When the right vibe is more valuable than perfection.
There was no one out, but the waves were looking so good. It was a break that was far out to sea. It was an incredibly long paddle, a few really shallow sections here and there, and a sweeping current pouring out through the keyhole. Not my first session out there, I knew the routine. I felt confident enough but wasn't happy about paddling out alone.
When I got to the take-off zone I saw that it was pumping, with some big suck-outs and double-ups. After some shoulder hopping and tentative drops on the set waves, another surfer started paddling out from the beach, and it was great to know that we would be able to share the surf.
He paddled up to me, sat on his board, puffed his sizeable chest out and stuck his finger in my grill, explaining that I was not a local, and that this wave was his and not mine, and that I should sit further down the line and watch him surf, or words to that effect.
There was no answer, no snappy retort from me. I was stunned into silence, my face red with sunburn, natural skin tone, and embarrassment. Had I just been set upon and scolded in a lineup totally empty bar the two of us? Was this even a thing?
This guy was dead-set determined to send me in, so he could surf this perfection by himself. He paddled past me. I looked across the lagoon. Maybe there were more imbeciles on their way. It wasn't so. Just one, who had just ruined a potential classic surfing moment, of two strangers sharing a perfect lineup together, getting high as kites on perfection, on friendship through riding waves, of all the good things that we espouse along our surfing journey.
Instead I had a Neanderthal paddling past me as mute as a fish, with dead, staring eyes, and taking off, agonizingly slowly, with a knee getting in the way every time I might add, and either wiping out or wobbling along to the shoulder. It was new levels of frustration, like a crackhead without a lighter.
Eventually I did the quick emotional sums in my head and came to the conclusion that it was no fun to be out there. The terrible vibe was way stronger than the light thrill of getting a few shoulders under threat. My wife was on the beach so that would be way more fun. I caught a wave in.On our return to this friendly little health camp we were staying at back then, I saw this little left reeling out front along a section of reef that looked barely covered. It looked almost rideable. That afternoon on the high tide two guys paddled out and I joined them, and they were friendly and cool. The wave was a fraction as good as the waves I had been looking at earlier, but I caught a whole pile, worked hard on getting my wave count right up, and had one solid little set-wave wipeout.
I was stoked. On the beach I went through very similar highs and lows that I would have gone through had I surfed somewhere else. I had paddled, hard. I had scored some bombs, I was properly exerted and I had made a friend or two. It was pretty cool, and my wife commented on how my mood always changed after a surf, any surf.
In retrospect it actually was blissful, surfing uncrowded C-grade waves. There was a little squirt of adrenalin here, a few drops of endorphin there, and the same old buzz that we chase, without the hostilities, without greed and selfishness.
At the core of it all, we just need to ride waves. The quality and class of waves are all in the mind. Bar the big wave experience, the physical reaction we experience from riding waves is quite similar if those waves are excellent, or if they’re just ok. Your body can still believe that there is exciting shit going down, and react accordingly.
I really needed to surf again after the confrontation, and I enjoyed my post-surf beers at the camp later. I didn't have another actual thought about the frightful episode around the corner.
Sometimes perfection clouds our needs.