This post was inspired by my recent trip to the North Shore of Oahu in Hawaii. It’s not what you think. The trip was awesome and I had some of the most enjoyable sessions that I can recall of late. I was pleasantly surprised by the north shore as a surfing destination. I was totally presumptuous in assuming that it would be difficult to have an enjoyable surfing experience here. Not that is has anything to do with quality and quantity of waves, I just assumed that the localism would be tough to handle and that the potential to get stink eyed all the way home would be high. I was overwhelmingly stoked on how friendly the energy was. Granted, I am not trying to dominate the main peak at Pipe. This may be a completely different situation. Rather, I opted for some lessor frequented spots that are a little less on the radar and a little more your local neighborhood reef breaks. Which on second thought could be even more localized. Furthermore, I have to say that surfing as a woman here is awesome.
On the north shore, women surfers are not a novelty. This changes the energy of surfing as a woman immensely. Many of the men in the water are used to surfing with their wives, girlfriends, sisters, aunties etc. To them, the girls in the line up could very well be one of their loved ones. The men seem stoked for you when you catch a good wave. They even give you waves and a smile as you go down the line. In LA I often feel that if you are paddling for a wave next to a guy he will try even harder to catch it, God forbid a girl gets in before him. It’s as if they are even slightly more competitive or perhaps they are showing off. It’s always been something that has bummed me out being a female surfer. Not to say I haven’t met some super rad dudes in the line up in LA , I have, and they are ALWAYS some of the most skilled surfers. It didn’t take me long to make the connection that if you are confident in your skill set and you don’t feel the need to prove anything your energy will reflect that. Therefor, you will be happy to back out of a wave once in a while for someone, be it male or female. This got me thinking about what causes some of the bad behavior in the line up and here’s a few things I came up with.
1. Scarcity. When you live in an area where good conditions are few and far between, the scarcity makes for a more charged surfing scenario. When the surf finally picks up there has been so much frothing at the mouth, the line up can feel like a bunch of rabid dogs waiting for their next bite. It’s tough when you live in area that isn’t consistently epic. My home break in Venice beach and LA as a whole definitely qualify. Not to mention in a city of 4 million people, there is scarcity even on a good day!
2. Too much testosterone. Let’s face it, for now, surfing is a largely male dominated sport. Whenever you have that much testosterone all in one place, ego’s can flare. I am not saying that women can’t be bitches in the line up too. In fact, I am always surprised and disappointed when I see another female in the line up and my default is to smile and think to myself, “great I am not alone out here.” Only to be met by the same glazed over unfriendly look that 99% of the surfing population has. I get it, this is serious right. We are competing for the next spot on the open.. No wait… we’re not. We are all supposed to be out here having fun and enjoying mother natures playground. I guess given my ancestral health background I don’t know why I would be surprised. There are certainly some Primal settings at play here..
3. Embarrassment. This actually relates to number 2 but dives in a little deeper. Most people in the line up are still honing their craft. Most are beginner or intermediate level. There is so much pressure to rip like Kelly Slater that I think when people don’t have the skill set they feel slightly embarrassed and it translates into a defensive unfriendly vibe. My favorite version of this is the guy in the line up who will throw a fit if he misses a wave and try to pretend it was because you were in his way. I see this happen all the time in LA. The few times it has happened to me I was completely befuddled by the surfers commentary. There are very few occasions when someone is actually so completely in your way that you can’t still take off and carve around them. If you are good enough at your craft you will effortlessly see the line you need to take and that person will be nothing but part of your decision making process. This is one of the things I love about surfing in Hawaii, everybody knows when to call bullshit on that little drama so nobody even tries to pretend that YOU were in the way. Most of the time the surfer that missed the wave just feels dumb that they couldn’t make it all come together and are looking for a good scapegoat. The louder the announce their frustration the more you can see how embarrassed they are.
4. The lowest common denominator. Most people go to the beach with a good attitude. They suit up and wax their boards with an air of excitement. It’s usually not until they come in contact with their first douche bag that everything goes south. It’s happened to every surfer on the planet. Someone in the line up decides to throw you a big ball of negative energy. You try to dodge it or let go of it as quickly as possible, but suddenly you realize they got their goo on you. It’s contagious and sadly that ball of goo gets everywhere. This is why I like when the waves are a little bit bigger. Nobody got time for any goo… We are too busy scratching for the outside set to sweat the small stuff. When it’s not big enough to wash all the goo away though, sadly it gets everywhere, and everybody starts to feel all gooey.
I love surfing with all of my heart and it is always disappointing when I see my fellow surfers not acting in their highest selves. Surfing can be one of the most inspiring and spiritual expressions in our lives and it saddens me deeply when I feel bad vibrations out there. I know you could say that I call it in.. Maybe the one who smelt it dealt it kind of thing.. Perhaps that is important for me to look at. Perhaps I should take my advice and be the change I wish to see in the waves…