My friend Steve was giving me a hand finishing up the staining of a cabin in the woods. The temporary renter of the cabin was a young woman who works in the wide world of psychoanalyzing and psycho-advising and psycho-counseling. She had just revealed that her partner… surfs. Not around here. “Venice.” Oh. “California.” Oh. I didn’t think Venice is particularly known for surfing. “Well.” Okay, so, he’s a hodad? “What’s a hodad?” Steve explained the term. “So,” she said, “during the pandemic, a lot of people started surfing, or were able to surf more.” Oh, yeah; for sure. “So…”
It still didn’t answer the question about hodad-ness.
So, then I told her what the pandemic did for folks out here on the fringe. For folks who only need a signal from the cosmic cloud to work remotely, remoteness was, and still is, up for grabs. Or for sale. “So?” So, more surfers. “And does that, in some way, annoy you?”
Yes. You see, I said, I seem to differentiate between surfing, and surfers who have a certain… connection… and those who do it for the… social aspects. Surfing is cool and I, um… uh… I don’t really go for cool by association.
Somewhere in here the woman made, I believe, a psycho-judgment that I was, not a sociopath and narcissist that I claimed to be, and possibly took some pride in being, but a grumpy old surfer unable to realize and/or accept that surfing is really just another excuse for healthy social interaction in a beachside setting.
Wait. I am just another grumpy old surfer unable to appreciate the reality or share the joy? Oh, the guilt I feel. I was being accused of being self-aware and in denial of being self-aware; no, not true.
Well, maybe. I don’t know. Allow me to self-examine. I have developed some appreciation of the cultural circus aspects of surfing. Some. You know, like going to Westport mid-summer, once every other year. Festive.
When I started, just after junior high, none of my contemporaries surfed. Surfing was cool, even then. If you lived twenty miles from the nearest breaking waves, but surfed, you had an automatic plus in the cool category. Many tried it, some stuck with it. No one dropped the surfer checkmark next to his name (not sexist, didn’t seem to have any female surfers at Fallbrook High- would have been fine with it, probably). I was part of some sort of informal crew, one that broke up almost immediately after high school.
Then I wasn’t. I was a lone surfer. Sounds cooler than it is. I worked in Oceanside, then moved to Pacific Beach, University City, Encinitas, Mission Hills. I occasionally went surfing with someone I worked with or for. I recognized surfers at spots I frequented, but surfing was something one did before or after (or during- Trestles period) school, or work; forty minutes or so in the water, on average. This is where and when I developed my ‘ghetto mentality.’ Keep your head down, don’t look other surfers in the eye. These are not your friends; these are your competition. This is my often-used excuse for poor wave etiquette. I should apologize. Probably. I may have changed. Possibly.
San Diego, Ocean Beach, 1978: We were moving to the Northwest. I was unaware of any surf possibilities on the Olympic Peninsula. I checked out from my job before lunch. Trish was still working. It was fall, but the day was hot, and the water was still warm. I was walking out toward the pier. There was a crowd sort of hanging on the wall and in the parking lot. I don’t really remember if the surf was good or not. What I remember is the gallery, hanging out, sharing and utterly convinced of their individual and group coolness. Believing I was giving up surfing, my thought was, “Yeah; I’m too old for this shit.”
It might actually be that the older surfers are always being pushed out of the way, accused of not getting it by another next generation of surfsters, if not hipsters. It might also be true that it is difficult to maintain a certain level of involvement in a place where the waves are fickle. I have difficulty imagining what it might be like in a place where the waves are more consistent, and, undoubtedly, more consistently crowded. When I sneak away and go to some possible surf location, I do, almost always, know someone, or many someones who are also there, looking for a few waves.
There are multiple identifiable-if-unofficial groups of surfers in the spread-out neighborhood of the Strait/Islands/Northwest Coast, each with revolving memberships, that one could, loosely, describe as ‘crews.’ Or, maybe, ‘pods.’ Some surfers are actually accepted in multiple informal groupings. Some surfers are not accepted in any. Sad.
True of everywhere, no doubt.
I am actually very happy that I do have friends who surf. I’m actually fine with chatting it up on the beach. For a while. Party? Party wave?
Hmmm. Best things I can say about my therapy session is that it confirms what the self aware me already realizes, and that didn’t have to pay for it.