Monday, December 2, 2013

Rubber quiver

I often joke with people about being a surfer in the mid-atlantic 
northeast.  Those are places that, with the exception of the summer,
most folks don't associate with surfing.  The average non-surfer
generally thinks about surfers and surfing in tropical places.  They
imagine guys in board shorts and , thanks to popular media and
fashion, girls in bikinis. They rarely think about surfing and wetsuits.

Surfers in places like New York and New Jersey, not generally
thought of as surf meccas, have learned that they must be prepared
to adapt to changing water temperatures and adjust for each season.
Sure dressing to surf in July through September, when the water is
in the high 70's and the air summer like, is easy. Throw on your 
board shorts or bikini and maybe a light 1 mil vest/top or spring suit
for the slight dawn patrol chill and you are good to go. If the air
has that morning chill maybe you need a springer or top with long

As summer winds into fall the water temperature drops a bit as does
the air. Fall usually means it's time for the 3 mil and late fall (November
and early December) when the ocean is warmer then the air usually
requires a hood and even a step up to a 4 mil and grab the boots and
gloves.  Then it's winter. When the combination of water and air temps
are usually a total of 70- 80 (30 to 40 degree air plus water barely 40),
it is time for the heavy suit, the 5 or 6 mil with a hood, 7 mil boots, and
gloves. Not at all the bikini or boardshort look.

So, what does all this wet suit talk have to do with life? Pretty easy
to see that to enjoy surfing, and to enjoy life, you've got to be prepared,
capable of adapting to change, and have a pretty good set of coping tools.
Sure, in some places like the tropics life and climate are easy.  The tools
for surfing and enjoyment are relatively easier. But, even in the topics
surfers deal with other issues - reefs, urchins, searing sun. Their coping
tools for those things must be different. 

Research on happiness tells us that to be happy we need to be able to adapt
to change and have a range of coping behaviors. Just like surfing - a rubber
quiver with many alternatives is vital to being happy. After all, in life
we surely can count on change and those of us who are able to adapt
enjoy the ride a lot more than those who's quiver is limited.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Lessons learned from inconsistency

It has been a long inconsistent and generally pretty
flat few months for us here on the east coast.  Usually
late August, September, and October provide some of
the best conditions we get. The water is warm, the air temperatures
are pretty mild, the kids are back in school, the summer crowds
gone, and the beaches are free.  This year has been quite the
exception.  Sure, the kids and tourists are gone, the water and air are
perfect, but there's been no surf to speak of.

What can we learn from this?  I often ask clients that very
question.  Well, the gang who run the Belmar Pro were really
grateful for the smallish swell that Gabrielle brought. For the weeks
before the contest organizers and sponsors were freaking. The forecast
was ominous...flat, flat and more flat.  Guess they learned to be
grateful for even little things.

The Manasquan Classic Longboard contest, one of the most enjoyayable
events on the east coast now in it's 20somethingth year arrived just as a
little swell did.  Seems the Inlet was about the only place breaking that day.
The tribe at the beach laughed, played, and had fun as the classic has
always intended as it's goal.

The Board Swap at Beach House, another stellar tribal gathering saw
great weather, but no waves. Maybe that made it more special.

Finally this week we had a 1 day wonder swell.  Yeah, it was more of
an east swell closing out many spots but...there were waves. Seems
nobody went to work.

So, what have we learned? We've learned to make the best of what we've
got.  We've learned to enjoy hanging with our friends and laughing. We've
learned that an 80 degree day in October is beautiful and we can actually
enjoy just taking it in.  Guess even the lack of surf has lessons. OK- I've learned
them now let's get some real waves!

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Setbacks, frustrations, and lessons

I've been out of the warm summer water for about
6 weeks now.  No it's not really by choice but rather
necessity.  I picked up a pretty gnarly staph infection
that had to be lanced and required 2 courses of antibiotic
medication.  I'm out of the ocean until the wound is
completely healed and the scab is gone. Bummer!

To add to my frustration the month of July has been
a pretty consistent month.  There was rideable surf probably
25 of the 31 days and about 7 or 8 really good days.
Warm water and consistent surf...isn't that what we all
dream about?

So how do you deal with setbacks and frustrations in
your life? As setbacks go this one was, in fact, rather
minor and insignificant but it got me thinking.

 During the past month I was at the beach just about every
morning, as usual. Hey, a highlight of my day and my dogs
day are our sunrise walks.  Couldn't stop those. Sure I could
have tried to sleep in but that would have deprived both of us
of one of my favorite parts of the day.

I watched the waves and learned to study breaks a bit
more than I usually do. I visited other spots and  became
more mindful of the little intricacies of the ocean and,
beach, the sounds, the birds,  the fish, the little things.
I learned to enjoy watching others ride waves and became a
student of style.  I rode my bike more than usual, ran and
worked out more. My yoga took on a new importance. After
all I needed to stay in shape ready for the day I can surf again.
Oh yea...I probably did a few more chores around the house
and did get that fence painted in a more contented manner.

All and all I had to learn to be patient, to try to be more
mindful of things I'd taken for granted.  I learned to be grateful
for my connection to people, the ocean, the beaches, and waves.
I'm excited to get back and surf, paddle, swim and be embraced
by the ocean but I think I've learned a few things from this minor
setback, learned how to cope with frustrations (however minor) a
bit better.  How do you cope with setbacks? How do you cope

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Understanding your place in the "local crew"

Each day I see or speak to many of the same people. Whether it's at my
home in NJ or my house in Puerto Rico.  We generally find ourselves
at  the same places, checking to waves, letting our dogs run on the
beach, or simply hanging out and talking for a bit.  I know I'm not unique.
I have my crew you have yours.

Having some good friends is an important part of our surfing culture
and lifestyle. It is an essential ingredient for a happy life as well.
Sure we have our close friends or mates, you know the ones around
the same age or stages of life, the ones you share the ups and downs of
your life with .  Yet we also have another group- those who
regularly surf at the same break,  the "local crew".  There is no particular
age to determine who is part of that local crew and each has a unique role
yet, we all are an integral part of each and every break.  All part of the surf

Every break has a group of "old guys".  They have long surf histories,
have travelled, and are still pretty competent wave riders.  They might
not be riding  latest equipment  or busting airs, often preferring retro or
longboards but their love of, and commitment to surfing is clearly there.
When it is big they are charging! They see surfing as a lifestyle, a way of
being. Surprisingly they are often connected to luminaries
in the world of surf.

Next there are the more "middle aged" folks.  They have to split there
time between and amongst families with young kids, budding and
maturing careers, and responsibilities around the houses they own.
They might not get in the water as much as they once did but they
still make he most of the sessions they get.

The "20 something rippers" are there as well.  They ride the latest
equipment, generally surf really well, often aren't on career tracks yet.
They are the ones heading off for an extended trip to Indo or Bali.
Time and adventure are major foci in their surfing lives.

The groms also are there at every local break and are part of the crew
as well.  They are the surf stoked early to late teens,  They are the ones
wearing the latest hats, the boards with lots of colorful art.  They only
ride short  boards and all seem to weigh right around 100 lbs.  This group
hangs together in a tight knot band.  Once one of them gets a car or
license they are off to explore new breaks, new possibilities  They are the
ones competing in the contests and learning about things like upwelling,
surf forecasting, and board dynamics.
Their smart phones are filled with the latest surfing related apps, their fashion
is the latest.

Surfing culture has a place for everyone young or old, male or female.
The lesson each of  us should learn is where do we fit in to a bigger
demographic. Where do we fit in to the world as a whole.  Like life,
spending too much  time in a society made up exclusively of peers
distorts our vision and our world view.  Don't prejudge, discover your place,
respect and learn from others, and leave your ego out of it. You'll enjoy
things more.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Spring might be here

The calendar tells me that April is almost over and that May
 is but a few days away.  We keep getting teased with the
weather. One day it is sunny and almost warm enough to
wear flip flops and shorts, the next day it's back to fleece and socks.
The ocean is very slowly warming. It might actually make it to 50
in the next few days!

I actually was able to surf without a hood today!  Small pleasures
abound. I could hear the sounds without the neoprene filter.  I could
have a conversation without speaking in a loud voice.  I could feel
the sun warming my face.  As wonderful as these little things are I still
find myself impatient, I want more. Guess that's not uncommon for us
all. We often want more quicker and forget that as the old saying goes
"all good things come to those who wait".  Waiting can be really hard.

I've been lucky enough to surf a lot this winter in the warm waters of
Rincon PR.  My trips there help me stay out of the cold water and the
dreaded (for me) 5 mil wetsuit, boots, gloves, and hood.  Every spring
upon my return I have to put the suit on if I want to surf.  I have to
endure the extra weight, the slowness that a 5 mil forces on us all.
Someone today was thrilled. They had on a 4 mil without a hood.
"feels almost like board shorts" he said. So great.

Being patient looking for the little victories and enduring some of the
difficulties just might be a great way to look at life. Certainly is a way
to look at spring. Guess I have to enjoy it and not wish my spring away,
not jones for summer, and appreciate the little things.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Knowing when to go

Have you ever sat on the beach looking at the waves trying to decide
whether to go out or not?  I'm sure, if you are like me, you've done it.
Can't quite decide if it's worth it or not, not quite sure you want to go
through the hassle of putting on a wet suit, rushing for a quick session
before work or during lunch, getting in trouble with your boss or wife.
Not sure if conditions are right? You watch, ask others but get all
sorts of answers.

Bet the same indecisiveness has happened in the water as well.
You see a wave coming but you are not quite sure. Should I
paddle for this one?  Should I go? Is it going to hold up, is it too
big or too small?  Surfing, like the rest of our lives, is filled with
opportunities, filled with decisions.  How do you decide?
What goes into your process?

I wish there was a quick and simple guide to making the
decisions we make in and out of the water.  I know that there
are lots of factors that influence what we do. Sometimes we
try to assess the risk. Are  we surfing over a shallow jagged reef
or soft forgiving sand?  Is the water 80 degrees or 40?  Are we at
our familiar local break or half way around the world surfing some
isolated unexplored atoll? Could be we might simply be afraid to get
out of our comfort zone, scared to confront the known or unknown.
It might just be a habit, a learned behavior, doing the same thing over
and over, repeating, accepting and maybe even enjoying the pattern.
Sometimes though these behavior patterns might just get us in trouble.

In surfing, like in life, it's really important to understand why and
how we do things. It's not an easy process but confronting
ourselves, our  habits, our vulnerabilities and strengths, as well as
our habitual behaviors is critical.  We need to be able to look
inward, accept responsibility, figure out what we can control and
what we can't, whether to blame other factors or accept
responsibility, ownership. We all wish that there was some
objective expert who could act as a referee, an impartial judge to
help us see more clearly, see the facts,  post the scores and help
us see the consequences,  Sadly, all too often there aren't.
We have to find a balance between our gut and our brain, our
feelings and the facts.  Unfortunately it's not always easy.

Every surfer has heard that "Eddie would go"!  Would you go,
should you go, do you know why or why not?  Not always a
simple question to answer.  At times we just paddle out, go
hard, take the drop, and see what happens. Sometimes we wisely
decide to back off. In difficult times and in really challenging
conditions, sometimes I wish I knew for certain when to go.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Another new year

I missed it today.  No, the surf wasn't really that good. 
It was actually pretty cold with the water in the high 40's
and the air temperature in the low 30's.  The skies were
rather grey and overcast, a norm for New Jersey winters.

The surf was micro maybe knee high at best but the offshore
wind and the post-superstorm Sandy sandbars made for, as my
friend Rick calles them, "perfect little peelers".  I didn't go out.
I didn't respond to my buddy Tim's text.  He was "heading in for a
New Year paddle".  I probably should have gone. Would have
started the new year off on a nice note.  

I find with each passing year I need more and more of an internal
push to put on the 5 mil and get wet. That's especially true when
the skies are grey.  I know I would have had fun today on those
"perfect little peelers" but I didn't go.  Obviously I'm having second 
thoughts.  Maybe it's the trip I have planned in a few weeks to my
place in Puerto Rico?  Seems the more time I spend in Rincon between
November and April the less motivated I am to surf in New Jersey.
I rationalize really well.  I sure could use a new 5 mil but the cost of a
5 mil equals the price of a flight.  New winter wet suit or another trip
to warm water?

I know I'll eventually have to break down and get in the cold water
again. What other choice do I have?  Maybe it's a fantasy or dream I've
been having as I get older.  Why buy a new winter coat or 5 mil? Maybe
next winter I'll spend it all in Puerto Rico?