In their November 27th issue, the New York Times Magazine published an article titled, “How to Catch a Wave” as a part of their series “Tip.” At first blush, the fact the magazine would publish pointers for the beginner surfer might appear strange. The series also offers tips for such obscure disciplines as building igloos, helping injured birds, playing the saw, and giving yourself a tattoo. Comparatively, surfing doesn’t seem so “out there.” Then again, maybe it is to the general public, especially the magazine’s demographic.
What’s amazing is that for an attempt to decode an esoteric topic, the piece does a damn good job, offering a valuable tip that most might overlook when learning, or teaching a friend or family member – it’s not about standing up the first time out.
So says Carol Philips, founder of the North Shore Surf Girls surf school and a big-wave body boarding pioneer, anyway. “It’s more important to focus on stabilizing the board with your hands, lying prone on your stomach and then standing up,” she says.
It’s funny. Most lessons begin on the sand – teacher explaining the proper technique to pop up to student – reinforcing the idea that success is how long you manage to stand without falling. The reality is for those new to the ocean, and a board in the ocean, getting a feel for it has merit.
The piece goes on to suggest that for beginners to find the best waves, they should ask other surfers or simply go where other surfers are. That point probably deserves an asterisk with an encyclopedia’s worth of unwritten rules about where a beginner should paddle out without running the risk of getting the stink eye, accosted, or punched in the face.
If you find yourself seething because the New York Times Magazine is blowing up surfing by handing out tips for beginners like tic-tacs, consider this: how many people are running out to build an igloo after reading their pointers?