If you say you don’t talk to your board, you lie. Most of the time your board is the only friend you have in the water, and sometimes your board gets pissed and whacks you on the head or leg or (and I’m still in awe about this one)-your fin gets stuck inside your
sleeve and almost tears your muscles and veins apart, leaving you with an enormous
bruise… I’m just saying.
BUT when you are surfing, either solo or with your pals, no one cares about you, but your board. I have three: Looney Marshmallow (my Wavesport foamie-first board), my daughter Andie Jo named him. My second board is a 7’2” Torq hardtop fun-board, named Frosty Lou (don’t worry about the reason) and my latest edition, my 8’ Torq hardtop, Roxy Rose. These boards/friends have been involved in long diatribes with me about all sorts of topics. We chat about “taking us home” when the session is over, and we need one more good wave, and we chat about “We’re going to have to work hard for this one” when the wave is harder to catch, and we chat about “not looking back at a big ass wave, and just going for it” when the wave is bigger than usual.
Sometimes our conversations are serious when it’s time to focus, and sometimes it’s silly banter, like walking down the hall of your high school with a friend before Homeroom. I even have jokes with my board, and as I write this I realize the careful balance between being “read” and being considered “insane”, but…whatever. My favorite joke is when I actually expect my hair to stay dry throughout the session. So, when a big wave hits and I have to turtle roll (because I can’t duck dive with the buoyancy of my boards) and I flip back onto my board drenched, I joke, “Do you think my hair is still dry?”, and I always laugh.
I had a student once (I teach 8th grade where everything you say is judged) who said, “Oh yeah, I talk to my board Beatrice all the time, she’s my best friend out there.” I remember laughing very hard when I heard this and thinking how awesome he was for revealing this truth. It wasn’t until he did, that I admitted that I also had friendships with my boards. I was asked once from a friend I ski with if I talk to my skis too, but that is just absurd! “No, I don’t talk to my skis! Come on, it’s totally different.”
Talking to my boards is my preface to a very important lesson that I’ve picked up about surfing. Socializing isn’t acceptable (from what I’ve seen). Although I sometimes try to break the code and start polite conversations with people, it usually falls flat. I get it though, we aren’t out there to share stories, we are there to steal each other’s waves (just kidding). I’ve sat a few feet away from others before and literally not made eye contact. It’s awkward, and although I’ve tried to break the “weird” of the moment, most people don’t budge. When I first started surfing, I thought this was rude and cold, but as time passed, I realized that it’s just what it is. I do however see people who actually went out together and they chat their heads off. So much sometimes that I never actually see them go for a wave, which is fine, because that means more for me.
Being a pretty introverted person (unless there’s wine involved), I don’t mind the “No Talking Rule”. I don’t have to worry about banter, and whether I’m in a good mood and wanted to get out, just to get out, or if I’m in a bad mood and have to get out or explode, or if I’m in a sad mood, and need the waves as my therapy- there’s no stress about conversation.
I think it’s bizarre to know, as a person who didn’t start surfing until she was 40, that there is an entire World happening in the water. I’d driven past beaches with surfers bobbing around like little buoys for years, and never even thought about the layers and layers of “culture” they were immersed in. My only surf knowledge came from Point Break (which is a fantastic movie), but that only jaded me to believe that it was all about mean, macho, surf-jerks of the open water. The real life out there is much more interesting.
Because I usually surf at dawn now, I’ve seen even a deeper understanding of the “surf code”. It’s usually cold and it’s usually a little creepy at first light, and it’s usually the same people every time. Which means there is a distant, yet connected family out there, and we are all in love with the same thing; yet no one talks about it. We all have places to go after our session, some stay longer than others, and some have to get in and get out (I never stay out longer than an hour). But what is consistent is that we all show up, day after day, because if we don’t our day just won’t be the same. Church truly is the only word I have to say for this. I just can’t find another word that satisfies the process and honors the routine. And in church no one talks, because that’s just rude.
So now, when I am out in the first light of day, and I see some fellow people who I only know because we park next to each other, and I recognize the cars, or I recognize their boards, I feel a sense of unity. We won’t look at each other, or say anything (although I’m always watching great waves and being stoked for the person who had it), to you, I just want to say, “Good morning, and thanks for being good company out here.” Because despite the chats with my boards, it’s nice to know someone else (who isn’t made of epoxy or fiberglass) is close by.