The surf is abating and I know it's time get some writing done. Days prior, as the swell grew and the wind blew, I scanned the lineup for material when Blam! I hit pay dirt while sharing the waves with some young kids I know. I marveled at their seemingly uncontrollable need to explain every detail of every ride they got. I mean it wasn't 30 seconds before these guys were reviewing the last air or barrel in excruciating minutia. I laughed and cringed as I was held rapt by each surfer's spin on his own daring and expertise. At one point I paddled frantically from the peak just to get some quiet time, but to my chagrin several of them followed with only intent to share their tales of greatness. I was becoming frustrated thinking why just the experience of a good wave can't be enough. Right? Smile and relive the memory in private.
Full disclosure: All surfers hope someone saw that last great ride. That's just science.
However, to replay the event to those who missed it and especially to those who didn't ask can be downright painful. And even the greatest wave stories can be brutal. One of the most audacious surf story tellers I've ever known was a character from the Northeast (who shall herein remain nameless). He was amazing in that he would hold you captive with his exploits from massive Greg Long drop in to kick out. You could almost feel the spray in your face and the touch the curvature of the barrel (not that he necessarily lived up to his tales of grandeur), but while his surfing wasn't classy, his stories were classic. He would have been the scribe in his village some 1000 years prior no doubt.
But it was the moment when I rode by on the Circle Island bus with my headphones on when I saw this wordsmith spinning one of his yarns with hands gyrating and eyes wide with verbs that shredded across the imagination and adjectives that could tie-die the blackness of the mind. But it wasn't his story that caught me but rather his audience. He stood in the middle of two guys, still dripping wet from the ocean, board tucked under his arm, wide stanced as if in survival mode dropping in at Backdoor and his other hand swirling the motion of a giant lip falling and blocking out the sun above his head. He crouched down in fear of the imaginary cascade. To his left, perched motionless on a bike, was Mark Ochilupo. And to his right, Tom Carroll sat in his parked car with mouth agape. Both held captive under words which seem to have no space between them leaving no moment for escape or change of subject. It was a classic situation in which surfers find themselves every day and ratings points or legendary status didn't matter. Some surfers love to share their stories even when their listeners are obviously trying desperately to escape. It brought me back to the kids going on ad nauseum about their immense skill and bravery in the face of danger. I laughed on the way home and thought of how I would dissect their unchecked self-congratulations. That is, until my thoughts drifted to this insane left I got and how it lined up for like 50 yards. I swear. No exaggeration! It was way overhead and I barely made the drop and just hooked it under the lip for a super long barrel. Did I mention that it was way better before you got out? Seriously, dude, you missed it.
Okay, maybe, there is a part of us that needs to tell about our last ride. I'd like to think it's more about re-living the experience one more time or sharing our stoke. But probably, it's just some uniquely human need to let others know how awesome you are. I think even Kelly and Curren and Florence hope someone saw their last great rides.