Surfer/Writer/Burrito Enthusiast
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The Plight of the 9-to-5 Surfer

“Surf report says it’s offshore. You’re blowing it.” Photo: Bram Naus/Jeremy Bishop/Unsplash


The Inertia

There are palm trees outside my office window. When left untrimmed, the fronds will run out of space to grow and mash against the glass. The slightest breeze rakes these overgrown branches across the panes, producing a sound akin to a windshield wiper scraping over dry glass. These squeaks frequently interrupt my work in the spreadsheet mines, causing me to silently curse this tropical tree. Paradise is such an inconvenience, counted as fortune in the plight of the nine-to-five surfer.

And yet, here are the commercials and social media posts promoting vanlife, surf trips, Mexican lagers, and even the god damn Olympics; each portraying the image that surfers seem to be literally everywhere doing everything their salty hearts desire. They are free to surf and explore whatever lush destination they occupy. They seem to have no qualms with palms.

Meanwhile, here I am at a desk – a San Diego surfer very much surrounded by the definition of paradise – leering at all of them through a computer screen usually reserved for various Microsoft Office products. With my jealousy cranked to 11, I start to grumble phrases that would make my parents proud – Why won’t these kids get a real job? Where is their money coming from? Have they even thought about retirement? Are my tax dollars funding this somehow?

Most of us are not fortunate or brave enough to live a detached life that revolves around surfing, no matter how close to the ocean we reside. And even more of us have accepted a reality in which surfing does not pay bills – except for that one time it technically did. So, we instead don our business casual attire for eight to 10 hours a day, wander through neutrally colored cubical farms, and wish against all odds that whatever shade of beige the carpet is will magically transform into sand. Some days, I wonder if I shake the water cooler hard enough, maybe it will generate some swell. I’m determined to find a way to surf inside my office building, even if it means dehydrating all of my peers.

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But until I find a way to surf while at work, I have to endure the dreaded “S” word that every surfer fears – sacrifice. The surfing desk jockey certainly has options to get wet during the week, but none of them are particularly good. When I tell people I surf before work, they seem to assume I had a lovely, peaceful experience catching a few waves and stuffing my lungs full of salty air before gleefully skipping into the office. “Look at this go-getter!” they must think. “Bright-eyed, bushy-tailed, and energized from his morning surf! Surely, he is ready to take on anything the day has to throw at him.”

This is almost never the case. I wake up a groggy mess around 4:30 in the morning – a time of day reserved for infomercials, psychopaths, and overly ambitious birds – and chug two cups of coffee so I have enough energy to drag my body out to the water by 5:30, all for the right to surf for an hour. I acknowledge that this is bordering on insane, old-man territory. Then again, surfing is filled with insane old men – so I guess I’m just doing my best to fit in.

One could choose to surf in the afternoon too but, well, so does everyone else.

For the working surfer, the chase is omnipresent. There are deadlines to hit and projects to complete while the sun is at its peak, and waves to either pursue or prepare for while the sun rises and falls. Sleep, social lives, and other hassles that fall under the tag of “adult life” get tossed to the wayside in hopes that a few weekday waves can be caught. There is never a respite, no moment to catch your breath and collect your thoughts – just going, chasing; an endless cycle of surf, work, sleep and getting angry when one of those three starts to weigh heavier on you than the others. If you stop or slip, then you either miss a deadline or a swell. It’s unclear which is worse.

The nine-to-five surfer must constantly figure out how to smatter together both career and a time-consuming hobby. This pursuit is a struggle, but that’s what makes it interesting. Of course you can have a desk job and surf during the week – it’s easy to say and easier to imagine. But the practice of it is never perfect. It’s always an ad hoc combination of bizarre morning routines and odd showering locales, attempting to connect life’s various dots to resemble the life that you want. The shape always appears crooked, but I would rather my dreams come out distorted than to never be present at all.

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