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Sunday, April 13, 2014

Surfing and Knowing Your Limits | Surf Your Sweet Spot

By Rick Bickerstaff

As this winter comes to a close, and on the heels of a post about humility, I thought I'd write one more "lesson-learned" blog, seeing as that's a lot of what's been happening to me lately.

It was the first day that I had surfed in weeks. I got a new job, moved and had a kid all in a two week span, so something's had to give, and in this case it was pretty much everything... including surfing. Well, my friend asked me to go surfing and my incredible wife agreed to watch our daughter while I went out on what looked like a pretty standard day. When we got to the beach though, we found huge closeouts breaking far out amongst heavy white-water...ugh.

We watched for a while as many surfers paddled their arms out, to no avail. The ones who did make it out dropped in on giant dumps that were over before they began, although every once in a while someone would get a corner that made you want to paddle into the most treacherous of waters just for the chance of such a ride, and so we did.

Big ugly closeouts (photo courtesy of Brian Esquivel).
Brian Esquivel
Brian Esquivel
I am sorry to report to you that I did not make it out on that first paddle out. We waited for a lull in the sets, but the break was so far out that another one came before we got too far, and it didn't really let up in between sets anyway. You can only duck dive so many times before you turn tail and head back to the beach.

I blamed it on the fact that I was out of shape from all of these life-changes going on (not sure what my friend's excuse was), but we rested a bit and talked about heading to a nearby spot that is notoriously smaller and more manageable. Maybe it was the allure of catching one of those corners, or our pride. Or maybe it was the fact that I had already paid for parking and didn't want to waste the money, but we went for another go.

I am sorry to report to you that I did not make it out on the second paddle out either.  Not wanting to end the day like this, we decided to go to that other know, the smaller one, where all the kids and girls and newbies go to learn...Dockweiler.  Well, we pulled up and it was amazing -- head high-plus sets breaking both directions and no one else out. This, combined with an easier paddle out and free parking made me ask why we didn't come here in the first place.

I know why we didn't come here: the big waves were at El Porto, all the good surfers go to El Porto. We wouldn't be defeated by big ugly waves or stormy white-water or even expensive parking -- we were experienced, local surfers and we had standards.

Got to keep smiling, no matter what!
But as we sat out there catching wave after wave, who could argue with our decision? And so here is what I learned that day: know your limits and don't follow the crowd.

I don't regret paddling out into that heavy white-water at Porto, because I like a challenge. But there comes a time when it's okay to say "it's too much for where I'm at right now," and head to a spot better suited for you. We had an awesome time and got a lot better at surfing at the smaller break than if we had continued to fight at El Porto, maybe catching one or two waves to reward our efforts, but maybe not catching anything. And what's important to remember here is that there is no shame in this.

Don't let pride get in the way of a good surf session. Forge your own path, at your own pace, and you'll be better off for it in the end.