Don’t Look Back

Words by Mat Arney & images by Mat Arney



a surfer walks back up the beach whilst a wave breaks behind him

Every single time you paddle out for a surf you will inevitably, at some point, have to make the decision to take a wave all the way in to the beach and get out. Saying that it’s a difficult decision turns it into a real First World problem, and if the waves are awful anyway then calling it a day isn’t so hard. But what if it’s really, really, good? What if you’re having the best surf of your life? In those instances there will come that moment when your arms turn to noodles and you just can’t paddle any more, when you realise how sun-burned and dehydrated you are, or when you have to accept that the tide has pushed in just a bit too much and that the best of it has passed. Do you bow out when it’s at its best (unlikely), or do you keep going and risk flogging a dead horse, eventually proning back to the beach in the whitewater having had a disappointing final hour?

“Just one more wave” is a phrase that we’ve all said many times before, muttering it under our breaths as we kick out of a good one and make the decision to paddle back to the line-up rather than straighten out and head for the sand. In other circumstances convincing yourself that it’s ok to keep doing whatever it is that you’re doing would be a sign that you really should call it a day and head home (“just one more drink”, “just one more roll of the dice”) but in the case of surfers it’s a sort of fear that convinces us; a fear that the next wave could be the best yet, and that the opportunity will be gone forever if we head for the shore. The moment eventually comes however when you know that the paddle back out is going to beat you or that it’s getting too dark to see the waves. You get to the beach secure in the knowledge that if you turn around now, you’ll see the best wave of the day rolling through – either beautiful and unridden, or with one of your friends screaming across it. It’s almost inevitable. We all have to take that “one more wave” at some point or another and walk back up the beach. You might get another surf in later in the day or it might have to wait until tomorrow or next weekend. Either way though, you’ll be surfing again soon and will surely be faced with the same dilemma at the end of that session too. But as long as we all keep the faith that the next wave could be the best one yet, then we’ll keep on paddling back out – and that’s why we keep surfing.


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