Today was my third surf back after over two months out of the water. Say what? A combination of weather and travel has kept me out of the surf, and I've been going nuts. But the last few days have offered up waves and no wind, so I've been making the most of it all.
Today I paddled out to some lovely, glassy beachies. I'll usually take a point break every time, but some of my favourite surfs in NZ have been at this beach, so I feel a fair bit of affection for it. In my mind it's always raining and green, which has much to do with the kinds of winds and weather conditions that shape the conditions. So I made my way down to the black sand and along the shore to some lefts that seemed pretty consistent.
There were only a few people out at first and it was lovely. The waves were far from amazing, but they were fun and they were there. After a while, more people arrived and the competition stepped up. Everyone was playing the inside game where the usual rules of the lineup get put aside in favour of hassling and positioning. There were plenty of waves, but you get one or two crew doing this, and it's game on. It wasn't heavy, but it was happening. Suddenly, I found it much harder to get waves, which I tend to attribute to being the only chick, but it's hard to know, really. I decided to be patient and wait it all out - I'd had a bunch of waves and it was easy for me to get the smaller ones on my longboard anyway - but started to get a bit frustrated with the constant stream of dudes going straight to my inside and taking the next wave. Then one came my way, so I took it. There was a guy right next to me on my outside who went for it too, but I was pleased that he finally pulled off. But as I got up, there was another guy on my inside, who I knew had just that moment paddled out, so I decided to disregard him. But he called out to me,
'Oh, I am.'
'Don't tell me what to do!'
And then he sped up right next to me reaching his hand out and yells,
'Are you joking? No!'
I was so pissed off. I get it - he was being friendly etc - but I didn't see him be so friendly like that to any of the guys out there. He did that because I'm a woman and that meant something to him - either he wanted to meet me or he thought I wasn't going to make it or something. But I didn't want to share that wave with whoever he was. I didn't want to feel him pushing up behind my board on the wave. I didn't want him to try and touch me. And sure, I'm sensitive to this stuff, but you know what? Just don't, dude.
So I ignored him and stayed on the wave, but couldn't turn back into the pocket because he was there. And I know it didn't matter because I was getting waves enough, but I knew by then it had turned into a minor hassle-fest no matter where you sat and I just didn't feel like being singled out as someone who was easy to take waves from or to 'share' them with. As it turned out, those guys took off on my inside on every wave I got after that, and I saw them talking and smirking at me after, like I'd been a real bitch about it. But I don't have to be friendly to some guy because he wanted to engage with me. I mean, he could have just talked to me, which plenty of other guys out there were doing without making me feel singled out. They just talked to me and let me get waves without needing to be a part of that.
It's nice that dudes want to be part of women surfing out in the water, but that doesn't mean they get to make women feel uncomfortable, which this guy really did. He made me feel singled out and different and accessible and I'm sure he didn't mean any of that, but that was the effect. I considered going and explaining to him why I reacted the way I did, but since he'd already made me feel so uncomfortable, it felt risky and I didn't. I guess he's not my problem anyway.
So I sat away from that guy and picked off the wide ones, which was frustrating really because then avoiding him totally defined my waves and sure, that was my choice, but I didn't want to deal with whatever way the situation was going to go - I didn't really know anyone out there so I was on my own in negotiating it. Slowly I made my way back to the inside and got a bunch more and had a really nice surf in the green water and the gentle rain.