It was the tail end of December of 2019 as I was chopping it up with my fellow Catch Surf Sales Associates at the Laguna Store. I could be found here one day on the weekend (typically Saturdays) stamping sticks and selling softies. I am not one to make New Year’s resolutions, as it always just seemed like another year with a different 4 digit number attached. On top of this, I never thought I didn’t already surf a bunch. Ask most of my friends and they have no problem vouching for my froth: subpar conditions can’t stop me if I want to go surf or have excess time to do so in the day. It’s just been ingrained in me that a surf at some point during the day makes the day a whole lot better. So as I was shooting the shit with one of my coworkers, I had somehow come up with the idea to try to surf everyday as a New Year’s challenge of sorts. Plenty of people surf everyday, believe it or not. I wouldn’t say a lot, but you hear stories of people surfing consecutively for years. Inspiring shit. And me typically surfing when I can didn’t seem like a tall task to try everyday.
I had leaked my resolution to others and a common problem was brought up: I like to do things that might not be close to an ocean. I immediately remembered I would not be surfing Coachella weekend, and other events that could pop up during the year could derail me from this goal. On top of this, I anticipated going back east at some point, and there are not always waves in NJ. So we settled for the next best thing: surfing 365 sessions (it was a leap year, so this became 366 funnily enough).
The stage was set. I had to surf most likely every day and more common than not twice some days to achieve this goal. Now mind you, if the waves were good and I had the time I was no stranger to putting up three sessions in one day. But as I become older and gain more responsibility at work and with life in general, these were less frequent than you would think. But still prevalent, especially in the summer with fun south swells and warm water temps. I would catalog my sessions in a google doc, eager to compile the data at the end of the year. To also up the ante, I decided to track “good” surfs and “bad surfs”. This is the data that has the grayest area. What is a good surf? I definitely know what a bad surf is-everyone does. But what metric would we hold accountable for this. And what counts as a session? Let’s break it down real quick.
A session was pretty simple- 3 waves or 10 minutes. I had a couple of these, but the bulk of my sessions were 30 minutes at least. On top of this, if I had been out of the water for close to a half an hour before going back in, this would count as two. To some this might sound strange. But let me paint a picture: you are surfing Lowers, packed some snacks, maybe two boards, and a lot of water. For me, many times I find myself peaking early or late, having a great start or great ending on my Lowers sessions. I split sessions up because if I did two 1.5-2 hour shifts on the cobbles, one would most likely be better than the other. Often I would be switching boards as well, so that clearly must be another session. I would say the bulk of these split up sessions come from Lowers or an all-day beach day in Newport that involved a couple quick dips.
Now for the “good” vs “bad” surfs. First, we need to consider the conditions (something which I stupidly thought did not need to be logged in my spreadsheet). A good surf in subpar conditions might be below average in really good surf. As a surfer who spends a lot of time in the water, you know what feels good versus what doesn’t. So here’s how I logged it: if the waves were below average, a good wave could be one good turn or a tube or an air. When I say below average, think of gutter surf. Really bad waves. The bar is incredibly low. As waves got better, the same still applied for the most part. As long as it was deemed a tube, a tube gave any session gave it a mark to enter the “good pile”. Not every session you luck into a barrel. For me, airs were the same although I know the difference between a shitty low air and just a low air. For turns, one hammer turn or a two turn combo would suffice, and if I could rattle off 3 decent turns on a wave the deed was done.
Now that the details are ironed out, let’s talk about the end product and what I learned. I ended this crusade on December 15th. I was unsure if I would finish early. At my best, I was 20 surfs ahead of schedule. At my worst, about 15 surfs behind. Digging out of that hole was a grind. But you can essentially match up your session number with the literal number of the date. December 15th was 350. I always knew I would get to 366. Even if I had to do triple sessions over the weekends and sacrifice surfing fun and good waves. I am glad I didn’t have to. While at some moments it was rather tiresome, we got there. Here are the takeaways I got from a year spent in the salt.
DO USE THE CAMS-DON’T TRUST THEM
In the digital world we inhabit, there are so many resources at our disposal to make getting a fun surf easy. The most obvious are the Surfline cams. When I wake up, the first thing I do is check surfline. I roll over post-alarm and pull up Surfline and start cam surfing. Where I live, there are 25 surfline cameras within a 5-10 minute drive of my house. Now when I say DO use the cams, this is to see some factors that would help you decide on whether or not you want to surf. Wind and tide are the easiest two. Too high? Wait. Wind up? Sleep in a little and surf when it’s more sunny. We wake up early to catch glassy conditions- if the winds up the session already has a damper on it. Unfortunately, I surfed many onshore mornings and sometimes they are fun, most times they are not. DON’T trust the cams. There have been so many sessions where the cam looked average to below-average and it ended up really fun. There are tons of blind spots for the cameras so if you surfed yesterday and the report is similar, trust your knowledge over the stream.
A SURF TO START THE DAY JUST FEELS RIGHT
No matter how bad the waves were, how cold the waves were, how crowded the lineup was, it always feels good to get wet. When there is swell on tap and you have been surfing a bit, the allure of a shitty session has a little less power. But if you’ve been out of the water for a while or just are a little stressed, getting a rinse in is essential. If you work all day, wake up early and get on it. Start work early and can’t get the dawnie? Go out for the last hour and watch the sunset from the water. I know most surfers can back me up on this one.
HAVE A DIVERSE QUIVER-SURF DIFFERENT WAVES
Now, I know not everyone has a quiver of boards. But hear me out: there are essentials boards to have to make surfing more frequently way less of a chore. Obviously, when the waves are good, you need a proper shortboard (if that’s your style). But in most cases, the waves are more often poor than pumping. So, you’ll need some boards that inspire you when the waves look pretty shitty. A fish can do wonders for your surfing. I once wrote about how a fish can help your surfing (read here). But as far as getting out when the waves aren’t looking too hot, the fish is the go-to route. Something flatter, with more foam, and less fins typically is the formula for fun when the waves are dribbly. Another good addition to the quiver is a soft top. Riding soft tops is just more fun. I don’t know what it is about it, but it is not hard to go soft. Whether it’s packing walled closeouts or just cruising, softies bring a smile to your face. Surf different waves on different boards. Nothing gets more tiresome than surfing the same kind of wave. Hunt some tubes. Cook some turns. Try to launch some airs. Keep it spicy. You have to if you want to put up numbers. When you get tired of a board, try it at a different wave. When you get tired of a wave, try a different board.
THE BEST WAY TO BECOME A BETTER SURFER IS TO SURF
You can workout, study surf clips, or do whatever you might think will improve your surfing. But when it comes down to it: the only way to get better at surfing is to surf. I think a lot of skill just comes from comfort standing up on the board. And every surf you’ll at least stand up. I’d be gassing you up a little if I said you could progress your surfing by surfing shit waves. You can, but it’s hard to work on open face carves when it’s 2 foot and walled. You can learn a lot just from drawing different lines and different boards and conditions. But surfing when the waves are fair to good is definitely when you get the best return on investment. But like I said- surfing in general will excel your ability on the board.
SURF WITH FRIENDS BUT ALSO SURF ALONE
Surfing with friends is almost always more fun than surfing alone. Having someone to talk to in the lineup, split waves with, and can see your sick ones is what surfing is all about. I am lucky to have a ton of friends that surf and live within very close proximity, so it isn’t that hard to link up with some friends for a surf. It is a little tougher with my early bird schedule and before work surfs, but when it’s warm and the waves are good almost everyone is on board. However, sometimes the solo session is warranted. There is nothing quite like scoring waves by yourself. As this doesn’t happen often in California, there are still pockets of time that you can sneak out for a session of fun wedges with just your lonesome self. Surfing alone gives you a lot of time to think, which can be good and bad. But sometimes I really like just waking up and enjoying a quiet morning of surf. Don’t worry- if I don’t know you I’ll still talk to you in the lineup. But sometimes silence is golden.
That’s it. There’s probably more, but I will spare you the time I have already made you lose. I encouraged anyone who would like to surf as much as they can in 2021 to do it.