I finally did it. I finally paddled out at Point Judith to catch some of the best right-hand point break waves on the east coast. I’ve been wanting to do this for years now, and finally the weather and my schedule agreed it was time. The last variable? My confidence…. I justttt barely built up enough for a session today.
…and it sucked.
The swell was perfect, and there was next to no wind. That’s not what sucked. I sucked.
I’m not good at surfing. This is not news to me, it’s not some secret. Most of the time my sessions consist of struggling to make the paddle out gracefully, stumbling on the rocks, wiping out on take offs, and floundering around on the inside.
I can handle all that, I’m used to that, that’s part of the process of getting better.
As the sun rose, I watched some other surfers enter the water. Wanted to make sure I didn’t make the same mistake I made last time on the other side of the point. Just in case I did end up smashing my board on the rocks, though, I decided to use the Ben Gravy Wave Bandit that my brother got me as a gift. You can smash those foam-tops all over the rocks without worrying about dings.
I was reluctant though. Embarrassed. The bright green, pineapple-printed bottom just screaaaaaaams kook. Especially in the hands of a balding 30 year old trying to learn how to surf after he was hit with the existential realization that he isn’t getting any younger.
I was afraid to feel that embarrassment, and I was also just afraid. Never surfed this spot before and it’s intimidating. I even got in the car and started driving away before telling myself no, I want to surf here and turning around. I ultimately lost my great parking spot, too! Which meant a longer walk with my neon green Wave-Bandit.
I paddled out. Super-self conscious of my board. To my delight, I made it without a hitch. I was worried I wouldn’t be able to duck dive on the foamie, but I was.
Once outside, the nerves calmed a bit. I turned around and looked at the lighthouse. I was in the water at Point Judith, finally. In my head, too, but there nonetheless.
It wasn’t long before my first wave. It rolled in, I turned around and looked down the line. It was mine. Paddled, paddled, up with perfect timing, if not a tad early, but I was up and about to take the drop. It was big, and the face was wide open. This was the wave! The one I’ve been wanting. A head high, big fat right with a long, open face.
I set what rail the foamie did have, a accelerated down the face. The drop felt good, and the new board was gliding nicely. Time for a bottom turn. I pressed my back toes down hard, and dipped my shoulders aggressively. I think I leaned more than I twisted, though, because next thing I knew I was belly-flopping before I had a chance to kiss that beautiful wave goodbye.
Whatever, only the first wave, and things were looking promising. Thanks to the longer swell period I was able to get back outside before the next wave pummeled me. As I waited for the next one, those creeping feelings of embarrassment and inadequacy returned. I just kept my eye on the horizon and waited for the next one.
The crowd was filling in though, and every time I checked back at the shore, I’d see an assembly line of surfers climbing down the rocks. This crowd was intimidating, too. There were miles between me and the best guy there, in terms of skill.
I knew this, it’s why I was hanging out towards the edge of the lineup instead of right in the mix at the point point.
Every once in a while a set would prop up down the line where I was, and the next one was coming. I was too far inside. That’s me speaking retrospectively. In the moment I hesitated. Instead of paddling towards the peak I just turned around and waited for it. Maybe I’d be in position, maybe I wouldn’t.
Bad call. I had set myself up to get pummeled following the super late takeoff. I got thrashed around by the wall of water a bit, whatever. What happened next is what hurt.
I surfaced, and as I grabbed my board to start paddling, I thought I heard someone yelling in the distance.
“….vee go home!!!”
I looked back towards the inside. There were lots of people spectating on the point, and the nearest surfer to me was just kinda looking at me. A look that said I heard that too, sorry bro?
Whether I heard it or not, my brain filled in the blanks. Ben Gravy Go Home!
Just like that, surfing wasn’t fun. It’s like that embarrassment in me was a wild animal that had just been let out of a cage and allowed to eat for the first time in days. It’s meal? Me. I know I’m not a good surfer, ok? I know I suck, and I hate that I suck. I hate that I’m a kook. Hate it.
I mustered up the nerve to stave off the nagging thoughts of leaving for another half hour or so. Leave, what are you doing here? leave. Just go home.
I caught a couple more waves. Another kooky late takeoff, and one well timed drop that I took left and failed to bottom turn again.
The one I took left put me right in the impact zone and a big set was rolling in. I duck dove, but felt the wave grab me by the ankles and drag me right along. The next two clobbered me, and with them took any will I had to fend off my self defeating thoughts. I rode the next wave in on my belly and stumbled onto the rocks with my tail between my legs.
I was afraid of looking like/being seen as a kook today, and I looked like a kook and was seen anyway. Not the way I envisioned my first session at this spot.
I wanna say I’m happy I still got out this morning, but I just don’t believe that right now. I’ll pat myself on the back later.