I began surfing when I was twelve. It all started with a trip to Honolulu, a session at Waikiki, a $10 board at my neighbor’s garage sale, and a weekly lift to the beach from my folks. I got to surf once a week, every Saturday. That was it.
At this time, it was never about the swell, conditions, crowd, water quality, or weather — we always just went. If it were up to my parents, we would have stayed home on many occasions due to rain, or “Parking Lot Full” signs, or whatever… but it wasn’t up them. I always insisted that we go.
When you’re a kid that only gets to surf once a week, you really have to take what you can get. This was my situation and I was certainly getting in the water whenever possible. I simply had to surf.
The year was 1995, and we used to have to call 550-INFO for the surf forecast. 976-SURF (Surfline at the time) charged fifty cents for the forecast, so my parents kindly asked my buddies and I not to call them (as we had a tendency to call multiple times a day, just to see if anything had changed). We’d call the forecast for no reason at all, other than to hear human beings talk about surf. We weren’t going surfing on most days, but the voice on the recorded message consistently gave us hope that we may (someday soon) surf again in the “Knee to waist-high, poor conditions” of our local beachbreak.
But, our favorite call was when we’d dial on the days that we actually got to go surf. And it was never a matter of whether or not to go, it was just our frothing pre-surf ritual. If it was flat, we’d still go. If it was raining and the bacteria levels were through the roof, we’d still go. If it was double overhead and completely maxed out, we’d go get pounded. It didn’t matter what the recorded voice said.
The days we weren’t in the water were spent studying Good Times. That was the only video we had (VHS). We’d watch it over and over, and then once more. It never got old, and I’ll never forget the day we discovered the secret section at the end — 3 more minutes of Taylor Steele’s finest footage for us to analyze. As soon as we’d had enough and we couldn’t keep our little grommet energy bottled any longer, we’d go skate. We’d cruise up and down the driveways on my block, giving it every ounce of speed, style, and flow that our little legs could muster up. That was how we trained. That was what we did to be sure we were ready for the real thing, come Saturday.
That level of stoke is difficult to understand as an adult. I like to believe I’ve still got it, and that it patiently waits in an easily accessible part of my soul, but it’s tough to say. There are so many other variables that constantly flood my daily life that the true and pure “grommet stoke” gets pushed to the back. However, the coolest part about being a new dad is seeing that very same stoke in my little kid’s eyes. My son gets stoked on the same tiny little things that I used to. That energy is highly contagious and I often find myself smiling at something that I hadn’t noticed in 20 years. Those moments are pretty cool, and I do my best to wallow in them. Forget everything else for just a moment. Take it in.
My point is simply this: Just go. Always go. You may not remember the session or any of the waves you caught, but at least you went. I highly doubt you’d regret it. Forget about what the forecast says. Your twelve-year-old self would slap you across the face if they knew you were going to bail on surfing today because the conditions aren’t ideal. Just go.