Outdoor Writer
Ask any surfer - being away from the ocean can make you go crazy. Here are a few techniques to NOT let that happen.

Ask any surfer – being away from the ocean can make you go crazy. Here are a few techniques to NOT let that happen.

The Inertia

For a surfer, the only pain worse than not being able to surf, is not being able to be around the ocean at all. Its agonizing. The dry-docked surfer spends his days reading surf mags, watching surf videos, and making desperate attempts to stay sane by finding other activities that give him or her a reciprocating feeling to those that surfing does – and very seldom does it work.

I recently moved from Santa Rosa, California to Reno, Nevada. I went from being half an hour from the nearest break to now being four hours away from one. You may be asking why exactly I decided to make this change. Long story short, I am going for my bachelors degree in journalism, and the University of Nevada, Reno seemed to meet my financial needs as well as fuel all my other passions, including hunting, fly fishing, and of course exploring extremely interesting places. One week I was surfing at any chance I got, the next I was considering dropping out of school and living in a van. Surprisingly, I stuck with school.

Leading up to the move, I did not do much preparing for the war inside my head that was about to occur; but really, how can a guy prepare for that? The months leading up to the big move, I really did not think the lack of stoke would effect me much. The week prior to moving, I surfed just about every day. As a matter of fact, I taught some of my best friends to surf so in some way I could surf vicariously through them.

While living here in Reno, I’ve come to terms with the fact that I may not be surfing as much as I would like to for these next two years, but I’ve also realized that I’m not the only one living this nightmare. There are guys dry-docked all over the place who need a little love, and maybe a few tips and tricks to keep them from going postal at their nine to five.


Here are a few things that I’ve picked up during these last few months:

Surf Media

Whether your thing is magazines, internet videos, vintage Jackass-style surf movies, social media, or even books, these are probably my favorite ways to reengage my beloved and no longer existing surfing lifestyle. The best part about this is that its so easy to access. This isn’t proven by science, but I am gonna say that a pretty large chunk of surfers out there have some kind of social media, and out of that crew, I think a majority of them are likely to be following some surf pages. Then of course you got websites to look at, and pretty much every surf video, picture, or article at your finger tips.


Magazines and books may not be as popular as they were ten years ago, but trust me, if you are missing the surf like I am, you are going to want a few good subscriptions. They are generally cheap and sometimes even come with some special offers. I’ve gotten my money’s worth just from the girls who want to talk to me when they see me reading a surfing magazine in the library – it pays for itself.

Freshwater Waves

If you are as lucky as me, you live somewhere with some sort of surfable freshwater break. This could be a gnarly river, a large lake that gets some heavy winds ripping through, or even some kind of wave pool set-up. I am fortunate enough to have lake Tahoe within a half-an-hour drive away; it may not be going off all year round, but it’s about the closest thing there is to an ocean without it actually being an ocean – It’ll have to do for now. I have yet to experience the swells that I’ve seen guys rip on Internet videos, but it is definitely something I need to try during my time here, when the winds really get pumping. On top of that, it is, without a doubt, one of the most choice freshwater free diving locations due to the clear blue water.

Other Action Sports

I know – no other sport in the world can stir up the same excitement and emotions that surfing can. Not much else feels as surreal or just plain liberating; but you gotta admit, there are some pretty cool hobbies out there that you thought about doing once or twice. Here in the Reno/Tahoe area, I don’t have much of a choice to get into snowboarding or skiing. The only thing really keeping me from getting into it like I had with surfing is the price. I can drive back to my home beach, catch some waves, and return to Reno, for about fifty to sixty bucks. If I want to go snowboarding, it will cost me quite a bit more, including the gear and the overpriced lift tickets. The main difference between the two activities is time; I can go snowboarding for a few hours or just an afternoon. If I want to surf, it would be an all day endeavor at the least – I may also have to give up a few hours of sleep.

So I’m not in that much of a bind, only being four hours away from the beach, but lets say you are in Montana, Colorado, Arizona, etc. You name it. In some cases, snow sports may be the most affordable option, but remember – that wave only breaks when there is adequate snow on the ground. Some hobbies you may not have thought of include skating, windboarding (on land or water), biking (mountain, BMX, etc.), wakeboarding (if you have a rich friend with a boat), or even fly fishing. I tend to supplement my lack of surfing with hunting, fly fishing, and free diving. Free diving has got to be one of the best ways to get back into the water without actually being in the ocean; if you are somewhere you are allowed to spearfish, more power to you. Free diving is one of the purest feelings you will ever get; I think that is why it comforts and excites me in a way that is extremely similar to surfing.


Board Maintenance

So you got a few dings on your quick surf sesh during your weekend trip home? Maybe you had a few cracks developing that needed a little love? There’s never been a better time to do some repairs. Pick up some sun cure and get to work. Knowing that you are not going to be surfing anytime soon is likely going to give you the patience needed to make a decent repair. If you have the space, money, and time, it also may not be a bad idea to give shaping a shot – might as well do something while you’re doing nothing, right?


It may be harder in some places than others, but finding fellow dry-docked surfers can be one of the best ways to brighten up your non-surfing life. Conversation between two surfers stuck in this predicament breeds pure stoke and usually a pretty good friendship. While out in the line-up, the guy floating next to you is just another surfer trying to get a wave. Take that same guy, put him by your side five hundred miles inland of your prior location, and that may be the only guy within that zip code that you can talk shop with; plus, you guys may end up finding the time to plan a bitchin’ surf trip together – and who doesn’t mind splitting gas? Sounds like a win/win to me.

Write About It

Whether you are venting on forums, publications, or even your secret diary, writing about your lack of surf is probably the most productive method to go about dealing with your surf deprivation. You can do it anywhere, conditions don’t have to be right, and you may just be giving another dry-docked surfer some good entertainment. Sometimes we get so caught up in catching that epic wave, that we forget to reflect on ourselves, our sport, our lifestyle, and our thoughts. I returned home about two months after leaving Santa Rosa. I was only able to surf within the very last few hours before I departed back to Reno. I grabbed my board, my suit, and two of my best buds. Throughout the ride to the beach, I warned them that I was going to go nuts out there to make up for lost waves. During that short session, I only caught one wave – a powerful right that was about 5 or 6 feet tall. It was possibly the best wave I have ever rode. I am not sure if it was because of the wave itself or the feeling of freedom that had been missing from my life the past few months, but it felt the way surfing should always feel like.



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