The time comes in every half-decent surfer’s life when you have to lay it on the line and impress some non-surfers who have heard all about your wave-riding prowess and are now about to witness it in glorious detail.
In my case, my girlfriend’s parents were visiting from England and had been told more than enough about her wonderful surferboy’s freakish talent. So, sitting under an umbrella, looking disapprovingly at what they deemed to be satanic graffiti on my boardshorts, the parents watched this young warrior make his way to the comforting warmth of the summer Tasman with a steely gaze and weapon in hand.
There are a million situations when this scenario can present itself – your audience sitting expectantly on the beach, possibly with cameras locked onto the tiny paddling speck that is you. If it was your mates with a camera (or, even better, a camcorder) you’d get out there and paddle like an alpha gorilla to get your share of the juicy bananas. Instead, you’re feeling a little twitchy, a bit nervous, scanning the onshore dribble for signs of life – your surfing reputation depends on this day.
So, what do non-surfers look for when they watch us demonstrating our surfing expertise? To fully understand we have to step back and imagine a life of landlocked city dwelling. Work your way through the tedious details and then imagine their perception of Australian surfers. That’s right, it probably lies somewhere between a Keanu Reeves “I’m surfing!” bank-robber and Steve Irwin, with a fair sprinkling of great whites and Portuguese-man-o-war monsters thrown in for good measure. So, we need to maintain and positively enhance this image by adhering to the strict guidelines set out below. Deviation from this guide could lead to a serious anticlimax and general air of disbelief when you share your incredible surfing exploits with them in years to come, or try to marry their daughter.
Don’t do this
Lesson 1. Never fall. Don’t fall on the face and definitely not on the foam. When you take off on closeouts (and don’t say you don’t) you usually simply flop over so you can paddle quickly back out – don’t! Never fall, instead ride the foam for at least 4 seconds before smoothly spinning backwards into a duck dive, doing a somersault off your board, or if you’re really styling, do a foam climb or pop a chop hop. Never fall, intentionally or not, or you risk the oldies emitting disappointed sighs at your poor balance. “Does he really surf every day, darling?”
Lesson 2. Get air. Yeah, we all know getting air is what the cool kids do and of course we’d do it if we could, but read on. It doesn’t matter if you don’t even come close to landing the damn thing, or if you just shoot your board straight up and jump over the back – air in any form impresses non-surfers. So, pump it down the line, eye up a crumbly section and launch (or jump)!
Lesson 3. Paddle fast. When you’re paddling out, paddle faster than the other guys. It’s a good way of impressing them with your physical prowess – and it will get you back in the lineup quicker.
Lesson 4. Relax. Hey, you really are a surfing legend, a big wave hellman and competitive animal. We’ve all had our good days when we rip, find the pocket and tear great big gutsy shreds out of it, get barreled and maybe even pop an air or two So, be confident and do your turns, but don’t try to push the boundaries or you may fall – and falling is bad (see Lesson 1).
Lesson 5. If you want to be seen as a brave warrior (and who doesn’t?) then you have to fight a sea monster. So, whilst sitting in the lineup, about mid-way through your sesh, nipple clamp their waning attention by performing a dramatic display of splashing at an invisible creature that appears to be attempting to affix its vicious, stinging jaws to your leg. They will notice this. Later, over tea and biccies, you can share the details of your grisly battle… there was a bluebottle in the water! But you weren’t scared – no – you’ve fought them off with your bare hands hundreds of times before.
Follow this tried and tested guide and you’re guaranteed to be an instant legend, granted their daughter’s hand in marriage and spoken warmly about in grim, grey places for generations to come.