Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Nurse the Hate: Hate Surfing

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 assholes.

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.  


At August 2, 2016 at 4:58:00 PM EDT , Blogger dbowling said...

On Saturday and Sunday mornings I accompany my girlfriend to the beach where I sit in my Tommy Bahama reclining beach chair, equipped with a cooler and cell phone and drink holders and watch as she effortlessly paddles beyond the break and waits until a wave worthy of her skill set approaches. She then springs to her feet and maneuvers back and forth until the wave no longer exists. Me? Meanwhile I Drink Bloody Mary's, read the paper, and remind myself That I grew up in the coal fields of WV not on the beaches of Southern California. When she's had her fill, she let's me carry her board through the parking lot surfer community, of which I will never be a member, and then she drives me home. I am completely satisfied with Surfing as a spectator sport. Plus, the psi of those waves and their ability to smack you up side of the head with the board a bitch.

At August 4, 2016 at 6:35:00 AM EDT , Blogger Greg Miller said...

It wasn't until that moment in Mexico that I had written off "surfer" as a possible identity. Please save me a chair and a cup.


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