5 Reasons to Stop 'Checking the Waves' and Just Go!

Chances are, this is the best it’s going to look. Get out there. Photo: Jean Gerber//Unsplash

The Inertia

Surfers are notorious wafflers, and I’m not talking about syrupy goodness. Check out any nearby spot at any day-lit hour, and you’ll find a collection of ragged characters gazing at the sea as if the answers to all of life’s questions are hidden beneath the foamy breakers.

I’m fortunate enough to squeeze in sessions about 3-5 mornings a week, and I often wonder about the surfers who hang on the shore, grimly staring out at the morning’s offerings. Silent and stern, they avoid my eyes if I run down to give the waves a quick check – yep, there’s something rideable out there – and they’re often still perched there by the time I’ve changed, grabbed my board, and passed by again.

When they do look over, their eyes read: “Really? You’re going? In this?”

And my grin back says: “Dude, you’re NOT going? In this?”

Admittedly, I am from a far-away land that isn’t California, where the ocean often resembles a pristine lake, especially in summer. Based on that inconvenient truth, we are knee-high-or die scrappers in New England. Budget ankle-high wind swell? Log it. Cranking onshores and rain? Sounds fun. Hell, we’ll hit up a boat wake if we must. It’s normal to see a few longboarders schlepping around on a flat, sticky summer day, illogically hoping that a stray ripple will appear from the ether and just barely allow them to glide.

Therefore, I see waves – clean, junky, big, small, lumpy, blown out, textured or closing out – as a veritable gift from the surf gods. Clearly, this has clouded my West Coast experience and made me about as selective as the guy hanging at the dive bar on the corner. I’m blown away by the fact that on a cloudy day, there are less people surfing out here, and I recently texted a friend from back home after I had a fun session full of onshore breezes and below-average waves. The gist of the message was: “Dude, there was no one out. Back home, we’d all be out there!”

I love watching sets roll in, and sometimes it makes sense to take a look before suiting up, so we know what the tide’s doing or what board to grab. Yet, why do many surfers spend so much time debating whether they should get wet or not?

My take? Just go. Pull on your wetsuit in that crisp morning air, chug some coffee, grab your board and get the hell in the water. Why? Because you’re not going to regret it any more than you do spending 30 minutes of your day contemplating your innermost secrets in the parking lot.

Here’s why you should free your busy mind and just get in the water, ASAP.

You’re Going to Get A Workout 

Even a short session in below average waves provides a cardiovascular boost, which is stimulated by the HIIT workout that begins every time we decide to scratch for a set wave. In fact, studies show that surfing is “very beneficial to the cardiovascular system,” as opposed to standing there like a mannequin. 

While decision-challenged peeps grunt to each other about how “mushy” it looks, you’ll be burning calories and strengthening your core, your shoulders and your back. Regardless of wave size, a hard paddling workout makes you feel good for the rest of the day, never mind the fact that getting in the salt water provides numerous health benefits, from helping your skin clear up and heal, to boosting immunity and calming your mind.

You’ll Get Your Reps In

Any time on the board is good for you as a surfer, regardless of your level. If the waves are wonky, grab that alternative shape you never ride, or the new board you’re saving for a “perfect day.” Whether you’re getting used to the sweet spot of a new stick or just working on fundamentals, we can always improve at something, and we can always be more prepared for epic days to come. 

Even a blown-out or mushy day can help you dial some new maneuvers in on the foam. Go ahead, smash the whitewash, take a late drop, or try that air you’ve been dreaming about. Plus, reps aren’t all about your board. We can always work on holding our breath, staying calm when getting worked and held under, and using controlled breathing to improve our surfing; and you can work on this stuff in any conditions.

5 Reasons to Stop 'Checking the Waves' and Just Go!

It was onshore and crumbly when you paddled out. Then it turned to this and that one turn made your week. Photo: Steven Wilcox//Unsplash

A Surprise Session Could Sneak Up on You

It’s tough to predict the surf correctly 100 percent of the time, and we’ve all had promising sessions ruined by an incoming storm or wind shift. However, last week on a cool, grey morning, I checked the cam, read some reports, and was about to go for a run or start working, when something led me to throw my stuff in the car. Even when I got there, the surf didn’t look inviting, but I chanced it on some far-off whitewater I saw slapping the beach way, way down the shore. 

Guess what? One guy out. The wind died. The swells were chest-high glass, and did I mention there was only ONE guy out?! At one point, after passing up a wave because I was exhausted, I called over: “this is way better than it’s supposed to be, no?!” He shouted back: “I know! And the crowd is right!” One of the best sessions I’ve had all year, all thanks to just…going.

You’ll Save the Rest of the Day

If you’re anything like me, you spend some of the day dreaming about riding waves. So, if I decide to skip the early session, my attention is typically divided until I can find time to get in the water. Sure, I’m working…but half the time I’ve got the cam on in the background and I’m wondering when I can sneak in a session. When I get out there early in the day, with no debate  or misgivings, I’m free to focus on other things. With my mind clear and my muscles tired I can focus on the task at hand without pulling up Surfline every three to five minutes. Yes, sure, I’ve got problems, but there are worse addictions out there than Surfline, right? Please, tell my fiancé this is normal behavior. 

One Wave is Better than Nothing

Not every session is groundbreaking, and sometimes we spend more time paddling around searching for peaks than dropping in. I heard someone at the bar the other day, when asked about her session, say, “I was basically in the wrong spot the entire time.” Been there. That’s part of what makes epic sessions so special.

However, if you do decide to head out, you’re going to probably get at least one good ride, right? To me, that one wave is worth the drive, the time, the damp wetsuit, the walk or jog; the entire deal. Those transcendent, mind-clearing seconds spent rushing to beat the section will improve your outlook, your mental state, even the way you perceive yourself and deal with others.

So, save the debates for politics and the deep contemplation for poetry. Grab your board, get in the water, and forget the regrets. By the time the wafflers have decided on bacon or veggie sausage, you’ll be leaving the beach grinning – fit, happy, and stoked after a surf.


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