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Learn to love 'em. Photo: Chris Grundy

Learn to love ’em. Photo: Chris Grundy

Let me describe for you a circumstance frequently happens in surfing.

You have the day off, there isn’t a cloud in the sky, you check the surf report, and it’s looking great. Head-high waves, maybe a little bigger, with a nice, offshore wind. Having nothing better to do, you ring a mate and organize to pick them up in 15 minutes. Forty-five minutes later, you arrive at their house and start loading the boards up while discussing life in general and, of course, where you’ve been surfing. Perhaps at this point, you might reflect on a pumping day when you got a few perfect waves. Of course, no one was there to witness this, which somewhat annoys your mate; and that is part of the point of telling the story. We surfers are, in reality, a competitive breed. The laid back, cruisy surfer died some years ago. Sure, there are still a few mellow drifters kicking around that maintain the stoke without the need to stroke their ego, but not many. That aside, you bask in telling these stories and more with your mate on the way to the beach.

You pull into the carpark, and doesn’t it look pretty? Clean lines to the horizon with the sun sparkling up the face of the waves. Beautiful. You don’t bother to watch someone catch a wave, because at this point, the stoke is upon you. You change in record time, do a hero run down the beach, and start paddling out into the lineup.

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However, at this point, you realize there isn’t really a “pack,” but rather a scattering of people all over the place. “Must be really shifty,” you think to console yourself. “A bit of luck and I’ll find a few corners.”

You see a guy turn and paddle into what looks like a nice one. He makes a nice, style-filled drop. The guy can definitely surf. He pumps twice to try to beat the section, but the whole wave crashes over. A classic closeout. The surfer’s enemy. Maybe just the odd one shutting down. Got to be selective. However, it’s not to be, as every wave that you catch leaves you watching the wave shoot off down the line in front of you, leaving you behind and unable to do one of your Parko-esque cutbacks.

Suddenly, you find yourself frustrated. Swearing under your breath, slapping the water in disgust. Just one wave that peels, please!

You find yourself on the verge of truly losing it when two learners on mals paddle next to you, the front of their boards aiming towards the sky as they lay at the back of their craft.

“Here comes a sick one!” Learner 1 says.

“You go!” comes the reply.

Learner 1 slowly rotates and strokes wildly into a close out. You turn and watch as Learner 1 goes over the falls to the laughter of Learner 2. A minute later, they are both smiling discussing how wasted Learner 1 got. You realize at this point that they are having far more fun than you are.

Are you just a grumpy bastard? Have you become harder to please? Of course you have. It’s one of the tragedies of surfing. The better you get, the harder you are to please.

I recall getting into surfing and watching a guy paddle into a wave and just cruise it. No attempt at a turn, no need for a speed pump, just enjoying the feeling. “That’s all I want,” I thought foolishly to myself as a learner. “If I can do that, I’ll be happy.” Years later and if I just went straight for a whole surf, I’d probably consider it a waste of time and be a bit disgusted at myself.

Surfing closeouts doesn’t even offer you the ability to do that. They are frustrating for pretty much everybody, learners included. But the thing is, you’re not at work slaving away. You’re at the beach, in nature, doing what you love, being in the ocean, getting exercise, hanging with your mates. You should be having fun. Sure, it always pays to hunt out the best banks and surf the right tides. But most of us will find ourselves surfing crappy closeout waves from time to time, but if you keep a positive attitude, you can certainly learn to love the closeout. Learn from the stoke of learners. Find your happiness, pull into some closeout barrels or take off switch stance. Get “wasted,” have a laugh, and paddle in realizing that life is pretty damn good at the beach.

Previously posted on gosurf.co.nz

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