I remember once that Al Stewart sang a song and he proclaimed it, “The Year of the Cat” and the Chinese have proclaimed 2012, “The Year of the Dragon.” I know it is almost April and this is not an April’s Fools Day joke but I am now declaring this year to be named after the most important species of horse. No! Not the Zebra! 2012 is now “The Year of the Donkey!” Why have I taken this hard stance? Simple…to help everyone become better surfers. You see, I have read a lot of advice in blogs, magazines, and books telling surfers some sage advice. Most of it is pretty good. I mean, we all should know how to pop up on our board. We also should know that those blue floating bags are not good to jump on.
However, I decided to write a few things down that have been covered here and there, but for most up and coming surfers, these tips should be pondered upon and then implemented into our daily surf lives.
Going further, being a called a donkey by other surfers is normally not something that anyone wants to hear. However, the donkey, or “ass” as it is called, can be something a surfer should embrace along with words that contain the keyword “ass.”
Let me present to you without further adieu:
1. Which Way to Paddle??
There you are paddling out and here comes a set. As the set rises up, you notice the guy turning around and he begins to take off. What to do? First you have to begin an assessment. How fast is the wave breaking? Can you easily outrun the wave and paddle far enough to the shoulder that you do not screw up his ride? If not, you must do one or two things. Choice 1 is to keep going straight. This will ensure that you are not involved in a race between you and the rider to decide who is going to reach the shoulder first. Choice 1 will probably mean you will have to duck dive the wave. The 2nd choice is probably better. This choice involves paddling hard towards the breaking wave and not playing the race game at all. If you can’t judge where the guy is going, then just stop paddling and let him decide where he is going. Your job is to avoid the guy at all costs.
2. Is It Too Big?
This ties in with #1. Paddling toward the breaking wave is not fun, especially if it is big. If you can’t envision yourself performing this act, then you should not be out there. There is a second problem that again ties in with paddling into the pit. When the waves become bigger, the surfers use the rips in the channels to get themselves back out to the main take off zone. Well, if the water is running out to sea like a river and your leash breaks then how are you getting in? Easy, you have to swim right into the break and get hammered. The breaking waves will push you in. If you can’t see yourself swimming into the lineup to get steamrolled then please move on to a tamer surf spot.
3. Be a Full Donkey!
If you are going to be a donkey then donkey out at 100%! Most surfers get into trouble when they do the opposite – that is when they half-ass something! Why? It’s simple.
Ever see someone paddle full tilt into a monster and just free fall to the bottom and eat it? It looks bad. In reality, the goal is to always penetrate through the wave and not to be caught in the wave. When you paddle hard and free fall, you are penetrating under the wave so the wave breaks down on top of you and pushes you out the back. If you are stuck on the face then you are going to get sucked over and well… Another example can be seen if you just lay down your towel and watch some people surf. It happens often with rookies. For example, the rookie catches the wave and begins to go down the line. The wave walls up and the guy is trying to figure out what he should do. Should he straighten out? He keeps riding. His line gets higher as the wave steepens. Then he kind of decides to kick out. Well, his non-commitment causes the lip to hit him in the chest and the guy gets pummeled. The experienced surfer either just forcefully kicks out, straightens out, or pulls in and escapes unscathed. So if you are going to kick out, jump off your board, duck dive, or go for a big floater…commit!!
4. No Brah! Not That One!
Sadly, most of us don’t have a buddy like Turtle to steer us away from the bad waves when it is big and pumping. So if you are out and the sets are standing up on the horizon and you are wondering what to do. Should you catch the first one? It is smaller. Well, here is your advice. Skip the first few waves. Why you say?
When the waves are big, you have to ask yourself what kind of day do you want? Do you want to surf and expand your limits or do you want to practice your skills in holding your breath underwater? For example, you decide that the biggest waves are just to big so you paddle for one of the first few waves. Sounds great if you make it. What if you eat it or miss the wave? Now you are going to be in some big kukai. The last place one wants to be is looking up at the next monster unloading in front of you. The worst part is that you could have been one of the many paddling out to meet the wave behind the wave that is about to make you perform some underwater gymnastics.
5. Assessment vs. Assumption
Marty wanted to make a big impression on his trip to Puerto Escondido. Marty did not want to be a donkey. If you are paying attention, you can see that being a donkey is not always bad. Marty ignored his inner smart ass and instead choose the word that in the end led him to be a dumb ass. Marty picked the wrong “ass” word. He should have assessed the wave conditions for a good amount of time before he paddled out.
So what happened to Marty? Well, the result was his gun was broken in 3 places in the beginning of his surf session. Worse for Marty, this all went down within the first 15 minutes of his first surf in Puerto Escondido. Don’t assume anything!
6.Heads or Tails
You should always be aware of where the wave is breaking and most importantly, what is on the bottom. Sometimes you are going to go head first but when you do, you should go into it at the best angle like you are bodysurfing. If you are really concerned, go feet first. This next picture is what you should really avoid!
So now you have an assignment to do! Raise the bar and approach every situation in the water with gusto! That way the next time you are strolling from the water and some guys yell out, “Eh, check out da donkey!” You can smile and say, “Shoots brah! Donkeys are no ka oi!”
Be safe and feel free to offer any good advice!