Any surfer worth some salt has tried night surfing. Maybe it was back in high school on a summer camping trip when everyone walked down to the shore on a full moon and the beer (or the chick you were trying to impress) motivated you to paddle out.
Maybe you’re one of those dudes with the walrus mustaches and the glow-stick tied to your wetsuit zipper who appears ghoulishly out of the inky sea, board underarm, and ambles across the cobblestones Nosferatu-like.
Or maybe you belong to a tribe of bros who rob banks to fund their collective surf habit and have private access to a sandy beach where you rage around twenty-crate bonfires and park your monster trucks facing the ocean, headlights on.
In any case, night surfing remains on the fringe—like a secret brotherhood or some fabled tribe of folks living in the sewers. It is, in fact, a largely unexplored frontier of space and time.
Surfing is like baseball, football, soccer, tennis, [add any sport here] before the invention of the electric light. In fact, night-time has become synonymous with many mainstream sporting events (Monday Night Football, Friday Night Fights, Hockey Night in Canada). But surfers remain very much at the mercy of the circadian cycles and, when the sun sets, we all have to walk away with stooped shoulders as if the bell has rung and recess is over.
Or do we?
My buddy and I have an ongoing joke that starts out with, “We can put a man on the moon, but…” You know, we can put a man on the moon, but if a horse breaks its leg we shoot it. We can put a man on the moon, but we haven’t figured out a way to surf comfortably at night. Stadium lights are out of the question for the same reasons we shouldn’t build a Starbucks atop El Capitan or club baby seals. The military has those balloons they send up to turn night into day, but that’s basically stadium lights, so no.
Seems to me, the folks at Google working on Google Glass and the self-driving car might want to appropriate a few billion dollars towards waterproof night-vision goggles. They could call ‘em Googles. No more sunscreen. No more squinting into the sunset. And imagine all the shooting stars you’d see sitting on your board waiting for sets.
Or maybe this is all wrong and everything is as it should be. Perhaps the night is for dreaming, a time for the sea to breathe all its mysteries and lore into our slumbering imaginations. The revelations of dawn waters, the urgency of catching that last wave before sunset—maybe these moments are part and parcel of the surfing experience that so mimic the fleetingness of life itself. Maybe the night is best left for bonfires and tall-tales about yesterday’s waves and tomorrow’s hopes. Let the grommets learn the patience of waiting for another day.
But then again…we can put a man on the moon.