I thought it would be really cool to know how to surf. I have always liked the ocean. Even as a five-year-old boy I would
body surf with the adults and big kids confidently in my floaty bubble on the
Jersey Shore. “Locals only
muddafuckah!” The bigger the waves
the better was my motto. It
freaked adults out to see me out there.
I have no idea why I had no parental supervision. I especially liked it when the wave
would catch you and toss you around like a rag in a washing machine. The sheer raw power of the ocean is not
something to forget my friend. It
will fuck you up.
I should have known surfing was not a good idea for me. I was America’s worst skateboarder
during the first great skateboard wave of the late 70s. As a youngster with compromised balance
that lived on a street with “tar and chip”, it was not an ideal situation. The great age of “tar and chip” has
long since passed, but in our community of Erie PA, what passed for road repair
was spreading molten hot tar all over the street and then passing by with loose
gravel that had been crushed into rough angled chips. This happened each summer. The little rocks worked into everyone’s driveway, which guaranteed
that every ten minutes your skateboard would come to a sudden unexpected stop
with a rock wedges under the wheel.
This concluded in the rider flying off the board and rolling around on
the pavement. Mt. Dew commercials
later taught kids this was “extreme”, but to me it hurt like hell and I didn’t
like it. As a result, my
skateboarding career was brief and undistinguished.
I tried to surf at Myrtle Beach once in college. The waves were so small that it was a
complete waste of time. I did have
a photo taken of myself holding the board in my Jams shorts hoping it would
make me look cool to any ladies I somehow lured back to my lair. “Oh that? It was just some surfing trip last year. Waves were… ah… tasty?” I don’t recall anyone falling for
that. I was very much in the
middle of my awkward stage, which I just emerged from in 2012 after slipping
into it quietly in my pre-teen years.
It was a rough go for a while there. No one was buying into “Greg Miller: Surf Bum”.
I finally had a pretty good chance to surf in Ixtapa Mexico
a few years back. The waves there
are surprisingly large in the middle of the bay. I was staying at the Barcelo Hotel with a bunch of South
American jet trash. No one spoke
English. I remember the maitre d
at the hotel kept trying to seat me in the smoking section. “Ah! Smoooooking Yes?”
No. Non smoking! “Yes!” Then over to the smoking section. He must have thought I looked like a smoker. Maybe it was my costly sunglasses? I dunno. The whole hotel was filled with Latin guys in mustaches
smoking cigarettes in a detached way while their wives and kids acted like
One afternoon I went for it. I used my room number to get a surfboard. The waves were probably six feet or so,
which looks really big when you are actually in the water. This being Mexico, no one asked me if I
knew what I was doing.
“Senor? You want a spear
gun and a bottle of tequila? Here
you go!”. It really is what makes
it a great place to visit. They
will let you do almost anything if you pay for it. This meant a disinterested kid in a Squalo wetsuit just handed
me a surfboard and forgot all about me.
If I had been given any instruction whatsoever, I would have
known how to paddle out past the break.
I knew vaguely that I needed to make sure not to be close to where the
waves broke while on my board. I
had seen that on Wide World of Sports.
I was a real pro. This is
when I made a fatal mistake. I
sort of paused as a set approached.
Can I make this? I don’t
know. Yeah, I think I can. I start paddling. Wait. I don’t know. I
realize I have completely misjudged the size, speed, and force of this
wave. It was much bigger than the
others. There was no doubt I had
fucked this up. I was in the worst
place possible. The wave lifted me
up and then spiked me into the sand.
The board hit me in the head.
I was then thrashed around unlike anything I had ever experienced. I had no idea that the ocean could do
something like this. My shoulder
moved in a direction it was not designed to do. I had no idea where the surface was at this point. I held my breath and waited for it to
let me go. I was almost out of air
and broke to the surface. That’s
when the next wave hit me even worse than the first.
When you glance at a newspaper and see “Tourist Dies at
Beach”, you probably think the same thing I do which is “How did that dipshit
manage that?”. As I was being
thrashed around it hit me that there was a decent chance I would be that
dipshit. The wave kicked the shit
out of me. I surfaced. The third one hit me square. My world exploded again. This time I got coughed out on the
beach, almost on top of some little kids building a sand castle. They wondered whom this sunburned
gringo was that had washed ashore like a shipwreck victim on their serene
playground. I was coughing up
water. My shoulder hurt like
hell. I wondered if my head was
bleeding. The board was 30 yards
away on shore. A teenage boy
smirked as he handed it to me. I pretended
it was an insignificant event that had just transpired until he had walked down
the beach. Then I slunk back to
the hotel water sports area, returned the board, and lay down on my poolside
chair. I hoped no one had seen the
utter disgrace that had just occurred as my shoulder throbbed away. Soon enough I could rejoin my
disenchanted friends in the smoking section.
This was my last surfing attempt.