Surfing: a specific & special label?5 June 2017
“Hey, do you want to go surfing? There’s a wave today.”
“Yeah sure. I’ll grab my board, we’ll drive to the beach, we’ll get changed and we’ll go in the sea and catch some waves. That’s surfing, right?”
Well it sounds about right; all definitions of surfing involve some sort of immersion in water and riding of waves towards the shore, with craft or without. I went to the beach last week though and I did all of the above, but I didn’t feel like I was surfing. Yes it was lovely to be in the sea, and some of the waves I caught were fun, but I left the water and if someone had asked me what I had just been doing, I probably would have responded with something like “playing in the whitewater” rather than “surfing”. I took a friend out who is learning; the waves were just a bit too big for me to paddle out and catch a couple easily- I could have gone, but that would have taken me a while, and I didn’t want to leave her for too long in case she thought she had been abandoned at sea. So we stayed in the whitewater; the waves were a decent size meaning we had plenty to play with and we were propelled towards the beach as planned. Some of them even reformed and gave some open face which felt more like “real surfing”.
I found myself looking out to sea longingly at the real surfers, those catching the “proper” waves, having to paddle hard and position themselves carefully. Not like me. I could just jump on my board and away I would go. I didn’t get the buzz that they would have got- maybe because I didn’t put in the effort that they had, taken the risks that they had, demonstrated the skill they had. I was catching loads more waves than them, but did any of them count? I don’t think they did. Not for me.
So is there more to surfing than those definitions? Does there need to be consideration paid to the challenge, the paddling, the patience, the thrill? A sliding scale? Personal preference? ….Who is a surfer and when are they surfing?