Words & photographs by Mat Arney – Mat is a former Surf Simply coach, a surf travel writer and photographer, author of the ‘An Tor De Morth’ blog and last, but by no means least, a school teach. To see more of Mat’s beautiful photography check out www.matarney.com.
Oh dear. What have you gone and done?
Sitting reading this probably indicates that at some point you learnt how to stand up on a surfboard and slide in towards the shore. It doesn’t really matter where, when or how you uncovered this joy, the important thing is that it happened and now you’re struggling to keep a proper grip on the reigns.
It’s probably a safe bet that when you first waded out to waist depth water with a board banging against your hips and fighting an unexpected battle against the whitewater that you weren’t planning on buying into all of this. Just a fun holiday activity to while away a day on the beach right? Or perhaps you grew up or live near a surf beach and curiosity got the better of you …”what is so good about this surfing thing that makes them sit out there for so long?” Maybe the kids just kept nagging and pestering you for a surf lesson and you eventually relented and went along to give them a bit of support. Or you’re one of those kids, who got their own way? Good on ya.
And it grabbed a hold of you in a way that you weren’t expecting. It’s ok to admit it. Despite the fact that it’s by no means an easy task to accomplish; that it feels like you’re battling the incoming waves as you push your way deeper before turning to take one; that water went up your nose and you banged your knees. A little voice in your head kept on repeating “just one more wave”. Aching shoulders never felt so good.
And now it’s come to this, whiling away the time between trips to the beach scanning the internet for all things surf and daydreaming about riding waves.
I ought to warn you that it’s just the start. From now on every time you catch a glimpse of the ocean you’ll start looking for lines of swell marching towards the shore. Every time you see whitewater or a wave you’ll wonder if it’s surfable. Holiday brochures will never look the same again. If you live outside the tropics you’ll start wearing figure hugging one-piece rubber suits in public and be totally fine with it. You’ll become comfortable taking your clothes off and getting changed in public, often in the wind, gambling on a towel to protect your modesty. Sick days won’t be so taboo anymore, and you’ll start calling them “mental health days”, because they’re for the good of just that. They’ll coincide with those special days when swell, wind and tide come together in perfect synchrony by the way. Barefoot will be your new brogues. All the lines on the weather map will begin to make sense.
This surfing world is so diverse, and we’re maturing. Gone are the days when the stereotype of a scruffy young guy with long unkempt blonde hair, probably stoned, driving a VW bus, carrying an acoustic guitar and sleeping on the beach means surfer. C.E.O.’s of big corporations, rock stars, tradesmen, little kids, senior citizens, girls, boys, young, old, rich, poor and yeah probably a few of those classic stereotypes still clinging on, ANYONE AND EVERYONE is in the club. You’ll see surfers disguised in business suits carrying boards on subway trains on Fridays in New York, London, Sydney, and a score of other world capitals. School children can surf in their Phys Ed classes at school in several countries. People are surfing static or bore waves on rivers. A lucky few have found a way to leave it all behind and sail off round the world searching for their perfect wave, whilst others possess the natural talent to make a living as a professional surfing athlete.
We’re a broad tribe, from the business man or woman in a suit, through the tradesman with a board kept permanently in the truck, past the young wandering surf gypsies living out of bags and on their wits, to the little local kids in places like Indonesia, South Africa and Central America standing up on old bodyboards and left behind surfboards who are the future of this whole thing. Lifestyle, culture, sport, art form. However you see it. It’s a wonderful endeavour. Congratulations for standing at the top of the slippery slope and taking that first step, you won’t regret it.