at 2:34pm

Is it any different to growing complacent with a long term relationship - when you take the amazing aspects for granted and the niggling negatives surrounding it (like her mother) become friggin insanity levers?

Then you break up and a year later you bump into each other and the amazing aspects stand out again but with even greater clarity....

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Sheepdog Wednesday, 19 Mar 2014 at 3:35pm

Gday freeride... Hope you've been well. You bring up some very good questions. I can only give you my subjective answers....
You write; "Anymore selfish than the bloke down the pub everynight, spending all weekend on the punt? Anymore selfish than the bloke who practices golf three arvos a week then spends all day Sat on the course?"
They have many similarities, freeride. I never said these traits are only found in the surfing community, did I? Their lives are imbalanced with an addiction of some sort. However, the "narcissism" and selfishness in surfing is far more magnified than those two examples you gave.... I have never seen a punter scratch "fuck off - my TAB" on a "blow ins" car. Punters generally socialise giving eachother tips, not flicking boards at eachother... And sure, you can practice golf by yourself, but really, to enjoy the game, you play with others, you don't hassle or snake, you follow strict rules and etiquette ..... The lone wolf surfer despises others on "his par 5" . I generally like surfing alone way more than a "social round" of hassling....
Your next quite valid point - "but I see plenty, the overwhelming majority of surfers......run businesses, tradies, people from all walks, family men etc etc.....get a couple of go-outs when they can, enjoy their surf time and juggle it all as best they can just like everyone else."
Yes, free ride, I agree... Hence my point ( note the word "MANY") - "That is why many surfers in their late 30s to late 40s often have to jump off the "me me ME" wagon for a while".
Alot of the guys we are both referring to have allready been through that "selfish stage", teens and early 20s and have adjusted their lives accordingly, because they found themselves not to be narcissists.... A few quite mature types even do it a bit younger - in their late 20s.....
And in regards to "putting bread on the table". Selling wax or fixing dings is a market driven element, in response to the overwhelming profits that can be made from this activity. But you don't get that "buzz", that buzz that only YOU OWN, when you sell a pair of made in china boardies... You only get that buzz when you pull in to a wave that YOU hunted, you caught, you owned, and own forever...

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southey Wednesday, 19 Mar 2014 at 3:49pm

I'm unsure who said it " above " , but i agree that Borte could really regret this decision .
Nearly ten years ago i pretty much surfed close to 2 times a day , whilst travelling for around 7 months . And i'm talking chasing swell after swell , driving at night and all , at all the right times of the year ... when i returned to VIC , the cold water , fickleness of so many sand banks , shit quality water , and not hanging around like minded people . Made me a have /want / need a break .... disillusionment .
So i think i surfed twice in 3 or 4 mths , then a major surfing accident .
Anyway , what had made me so willing to do the travel in the first place , coming from a place where everything gets in the way of surfing or its downright hard work , came back to bite me .
I'd become soft /spoilt .
The total time out of the water fucked me over big time , even if you can't go due to other commitments , sometimes knowing that you could of is less of a sacrifice , than knowing you won't for the next few ....

Getting back to my point , he takes a year off .... Who knows what could happen first surf back .... Quite silly to turn your back on the Ocean .
You never know how long you'll have it .....

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freeride76 Wednesday, 19 Mar 2014 at 3:57pm

hhahhah.....mate, there's far more dust-ups at the Lenny pub from the drunks betting on the dishlickers and booze hags than there are at the Point these days.

And localism being unique to surfing?

I rockfish a lot around here and blokes I know aren't scared to pull knives, cut lines and tell people to fuck off back to where they came from.
Rock up to one of the jew ledges and start lobbing baits near other blokes lurefishing and you're in for a nasty surprise.

Like any activity with a scarce resource there will be tribalism and competition for territory, often times ugly.

Generally speaking though, I see far, far less violent localism these days.

Used to be if you looked sideways at someone at the Point you would get a clip around the ear.

uplift's picture
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uplift Wednesday, 19 Mar 2014 at 4:22pm

'Generally speaking though, I see far, far less violent localism these days.'

Hey!!!! Disastrous! Whats happened to Cliffy!!! Surely he hasn't gone soft!!!

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freeride76 Wednesday, 19 Mar 2014 at 4:35pm

Everyone gets old Uppy....we all know that.

Even the fiercest bulls mellow with age.

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Sheepdog Wednesday, 19 Mar 2014 at 4:40pm

Yeah, and I'd expect that if you also mixed alcohol into the equation at 4 foot saturday morning burleigh, there'd be a murder.
And as I said, freeride, these traits aren't souly owned by surfing.... But this article is about surfing..... not fishing.... We can compare all day, but bottomline, surfing is a selfish pursuit.... And yeah, I can be selfish, but sometimes I have to walk away from it to recalibrate...
You find some pissheads doing the same thing too........

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freeride76 Wednesday, 19 Mar 2014 at 5:00pm

"Yeah, and I'd expect that if you also mixed alcohol into the equation at 4 foot saturday morning burleigh, there'd be a murder."

that'd make for some good bloodsport.

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Sheepdog Wednesday, 19 Mar 2014 at 5:14pm

I'd watch that! Sure would beat "dancing on ice"...... ;).

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kaiser Wednesday, 19 Mar 2014 at 5:57pm

Sheepdog wrote: I'd watch that! Sure would beat "dancing on ice"...... ;).

You mean one of the weirdos on the headland strung out on meth? Yeah, I've seen em too...

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sidthefish Wednesday, 19 Mar 2014 at 5:56pm

Listen up sheepy, you stay away from all MY selfish, right, they're MY SELFISH and always was. Nah seriously.

A little persepective goes a long way, FreeR, you would be of the gen that remembers the good pilchard and tailor runs up the coast ? An the old times with guys standing shoulder to shoulder on the beach like it was Fraser Island .

Had a re-union with old Vicco mates last weekend at a locale' they'd being going to for 15 years. Out near the esturary mouth, some big phat houses had been built, private jetty etc. the boys aren't impressed, but it didn't bother me, the beaches were empty, and so was up the river.

I was more concerned with the reaction of my mates to the big houses, than what I was cocncerned with the houses themselves. Cos I sure as hell wasn't gunna let a couple of big new houses spoil a magic weekend.

Maybe therein lies the real dilema, is it the state of surfing, crowds, commercialism, unstopable pop culture, that is the real problem, OR is it our personal reaction to it. ??

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batfink_and_karate Wednesday, 19 Mar 2014 at 6:11pm

"That line that surfing is somehow special in terms of rewarding the "hardcore" is just a myth that keeps getting perpetuated, usually by surfers."

Funny that, I would have thought that freeride was on the top of the pile for doing that, coming down hard on the desk jockeys as he does. :-)

So what now Stu, you write this article and get hundred replies in short time, think you might have hit a nerve at all?

I started late, couldn't get enough of it, had to get out regularly, it was all about the thrill, the learning, the testing of self and character, the moments.

Then wife, kids, life, turning 40 and the dread that all must face, loss of passion, and an inability to get out there when it is 1 foot, onshore and crowded. oops, slippery slope.

Fark that I thought, I'm not giving up, but clearly I'm not going to just get that passion back by some miracle. I'll keep getting out there to stay in touch and see where it takes me.

The passion doesn't return, it's just like a true love affair, surfing and I aren't rooting like rabbits whenever we get the chance. All up it took about a decade for me, from about the time I turned 40 to about the time I turned 50, to get through these various periods. Not surprisingly, this coincided with having children of a certain age.

Now we (surfing and me) are looking for the magic moments, timing our meetings better, enjoying the act as much as the finish, appreciating the surroundings.

I'll get out at the local, but on my terms, but now I aim for the weekend away, regularly, an annual overseas adventure, always with friends if I can bring them, and sometimes alone, just me and my mistress, surfing.

We are what we are. I don't love surfing like I used to, but I know if I hang around enough, and put in a bit of effort, there will be these magic moments that light up my life. In years gone by that would have demanded a physical test, serious surf (by my standards only) but enough to test me out, scare me a little.

Now I can go out on a somewhat deserted south coast beach, in 2 foot peelers, smooth conditions, appreciating the surroundings and taking in the moment(s), enjoy the sheer physicality of being in water, and as long as I have got a share of waves I will paddle in a deeply satisfied human.

Not in love, not in lust, not even jibbering, just that quiet that comes from satisfaction, from having been there, from NOT being surrounded by a hundred human beings and not being in the middle of a big city.

Because that is the way that my mistress and I like it.

Not that there's anything wrong with the 'jabbering idiot after a great session' experience. As Robert Browning said, "Never the time and the place and the loved one all together." I don't wait, or yearn, for those moments any more, maturity brings some gifts in its hard hands. Surely though I still have a few of those days in me.

I have learned about what I can continue to love about surfing, and I'm just looking at that, mostly, and making an effort to be fit for my mistress when we do come together.

That 'phase' or whatever you wish to call it, is one that most people will go through.

Getting old can be a bitch, and it can have its compensations.

Bit I'm not letting go of my shortboards. I will not take that leap into mal-dom.

I still have some fight left in me.

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Sheepdog Wednesday, 19 Mar 2014 at 6:19pm

Kaiser, whenever I see that show advertised, meth heads dancing off their face is the first mind picture I get... lol
Sidney fishus - I reckon you've brought up some points that delve into some very poignant areas, totally separate to my spiel.
I think i was touching on why some of us consciously take time out as a reassesment... I think where you are going with it ( you can correct me) is the area of people consciously and subconsciously pulling back because of dissillusionment, thanks to the "modern world."
"Surfing culture" has changed so much, even since the late 90s....

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sidthefish Wednesday, 19 Mar 2014 at 6:23pm

Seems to be a clandestine Taoist undercurrent here.

hmmmm. Interesting... continue...

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Sheepdog Wednesday, 19 Mar 2014 at 6:34pm

Confucius say, woman who go to bed with sex in brain wake up with fishfinger... Confucius don't mean birdseye either......
Am I allowed to write that? Just did.... Will the politically correct scream "sexist"?
The "modern world", Sid ;)

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sidthefish Wednesday, 19 Mar 2014 at 6:40pm

***disclaimer.

I know many excellent surfers who started very, very young, and gave up because, I believe, they had simply had their fill , by in some cases, their 20s. Won't name names.

High level performance surfers, perhaps they over indulged, and kinda like drugs, it lost its thrill. I dunno, maybe cos they surfed at such a level, they couldn't adjust or appreciate riding waves in a simpler form, or their focus was so intense, none of the other dimensions of surfing could get in.

I dunno, maybe they don't either, they just gracefully stepped aside.

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wellymon Wednesday, 19 Mar 2014 at 8:23pm

Good article Stu, sounds like you had a great day Sunday.

I think my boards are still smouldering on the fire.
Pretty happy now, got home and managed to find some big "Steelo's" down at the mechanics garage.
Anyone want to play marbles for a year, maybe...! Come on just a little.
Good local club down the road, pretty sociable, they're not selfish and even have a 'Marble Forum'.
It's weird though walking in and seeing all these really massive thumbs, I've got a lot of focused dedication and time to get to their level, I think I've got the upper hand as they all have glass marbles......

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away Wednesday, 19 Mar 2014 at 10:26pm

I abstain from riding waves for 11 months per year, and have been doing so for a number of years. Not by choice so much but because of circumstance. It really hurt at the beginning and I still get pangs sometimes when I see good reports on here for my area. Like last weekend.

For the one month of the year, that I am home though, I am the happiest guy in the water. Paddling out in the dark even when the winds are a bit dodgy, hooting other peoples waves, snorkeling when the waves are small. I talk to mates when I go back, who due to job family etc, have only managed a handful of go outs since I saw then the previous year. The distance from the ocean keeps me stoked and hungry, out of bed before dawn and driving to the beach with a SE forecast just in case there is a small window of SW around dawn.

Of course it is important to stay fit and find other ways to stay sane. Skis and skateboards keep me content the rest of the year, but it is the month when I can surf that still makes me satisfied.

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salt Wednesday, 19 Mar 2014 at 10:38pm

All I can say is... Keep writing stu, I love reading your work.

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mitchvg Wednesday, 19 Mar 2014 at 11:06pm

Where have I heard someone talking about the singularity recently? Anyway, Freeride voice you bring a very unique perspective to this... everytime I read something of your's I'm suprised. I'm not even sure you enjoy surfing!? haha.

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mitchvg Wednesday, 19 Mar 2014 at 11:09pm

Just Joshin ya Stu, I noticed you mentioned reading him above.

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denisp Thursday, 20 Mar 2014 at 9:03am

Ha, funny topic. I must say I have no interest in stopping surfing and this guys blog will not see my views. He must have some unresolved issues with himself and I understand that, I was there before. I spent three months overseas during spring and didn't surf. And I even spent a lot of time in Chile but instead I decided to mountaineer in Andes, solo. The experience was life changing, I realized that I was playing the 'safe surfing' when in the water; not risking any critical moves, not taking off too deep...Cruising solo around Andes makes you realize that there are way more powerful elements than the waves we surf. Putting your foot wrong and braking your leg or something could easily kill you as I haven't seen anybody on few of my climbs. Especially on the desert climbs, dry and loose terrain looked horrible, trees don't grow in the area and you can forget about water.
So when I came back all of a sudden I started taking off super deep, trying all these manouvres, getting rolled across the reef, being smashed few times in the day while before I would get smashed once a week or something. This absence has done wonders for my surfing, now I can clearly see big, long walls in front of me and of course, many barrel opportunities. The waves that would teriffy me before are relaxing me now.
To summarize, I will never stop surfing! Even if I get tempted it will be because I want to dedicate myself to summiting a badass mountain, climb a big wall or flying into space.

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freeride76 Thursday, 20 Mar 2014 at 9:39am

I love me surfing Mitchvg.

Like Doggie said though, I'm past the me me me BS.....well, in theory anyway. My wife might argue otherwise.
She surfs as well so sometimes it's playing sandcastles on the beach with the tin lids while she slides a few. Happy Days. No probs sitting out a million two to three foot days.

But when the Point is six foot plus I am hurting if I can't get a go-out. Probably not a nice person to be around if I miss a day like that. I don't need much, a set wave or two fills the stoke bank.....even getting out the back on a big day is a thrill.

Rockfishing fills the hole when time is tight. On the stones by three am....fat jewie in the back of the camry swapped out for a round-tail quad by five am and home with a couple under the belt by six thirty. The family gets a feed and dad is stoked and the day is all in front of us.

Dunno if I could have done it in my twenties though. I was too hungry and selfish.

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wellymon Thursday, 20 Mar 2014 at 11:51am

Geez thats dedication really, owning a surf camp watching waves but not going surfing for a year....! IMO, like what many have said here, sometimes it is good to step aside from something that you love with passion, which involves alot of your time. Then you can focus on other realms, maybe to get ahead in life more or to become a better person....?

Is there a Quitline 137848 number (You CAN quit surfing)
Or is this Jason's next bussiness adventure...?
I won't be picking up the telephone to ring it, here's to ya :)

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mitchvg Thursday, 20 Mar 2014 at 12:34pm

Well there ya go. A frother.

DenisP had a very similar experience to you re. overseas. Coming back though, I've pushed myself less frequently, thinking: I was as giddy as a schoolgirl after each duck dive, so for a 2ft close out barrel on king's groyne, is it really worth risking injury? It's only a matter of time. Injury would put me right out of action. So now, I just wait for the 1 in a 100 perfect double up...