Things I'm Glad I Didn't Know When I Started Surfing
Near-drowning experiences, streaming noses and what's REALLY inside all that saltwater you've been swallowing...
There are a few things I wish I did know when I started surfing. Like how to hold my breath longer, shortcuts for taking off a wet wetsuit, and the importance of knowing my limits.
But there are also some things I’m glad I didn’t know the first time I paddled into a wave.
I doubt any of them would have dissuaded me entirely from the pursuit, but at least I wouldn’t have been surprised by what I discovered...
[part title="Surfing is addictive"]
There's no doubt that surfing is addictive, but did you know it's been scientifically proved?
Riding waves can trigger the release of a neurotransmitter called dopamine that stimulates the brain’s pleasure and reward centres.
If you have a high sensation-seeking personality (take the quiz here), you’ll experience that pleasure more intensely.
Once you’re hooked on the feeling, it’ll keep you coming back for more and more. And it's no bad thing.
I had no idea my life would change completely the first time I stood up on a surfboard and tasted the high of being stoked!
[part title="Some people just won't understand"]
Not everyone who tries surfing gets hooked, and some people won’t even try.
You’ll have family members and friends who won’t get your preoccupation with riding waves, or why you have to spend so much time on your “hobby."
They won’t understand the interplay between swell, tide, wind and crowds that dictates when and where you surf, which may conflict with some land-based activity they have in mind.
You may also need to be surreptitious while mind-surfing the waves over your partner’s shoulder on those romantic beach walks...
[part title="Water will drip from your nose at inopportune times"]
All that wiping out, duck-diving and turtle-rolling frequently pushes copious amounts of seawater up your nose and into your sinuses. Unfortunately, what goes up must come down.
You’ll drop a pen in a meeting later that morning, and when you bend to pick it up off the floor – drip, drip, drip.
In lunchtime yoga class, downward poses will send dribbles from your nose onto the mat.
And better not go to bed with anyone for the first time post-surf (unless you were riding waves together). Certain sexual positions will release an unromantic dribble of water onto your partner’s face.
[part title="What's exactly in a drop of seawater..."]
Seawater may look lovely – all those pretty blues and greens – but what you can’t see may make you feel a little sick.
Tiny fish eggs, crab larvae, and worms may look gross under the microscope, but it’s the unseen bacteria that lurk in every splash which could do you ill.
It’s no secret that what happens on land doesn’t stay on land - it runs off into the ocean with each rain.
72 hours is the recommended time to avoid the surf after significant rainfall in populated areas, to lessen the chance of becoming sick from contact with e. coli or other disease agents.
[part title="Surfing is hard"]
Forget all the Hollywood surf movies you’ve ever seen. You can’t learn to surf in a weekend, and you won’t be getting barrelled within a fortnight.
If you didn’t learn as a young grommet, there’s a long, steep learning curve ahead. It’s more than just training your muscles how to paddle, pop-up, and turn with speed and flow; you have to learn how to read the ocean.
Putting yourself in the right place at the right time to catch a wave is a skill that must be acquired through much time spent on the sea.
[part title="It's not enough to just surf"]
“The best training for surfing is, without question, lots of surfing. But there is still a time and a place for training on land," asserts surf fitness trainer Ash Boddy of Weekend Surf Warrior.
Beginners who need to build muscle memory, as well as surfers who are landlocked, injured or looking for a competitive edge, will see an improvement from cross-training, he says.
Yoga can provide balance, flexibility and strength. Swimming increases endurance. Push-ups help with pop-ups and duck-diving. Building core stability is a must. Failing to be otherwise physically fit can lead to injury, especially if you surf infrequently.
[part title="Sometimes you'll think you might drown"]
Misstep in sizeable, powerful surf, and you may find yourself pushed down below the surface, held under by roiling water. The wave will own you then; you’ll tumble at its mercy.
Maybe you saw the hold-down coming and had a chance to gulp air, or maybe not. But you’re still being rolled, unsure which way is up, and your body is demanding air.
“How much longer is this going to go on?" you’ll wonder, as fear takes hold.
Don’t panic. Eventually the wave will release you to find the surface, and the air will never have tasted so sweet.