Associate Editor

Anyone else get cold, clammy, and shaky during long flat spells? Photo: Jonas Vogedes /

The Inertia

Call it stoke, call it obsession, call it addiction. Whichever you prefer, when waves are plentiful the ocean has a gravitational pull that bends the will of men and women of surf in such a way that getting to the beach becomes the preeminent desire. Schoolwork, work work, and housework are eschewed. Family ties and carnal desires be damned. When it’s firing, you’re out there.

But when it’s not, it sucks. When flat days compound into spells, the average surfer gets itchy, jonesy, for the next inkling of swell energy to show up at their local. As it happens some of the greatest researchers and scientists who seek to understand this sort of thing (and are totally not made up) have determined that there are in fact seven stages of surf withdrawal that everyone goes through during extended periods of wave starvation. We found it prudent to go through them so that surfers everywhere might be able to understand their condition and seek help accordingly:

1. Disappointment

A period of melancholy occurs after you’ve juiced the dying energy of a swell, and there’s nothing exciting to look forward to in the forseeable forecast. It stems from the uncertainty of not knowing when you’ll be able to get in the water next. Expect to feel like you’re walking through a haze, and that things you once enjoyed post-surf (be it breakfast burritos or bagels) to feel somehow less satisfying.


2. Anger

Not only is surfing an enjoyable experience – ripping a turn or getting tubed are proven positive outlets for aggression that may compound as a result of the frustrations of everyday life. Without that outlet, be prepared to blow a gasket over even the most minor inconvenience. Not to mention the chills and shakes you get any time you drive past the ocean – flat as a pancake.

3. Distraction

By now you’ve realized – or your spouse has told you – that it’s unhealthy to walk around angry so better find another hobby. Maybe you pick up racquetball. Anything sounds better than sitting idly by waiting for the forecast to look up. Only thing is, anytime you pass your quiver in the garage you think, “I used to ride those once. I really enjoyed those times.” And as often as you play, racquetball doesn’t give you the same joy surfing once did.

4. Travel Research

What’s next? You chug a liter of Mountain Dew and spend the night looking at flights to far flung locales that are guaranteed to have waves. Maybe you get your surf buddies on the horn and book something together. Maybe you realize that there’s no way you could feasibly fly out tomorrow, so travel ain’t gonna solve your flat spell woes. Not to mention, every time you go somewhere it’s just your bad luck that the waves are epic at your local and terrible where you’ve traveled to.

5. Denial

In the fifth stage, you find yourself denying that you ever needed surfing to begin with. What did it ever do for you besides cause you to waste hours on end away from family and other obligations? Who needs it? Back to the racquetball court.

6. Binge Watching Surf Flicks

By the sixth stage, you’ve come to terms that surfing has in fact been a source of joy for you for a long time, and it’s time to rediscover that. Your only option? Watching other people do it and vicariously tapping into what once gave you so much excitement. Caution: it’s common to regress to the fourth stage – travel research – seeing pros ride perfect waves and having a blast.

7. Resignation/Contentment

With the final stage comes a certain internal peace. You know that some time soon in the very near future the waves will pick up as they always do. You’re content running some of your greatest waves through your mind from time to time. And that’s enough. It’s a cruel joke in life that once you reach the final stage the waves improve. And next flat spell you’re bound to go through the stages of withdrawal again.

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