Wednesday, October 29, 2014

The Undress: For if you get carpark changing anxiety (I don't).

One of the ongoing embarrassments that my surfing buddies endure, is the lack of concern I have about modesty when I get changed in the carpark pre- and post- surf. I'm sure you think you know how much I don't care, but you really don't. I feel like making a fuss draws more attention that just changing and risking the fact that someone might see parts of your body for a moment. But I can see why my friends might tire of seeing me. Haha. My poor friend Izzy is so used to/exasperated by my needless boob and bum flashing that she has pointed me to this new possibility: The Undress.



So, I'm not saying this isn't a great idea - I mean they really have thought of everything and it's pretty smart! - but I am saying it's sort of mental. How chuffed is April though. Also, people are clearly super stoked on this idea because while they aimed to raise $22,000 and they already have $182,627!! Holy crap!

I'm not chucking in for their Kickstarter campaign because I'm a bit Kickstarter-ed out right now, and clearly they don't need me anyway, but if you're keen and want to get one as part of the deal, you can find out more here.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Stop pushing me, already!

So, a few weeks ago, my friend Ollie came and stayed. Ol and I have never lived in the same town at the same time, but we've managed to catch up in a bunch of places over the years - in Byron, in Sydney, in Brisbane, in San Francisco! It was so great having him here.


Sadly, the surf wasn't really doing much that was tempting while he was staying. It was big enough, but it was full and washy and moving around a lot. Nonetheless, we paddled out because, what else are you gonna do? Also, you gotta keep your go outs up.

It really was a mess so there were only a few others out - maybe six. One guy on a fat, red shortboard was getting some waves, but the pickings were otherwise slim. I wasn't so fussed, so I sat wide and paddled for the odd wave, but the faces were doubling up in that not good way, so I wasn't getting on them. I got one, but I was happy just to be out there and cruise.

But after a while, the guy on the red board paddled over and started talking.

'That's a good looking board. Is that fabric in the nose?' My board gets a surprising amount of attention over here. Almost every time I surf someone comments on it, or walks over in the carpark to pick it up. I should tell Gary to set up shop!

'Yeah, yeah it is. The shaper had it spare so put it in there. It turned out to look really nice, huh.'

'Yeah, it's really blue. Like your eyes.'

'Oh. Yeah. Like my eyes. Yeah. Cause they're blue.' To be fair, my eyes are very, very blue, which gets a lot of comment and I know can be disarming.

'Yeah. And like the words on your wetsuit.' He meant the colour of the branding spread across my chest, which he helpfully pointed to as he spoke.

'Um, yeah. That's right, that's blue too.' 

At this point, having had him point at my boobs, it just felt awkward. So we just sat there until he re-found his words.

'Go for this wave', he suggested.

'Well, there's already someone on it, so I probably won't.' My tolerance for strangers telling me which waves to get is conditional on many factors. Usually things like, do I want that wave. At this point, all things considered, my tolerance was at zero. More awkward silence ensured. Then...

'Go for this one.'

'Yep. Okay. I'll go for this one.' I knew it wasn't really a wave - it wasn't going to turn into anything, let alone break - but I thought it would be a good chance to get away from him so I turned and started paddling. As I did I saw him move around behind me - between me and the wave - to my other side to come alongside me. I figured what he was going to do next and the indignation of the moment filled my chest. Best to get away from him, despite the fact that he was lining up to...

PUSH ME INTO THE WAVE!!

Which he promptly attempted to do. He pushed my board into the wave. Well, he tried to anyway. The wave face was so full that there was no chance, so his attempts failed, but I just kept paddling in that direction to get as far away from the situation as possible. I wasn't pissed off at him. Mostly I found it funny because this kind of thing has happened to me before and has become a standing joke amongst some of my friends who regularly crack themselves up by asking me if I'd like a push, so it's not like I haven't made my peace with this particular form of being patronised in the surf. I kind of wish those friends had been there to see it, actually.

I don't know what he was thinking when he decided to push my board. I'm hardly world class, but I can surf and I can get my own waves and I can look after myself in the breaks I paddle out into and I don't need a push. But maybe he thought I was shit and needed help? Maybe he was trying to be supportive and gets really stoked on chicks in the water and this was his way of being encouraging? Maybe he's just awkward and that's how he rolls? Maybe he's just a dick? Whatever the reason, I really wish he hadn't pushed my board. Like, really.

So in case I haven't been clear before, let me be clear now:

Men and women of the surfing world! Don't give strangers a push into a wave unless you have established they would like that kind of assistance. Because they might be happy just cruising in the water, in which case leave them alone. Or they might really appreciate that help, in which case, awesome! But making awkward conversation with a stranger is really not enough to go on in making the decision to push her board into a wave she didn't actually want to go for anyway.

Ol, of course, found it funny. It IS funny. I mean... me!  But I was pleased to have someone else there to witness the moment because sometimes I'm sure people think I'm making this stuff up.

Friday, October 24, 2014

'Away', by Elisa Bates

I love any film about surfing that is different - that challenge the stereotypes and mainstream representations of what surfing is, what is looks like and who does it. I like these films because they call into question who gets to tell the stories of surfing. For so long, it's been those who are best at it, those for whom surfing is life, rather than part of life, those who are the most self-interested, those who see their place in history as significant, those who are trying to make money from it. This is all fine, but it means that our surfing stories have been mostly high performance, glamorous, spectacular, and let's face it, hyper-masculine. Again, that's cool, but it's given us a pretty limited representation of the majority of surfing experiences.

So when I saw this surf film, Away, come up on my social media feed this morning, I was pretty thrilled.



Away, by Elisa Bates is a short film about three women who surf in New York - Katarina Del Mar, Jee Mee Kim and Mary Leonard. These women talk about their passion and drive for surfing, how they even came to surfing, and how the idea of surfing in a city like New York - to be able to access nature and wildness in a place that is so abundantly human and cultural - is pretty cool. Such stories are so interesting to me. As someone who grew up living next door to a white-sand, warm water beach, being in the ocean seems so fundamental. The only weird thing was that I didn't surf until so much later in my life. My not surfing is almost the negative of their relationships to surfing - it was the culture and the 1980s and 90s craziness that kept me disinterested. Getting to the sea was always easy for me - basically I walked out my back gate and then another 200 metres and I was there.

But, as I've discovered in my own years of city living, getting to the coast when you are constrained by traffic, work commitments, relationships, and distance is a whole other story. I've come to admire and understand the dedication and organisation that goes into making surfing a regular part of your life. And that's in Australia. In this film I see the added complication of icy, snow-filled winter days - negotiating an ice-covered footpath in booties - something I've never had to consider! The image of Jee Mee Kim inching her way across the ice on her feet, and on her bum, will stay with me for some time yet.

These things interrupt the possibility that you could even consider surfing. Like I said, I didn't consider it til so much later in my life because the blokey aggressive culture itself kept me from imagining surfing as a possibility. But for the surfers in this film, there is so much more than that, so that they have ended up committed to surfing is amazing to me. For Katrina Del Mar, after making a fictional film about girl surf gangs, she got interested and came to grow into her name. Jee Mee Kim explains that surfing became so important to her, so frustratingly constant in her mind, that she "went to therapy because of surfing". Mary Leonard, had to put up with her mother trying to guilt her about surfing when she should be with her kids, finally coming to understand that "I get it. Surfing is like your golf", using her previous acceptance of another male-dominated form of time-out to make sense of her daughter's right to independence.

That the key surfers in Away are women seems incidental to this film actually. I mean, it feels like a film about surfers in New York not women surfers in New York. The way a film about male surfers in New York would never be positioned as about male surfers. I hope that makes sense? I'm so often accused of applying a gendered analysis to everything (a fair accusation) that I always want to point out when something goes beyond gender to tell a bigger tale. This tale is about surfing beyond the high gloss, super cool, magazine-worthy images we're so used to seeing, to dig down into what it is we do and love, and what is involved in that at an everyday, mundane level - the drive to the beach, the frustration of learning, the frustration of work, the commitment to family - all of which frames the moments we spend in the sea, catching waves.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

I totally meant to do that.

Surfing is always a bit of an unknown. For me especially. I mean, mostly it just feels like a leap of faith that things will work out, and to be honest I still feel amazed whenever I stand up on a wave. Only because, well, it's rally amazing to be able to ride a wave like that, don't you think? And then there are those days when things work out that weren't meant to work out and you think... okay.

So, I'm thinking of a wave I got the other day. It was so nice out in the water - long, peeling, clean, 3-4 foot, and sunny. Like, wow. It was kind of crowded though, so I did my special trick of sitting wide and waiting for the big, wide sets to come through - the inconsistent sets that scuttle everyone on the inside, leaving the wave for me. It means I spend time looking like a moron sitting on my own, but it seems to work well enough. At one stage I abandoned this plan for one of the smaller sneaky inside waves that were coming through. I was keeping an eye on the horizon though as the inside wasn't a place to get caught out if you could avoid it. Which I didn't...

And so I found myself rolling upside down, clutching my board to my chest to make it under the broken wash crashing towards me. I felt it hit and catch just under the nose and lift me up, flipping and spinning me around while I held tight to my board, straining not to lose it. I emerged into the light and found flying along towards shore in the whitewater. Well, I guessed I was, because I had a face full of water and couldn't get my eyes open. But then everything smoothed out, and when I opened my eyes I realised I was perched right in the pocket, screaming down the face. What? I started laughing and clambered, gracelessly, to my feet, taking off down the face for the remaining short distance it had left to travel.

I can't imagine how that looked from shore - funny at best, formless and kooky at worst. But on a busy day a wave's a wave, so I'll take that. Also, I didn't lose my board, so that's always a win.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Day trip

On the weekend, I ventured down the coast to meet up with my friend, Kevyn. I've been here for 5 months now, and it seemed as though it might be time to check out places other than my own little corner of Aotearoa. Kevyn lives a little further south, but we wanted to go surfing together, so she kindly split the difference and we met in Takanaki.

The drive down is a few hours and a half, so by the time I arrived the wind had picked up and was starting to ruffle the sea. But we grabbed a coffee and Kevyn showed me her favourite spots and we found ourselves a left that was consistent, smooth and had a bit of size. Oh, and no-one on it! The few guys who'd been out there were making their way back in across the rocks, so we had the chance to ask about it... Fun, they told us. Kind of full, but with a longboard, no problems. We had parked beside the weekend campsite of these guys, who'd been cruising there for a few days. As they peeled off wetsuits, we pulled ours on and made our way across the ever-present rocks and boulders to the waves.


Coming to live in New Zealand presented me with a four surfing challenges: colder, bigger, lefts and rocks. I wasn't spewing about any of them, but I knew they were going to be things to negotiate as I learned to surf in these waves. So far I've found myself loving the lefts, not bothered by the cold, and stoked on the bigger waves. But the rocks remain a challenge and I know that I am held back by my disinclination to deal with them. I think I'm mostly opposed to the lack of grace and elegance that is possible in negotiating them as you get in and out of the water. To be fair, stumbling back and forth across scratchy, weed covered rocks while carrying a longboard is far from ideal, but I know that the rocks are less likely to give in than I am. Instead, you have to gingerly pick your way through the rocks which the wash rushes around you - pushing you forward and pulling you off balance. I know I'll get there with it, but until I have to, well, I've been avoiding it. But not this day. This day rocks were all that were offered - rocks are far as the shoreline could be seen! Rocks to the water, rocks back to the soil and grass, and the receding tide was little help. So I had to suck it up.

And I did.

I made my way down. The scratchy surface gave them grip, which is a blessing, but they seem to tumble so far into the sea, which is an extra ugh when you have a massive fin sticking out from your board. So your board goes upside down, upside down and I scrambled and curled my toes and watched the sets and looked ahead and felt my way as best I could. And I got out with dry hair, which was surprising.

But the surprise was short lived. Kevyn was shouting instructions at me about the wave - how it breaks, where to take off. I kind of heard, I kind of didn't - I was too intent on watching the horizon and not getting caught on the inside and washed back into those acres of bloody rocks! A couple went through, but then, very quickly a wave was coming through - solid with a nice shoulder and formed so I was just in the right spot. With Kevyn shouting encouragement, I paddled into it...

The drop was much steeper than I'd expected, and as I got to my feet I felt the water disappear from under me and for a moment expected to kook it. But no! I managed to hold the take off and then had a long, clean, speeding wave to play with. An oh, it was great. I sought out the edges as far as I was able - finding the top, the bottom, the pocket, the shoulder (as much as my limited skills would allow). It was the best of times and against my better judgement, I surfed it in as far as was really sensible given the rocky realities of the coastline. But how do you give a wave like that up before you have to?

As I paddled back out - stoked! - a massive broken set meant I had to ditch my board and dive. It's so rare I have to cast my board aside to get past a wave, that I can actually count the ties on one hand. But this one was solid! After the first wave, I retrieved my board and paddled hard to see if I could make it through the second one. You've got to try, right? I didn't come close to making it though, and ditched my board a second time, diving down into the water. As the wave passed over me I noticed that I never felt the pull of the wave against my board and knew that my leash had snapped. I could barely be annoyed. I've had the leash for ages and it's stretched well beyond it's original nine foot length. I bobbed about diving under the waves and then peering rock-ward to see where my poor, unfortunate board washed up. As I started the swim in, I realised I'd not being paying enough attention to actually inhaling and found myself out of breath and feeling a sense of rising panic. I just couldn't get much air into my lungs. My breaths were so shallow. Kevyn shouted across to ask if I was okay and I said that I thought so, but I doubt it was terribly convincing. It was one of those moments when you know you'll be okay, but you also suddenly remember how small and fragile you can be. I was never in real trouble - I'm a strong swimmer and have grown up by the sea - but as I focused on getting air into my lungs between waves, I remember thinking to myself, 'Oh, so this is how people drown'.

Of course, I made it in, and as I scrambled over the weedy rocks towards my board I expected the worst. I'd seen it rise up and crash down a few times, so I was braced for dings. I grabbed it up and started making my way across the acres of rocks that were spread in front of me, back to the car. I dabbled in the idea of paddling back out with no leash, and then thought of asking the guys back near our car if I could borrow one from then. But then I thought about surfing a longboard using a shortboard leash and decided I was done. My one wave was enough.

I parked myself on the rocks to check the damage and to get the leftover length of leggie out of my way for the walk back. I ran my hands across the board again and again, but all I could find was one crack in the glass on one of the rails! Amazing! Nice work, Gary.

I looked back out to Kevyn, paddling amongst the swell. I didn't expect her to come in, of course. Surfing is a bit brutal like that - someone has a shit time but their mates keep surfing - but that is something I love about it too. I love that others know that I can take care of myself and that if I need them I'll make it damn clear. No-one bothers to baby you, because they know you wouldn't be there if you couldn't be.

As I gingerly crept back across the rocks and pebbles and dirt, I arrived back to an enthusiastic set of boys who admired my wave and offered me a leash. When I turned it down, they shifted the offer to a beer and a place sitting by their fire, which I did accept. Surfing in NZ has its challenges, but it surely has its kindnesses too.

P.S. As I drove home that afternoon, I saw the craziest clouds! I've never seen these ones before - can anyone shed any light one what they're called and what they suggest?



Saturday, October 18, 2014

Boards for miles! Boards for sale!

So there is a pretty amazing surfboard auction happening over in Western Australia at the moment. There are 111 boards up for sale - you can check out the boards up for auction via this link.

There are some pretty wild creations in there, this one chief amongst them:
OLE Olson Twin Fin

1961. 8’11" X 21 ½". Built in 1961 by Bob, he remembers only making one of these, one of the first ever twin fins. Double glass on fins and black stripes with OLE logo. Fully restored.

Also...

Tom Blake Paddle Board

1946. By the Catalina Equipment Company of Los Angeles. Tom Blake was a forerunner of surfing design and is credited with being the first person to put fins on surf boards. A champion athlete he was a fine surfer, swimmer and board paddler, having won many titles at the three pursuits, both in Hawaii and America. 16’ long and of a hollow design with ribs inside.

And this one I'd love to have. It's is one of only two of the 111 boards that are in any way associated with women (the other is one of Layne Beachley's boards):

Joe Larkin Single Stringer

C. 2008. This is a replica of the board that Joe made for Phyllis O’Donnell with which she won the 1964 world titles held at Manly. Signed by both Joe and Phyllis this board is 9’ X 21". It has the classical "D" fin of its era and is a clear board with 4 black pinstripes. Phyllis, by winning this competition became Australia’s first World surfing champion.

Anyway, board lovers... get involved!

Friday, October 17, 2014