Why Surfers Quit, Why I Won’t, and Why Ray Hicks (and others) Can’t

It’s not that I haven’t felt (perhaps properly and rightly) old while surfing, it’s just that I haven’t felt that way lately.

Just started and I have to clarify. I may not feel my age (not quite 64) ‘while surfing,’ but aches and pains (nothing serious) and fatigue (of the very best kind) generally follow a session. Then again, my average time in the water is now somewhere over two hours, and I don’t bob and wait, meditate and chat (maybe a little chatting, just to seem friendly, between sets); I shark the lineup, with the goal of surfing until I can barely drag my board back up the beach.

This is usually my goal; to surf (as long as the waves are good), as long as I can, to surf to the best of my ability, and to possibly, maybe, improve my surfing a bit. Oh, and to have fun.

This is so different than sessions when I was younger; an hour or less at Oceanside Pier or the south jetty before work; forty-five minutes (on my half hour lunch break) in the water at Lower Trestles when I worked up the hill painting Marine Corps housing; hitting Swamis between classes at Palomar and work at Buddy’s Sign Service; even a couple of runs over the hill to Sunset Cliffs with Raphael Reda when we were working on submarines at Point Loma. Yeah, it’s a bit of name-dropping, even bragging. Those were all years ago.

The one time I do remember surfing three hours straight was at a little reef at Sunset Cliffs (just north of Luscombs) with Stephen Penn. I was twenty years old, surfed all the time, and I was totally exhausted.

SO, in my last surf session, earlier this week, after wasting too much energy punching through and trying to find a shoulder, kicking-out or straightening out on closeouts (wouldn’t say I sucked, considering), I drove elsewhere (in my wetsuit) took another hike to a grinding rivermouth/pointbreak. The only other surfer out was pulling in early, sliding down the line. I couldn’t get in early enough on my smaller (smaller than his, way smaller than the one I usually ride) board, couldn’t really handle the drop/turn, though I did get a nice but quick view of several tubes. Basically I sucked, took a thrashing, and couldn’t help but think, feeling every rock on the walk back through my booties, “Maybe I am too old for real waves.”

NOPE. By the time I reached my car, the negativity had changed to, “Next time I’ll go here first. I’ll have the right mindset. Maybe I’ll finish glassing that fish I cut down from my old nine-four. It’ll paddle better. Next time…” Scheming, planning, getting my mind ready to up the rhythm, up my game, drop the casualness, take off on an angle and streak.

I did a selfie, planning of calling it

I did a selfie, planning of calling it “Portrait of a Nineteen Year Old Surfer forty-five years later,” but, one, was horrified when I saw it, and, two, well, refer back to one.

HERE’S how most surfing careers end: You don’t go for a while, and there are a million reasons not to go, only a couple to go (“I WANT TO” and “I HAVE TO”); and when you do go, your surfing is not up to where you think it should be. So, you’re less eager to go next time. So you don’t. Hey, work is important. For most of us, work is necessary. Still evil, mostly. I wish it wasn’t, necessary, but my career was my main excuse for years.

NOW, I’ve already given credit for my old friend Ray Hicks for getting me motivated to get back into surfing, something I hadn’t thought I’d given up, just hadn’t gone in a while; until he and I went surfing and I truly, totally, in-arguably sucked. Not so bad if Ray hadn’t just glided into waves, turned and wailed. BUT, if that competition, based somewhat, I have to admit, on my thinking, “I was always better than Ray, and now….(both self-assessments)”  was an impetus to get back into more regular surfing over ten years ago now, my new motto rather quickly became, “If not now, when?”

The main impediment to my surfing more has become the unwillingness of waves to come down the Straits of Juan de Fuca and my unwillingness to drive to the coast; meaning, when the forecast starts looking good, I start the frothing/ scheming/planning/imaging process. If it looks like it might be good for three days, I HOPE to go twice. At least once. “I have to go, want to go, really need to go.” If I haven’t gone for a while, my wife, Trish, to whom surfing has always been the other woman, will ask, “When are the waves coming? You HAVE to go.”

RAY HICKS has not been surfing nearly enough lately. Yeah, he’s been busy; yeah, yeah, San Diego’s North County waves are crowded or crappy, or both; yeah, yeah, yeah…no. Ray HAS to go. I’m totally kicking his butt; on wave count if not on style points; and one of these days, I will go down south.  Ray and his wife, Carol, are going to Hawaii in June, so he says maybe he better get to surfing. Practicing. UM… YEAH. And I want some Hawaii action photos, if possible.

TIM NOLAN, of “Tim Nolan and the Wave of the Day” fame (google it), is a few years older than I am. He needs to keep surfing. Like, forever; as does the guy with the white beard whose name Adam Wipeout actually knows, and who, Adam claims ‘has Hobuck on lockdown’ (or some similar phrase,though I’ve never seen the guy really standout at the northwest version of Waikiki or San Onofre). I need surfers around who are older than I am, just to remind me I can keep going. I’ve got at least four years or so after Tim quits, and he shows no signs of quitting.

I KNOW I’LL NEVER BE AS GOOD AS I WAS WHEN I WAS NINETEEN. If you’re nineteen and cocky, and want to remember yourself as a great surfer, QUIT NOW! Really. Otherwise…

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2 thoughts on “Why Surfers Quit, Why I Won’t, and Why Ray Hicks (and others) Can’t

  1. Erwin,
    I think you and I have hashed this age/surfing thing over a time or two. Once as my spotter at a local contest and another at the P-Lot at T’s. I’m just a wee bit older than you having surfed for 60 years. Yea, I used to be able to surf the Wedge forty years ago. Hell, me and Greg Wheaton discovered it along with spots we pioneered. Surf the Wedge now? Hell no! I’m just happy to paddle out w/ya at T’s on a log and shag a few. Listen buddy, your right on track with your thoughts. Never quit surfing! If ya can’t do stand up take a piece of wood and glide into a few at Tongue Point with Da Fins!

    Never, ever leave the salt.

    TB

    • Tom, thanks for continuing to support my site. Not ready to give up the dream/fight, even the reality of surfing at an acceptable (to me) level.

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