Words & Photos Sharpy
This surfing lark is sold with rose tinted glasses. Learn to surf they say. Become a better person because you’re at one with the ocean. You too can achieve a Bodhi like Zen-calm and otherworldly placid nature just by riding the pulsing bands of energy we call waves.
This is of course bullshit. The ocean is not your friend. It tolerates your half-assed aquatic shenanigans. Learning to surf is a faff. This we know. There are no shortcuts or cheat sheets to sliding genius. The salt will slap you silly given half a chance. Neptune or whoever controls the deep is a malevolent spirit with no time for the uncommitted.
No matter how far your surfer’s path takes you there are always annoyances and issues, sometimes literally, involved with our little subculture. Our intersection of art, sport, pastime and religion is a hard taskmaster. This is why the truly committed feel that special sense of being a surfer. They masochistically cope with pain that in any other world would be considered a bit odd. Here are a few things you might have to deal with:
Behind your face are sinuses. A space it seems designed specifically to painfully trap sea water for release at an inopportune time later. Generally when you have your hands full and are trying to impress a member of the opposite sex. Forget your toned shoulders and surfer’s tan. It’s having a public nose drain incident that really marks you as a surfer.
Ice Cream Headache
Two of these three words are good. Especially if it’s Ben & Jerry’s Phish Food. Unfortunately the ice cream headache in the ocean is no fun. It feels like some clown has put your head in a medieval torture device and cranked up to eleven. The only solution is to grin and bear it or rub your head. Which does sod all as the pain is deep within your skull. Modern built-in hooded wetsuits certainly help but any big wipeout or brutal duckdive will get you cursing through gritted teeth.
As detailed in far too much graphic detail (I mean, seriously, ewwwwww) yesterday, surfer’s ear is an avoidable but somehow inevitable result of being a British surfer. In short you ear pipe narrows to protect your inner ear plumbing from the cold. The remedy ain’t pretty. Suffice to say it involves rusty power tools and surgeons.
Grit in Orifices
Any whomping wave will let you know who’s boss. You’ll find gravel in places you didn’t know you could get gravel. Especially if you’re surfing one of them French shore breaks. Fun fact. I had a pea-sized bit of grit more than second-finger knuckle-deep up my nose for a few days once. At least we wear wetsuits. So don’t run the orifice breach risk those board short wearing softies do.
Surfing obviously involves a lot of time on your ribs. Especially in the UK battling walls of whitewater on channel free beach breaks. This can lead to weird growths. A kind of spongey sac thing that are your body trying to protect itself. Or if you’re somewhere warm the skin just wears off and you end up with weeping sores and if you’re really lucky sea ulcers. Hmmmmm … drippy.
As much as neoprene tech is veering towards actual magic these days with its scientific boffinery long hours in the water will inevitably end up with a chafe. Sure you lot these days don’t know you’re born, go back to the eighties and you’d get rubs behind the knees, under your armpits and a neck ring of scabs that looked like you’d been to a love bite convention. Modern suits are vastly better and rubs are basically a sign you’re surfing more than most. So, consider them a badge of honour. Just remember not to wince too much when you move and the scabs crack.
So. That’s some of the fun you have to look forward to. Still want to be a surfer? Course you do… Because even as a deformed, deaf, scabby, drippy version of yourself you’re still doing the funnest thing in the world … 😉