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.