Friday, May 11, 2007


“Shuffle your feet here, there are often sting rays and you don’t want to step on them,” said Sam, and it seemed like sound enough advice to me. I didn’t want to step on a sting ray, it was true. Sting ray barb to the heart, died instantly: who could forget that diagnosis? Not me. Nope. The poor Crocodile Hunter. And I think it’s fair to say that it’s possible that I have a weaker heart than Steve Irwin.

One of the nice things about surfing is you are tied to your floatation device.

Let me tell you: my physical victories in the water were few. I spent a lot of time floating or paddling out of the way of large waves and other surfers (Sam’s other advice with regards to my personal safety had been the highly direct, “stay out of the way of the Mexicans.”). Ultimately, other than frequent beatings and a few brief but wonderful moments when the ocean I moved together in just the right way, most of my time on the board was spent swimming or watching.

And herein was the most surprising part about surfing: there is a very quiet, universally understood social order to it. It’s beautiful and fascinating to watch. Some rules are simple, like “the man closer to the rocks/shore is considered ‘inside’ and he has right of way.” But the other aspects of the lineup are much more intricate, and like so much in the ocean, simply elude accurate description. But it is crucial to grasp them, and quickly, because ultimately, the area in which the actual riding gets done, is not very big.

For the most part, people are very nice to each other in the lineup, largely, I think, due to this unwritten order. The very worst thing that anyone said while I was there was nothing at all. Sometimes, as I understand it, there are altercations. Infractions against locals are particularly egregious and often result in light violence or threats thereof. But as my friend Chris told me, “The Ocean is like a dick-drain. Everyone has a little dick in them; you get it just from walking around, taking care of your shit, y’know? But when you get in the ocean, and you take some waves, all that dickness drains right out of you. And if you’ve still got some dick in you when you’re surfin’? Well man, then you must be some kind of dick.”

I certainly felt drained.

By the end of my stay there, surf was pretty much all I could think about, and I couldn’t even do it right. I usually wound up upside down for God’s sake, ass-kicked and sneezing out salt water for hours afterward. But it doesn’t matter. It’s very much a physical sport, but the deep appeal is social, and ultimately spiritual. No opponents, no finish line: just you, the ocean, some other nice people floating around you, and a few sting rays. I can’t wait to do it again.

1 comment:

AdrianaIsabel said...

You can stop in at "Catcha L’Ola Surf Shop", watch the surf videos playing morning to night, drink an ice cold beer, margarita or mixed drink served on the patio and talk surf with the guys that went out this morning. Catch L’Ola is the spot to find out local conditions and forecasts. Let's go to Zihua...again! You and Sam surf and I promise to baby-sit!