THINKING THROUGH ALTERNATIVE SHAPES

This is a post from my alternative website Welcome Progress. Before I turned off the site, I grabbed a couple pieces I liked to be redistributed here. The timing on this one seems right on the button, as I have been surfing exclusively a twin fin since the start of 2021.

Said twin fin.

To keep something fresh, sometimes changes need to be made. Mindset, environment, etc. The list goes on and on. Some people might fear change. This is definitely a problem, considering no man or woman has achieved greatness by staying stagnant or true to their routine for too long. Sure, having something dialed feels good and if they are good habits and routines keep them going. But the old saying goes “variety is the spice of life”, so incorporating things outside of your comfort zone is essential for development. 

Change breeds a different mindset. No matter how comfortably you are sitting or how zenned out you might feel, mindset is one thing that can always evolve and will just make you a better person. Mindset is something you can reference when making a decision or thinking about a choice, and doesn’t necessarily sway you one way or the other. Having an expandable and broad mindset lets you see the whole painting rather than the corner or image that just catches your eye. In order to expand and have our mindset grow, we either need more experience or experience from others. This pretty much boils down to trying new things or reading material from those who have pushed boundaries or embraced change with open arms. 

So where are we taking this? The underlying theme is mindset and opening up your brain to things that you might never have considered previously.

So let’s talk about alternative surfboards. Not to shift the focus from the main idea, but rather provide an example that will be relevant to almost anything you apply it to. Let’s begin. 

Most people are hard in their ways about the boards they ride. If this were on a graph, it would go as follows: those who have surfed longer and are more proficient tend to get more finicky about boards. Surfing for the most part is a constant learning curve. Most who pick it up dream of ability well beyond the realm of reality. But, if you practice enough you can get there (aside from the 5% of surfers who are really F1 drivers in a realm of speed junkies). Not to get sidetracked, the point is people are stuck in their routine of surfboard shapes. Most lineups are filled with performance surfboards or a beefier, more “domestic” version of the performance shortboard. 

But as time has gone on, you are starting to see a retro revolution of old school shapes and “alternative” boards. These boards are breathing a breath of fresh air into the lineup, and you see people of all skill levels gliding atop these pre-2000s shapes. These people have the right idea. People are all built differently, and believe it or not some people definitely fare better on a fish than the hypersensitive shortboard that your favorite surfer is riding in a heat. You could hop on a fish and just be blown away with the ride this shape has gifted you. And fishes are just the tip of the iceberg: mid lengths, asymmetricals, bars of soap. Thrusters, quads, twins, singles, finless. The possibilities are endless. 

Riding boards outside the comfort zone stirs in your brain new ways of wave riding. How you once thought you had to surf two foot waves has been turned upside down. Having this broader mindset of what to ride, when to ride it, and how to ride it can add a large amount of milk froth into your brains surfing coffee cup. Seeing a dribbly two foot reform can stoke you out if you have the right board to tackle it. Every surfer knows how fun getting wet is, even if the results are more sub par than you expected. Most become better people after they’ve had a surf in their day, and these boards will help you tack up more sessions than ever before. Many have jumped on the alternative shape bandwagon, but tons are still stuck in their ways.

To circle back, not apply this short tale of the evolution of surf craft  to whatever you want. You only listen to two genres of music: expand your taste and you could find a whole new world of tunes that you really like. All of this is about programming your brain to not fear change and embrace trying new things. Yes, this is much easier said than done. And there are much scarier choices and experiences that require trying something new than picking what surfboard you ride or what music you listen to while you work. Between home life, professional life, and just life in general, oftentimes we are thrown a curveball whether we like it or not. Having a flexible mindset can help you hit it out of the park, or at least anticipate what pitch is coming next.

Here’s some inspiration: someone with a high-performance background welcoming alternative shapes with open arms.

Don’t Cling to Something Non-static

Everybody finds their inner peace and joy from certain things. When all has gone wrong, we can depend on this activity or thing to bring us happiness when we need it most. It seemed like in 2020 people needed this more than ever. Like stated in the idea above, there are two different types of these security blankets that we can lean on in a time of need. The first (and what we will not be talking about) is a thing. Things might be one of the broadest terms in the english language, but think of something tangible or I suppose even intangible. That was a bad preface, but these are the things (sorry for using the word again) that don’t require much effort and you can jump in from almost anywhere. This includes talking to friends, listening to that song or album, eating that certain food type or food spot, etcetera. These “things” can brighten up your mood quite easily, and are on one end of the spectrum of things that can bring you up. You might even have these at home or on the go with you, making them ideal for a quick fix or pick me up.

The second is something a little more complex. This is more of an activity- it typically is an activity that you have done all your life and once had to lean on to get out of a rut or to turn that frown upside down. The things we are really like to do, that have required putting in work overtime to achieve your status or skill level or level of comfortability doing it. It’s almost like breathing: second nature. Or something that even if you are not that skilled at, still brings a smile to your face (this almost falls into the “thing” category a little better). Now that this is getting written out, let’s preface this real quick: technically not everyone will have this. This is speaking to those who have sacrificed to be at the spot they are at today. The activity in which we are speaking of you couldn’t imagine life without it. Unfortunately, however, there is a certain disease that travels along with this activity. 

As you get better and better at something or even do something more and more, the expectations get higher. From both the outside and from the inside. It’s inescapable. Here’s a really base level example. You are a straight A student in school and you bomb a test (let’s just say it wasn’t an important one, as that makes the example even better). For you, you might be bummed out. How did I do so bad? What did I do wrong? Maybe it just wasn’t my day. Oh well, you remember it doesn’t do much in the long run as it really didn’t matter for your overall grade. However, now you may have to catch scrutiny from classmates gawking at the fact that YOU, mister straight A, failed it with flying colors. Then, if your parents find out, you have even more explaining to do. This was an interesting example to pen, but I think it gets the basic point across.

Back to your activity. The scenario above was to paint the picture of expectations. When you reach a certain level of anything in life, you start to set higher and higher goals and aspirations in which you would like to achieve. Which is great, why would you not want to get better and better as time goes on? No one would want to stay the same for years and years, still doing the same thing daily but not seeing any progress. That would surely drive one nuts. But, sometimes a step back needs to be taken. To experience the pure joy this activity gives you, you need to think about it in a static sense. Be thankful you can do X, Y, or Z. Enjoy the moment while you are doing what you love, and don’t worry about the performance. Just enjoy your ability to do what you have done all your life. Think about when you first started, and smile a little that as many years as it is later, you find yourself doing the same thing just as often with the same drive. Or think of those unable to do things that you can do for circumstances they couldn’t control.

Now you may think this breeds stagnant growth in the field. Sure, you don’t need to do this all the time. Sometimes, we want to see how good we can go or how our current skill set stacks up to the ability you have always dreamed of. There are times and places for this. It should be understood that if you are a little down, it might not be the best idea to put a lot of pressure on performance. On the chance you underperform, the two negatives will not make a positive. On the other hand, if you smash it your mood could be uplifted. It is a gamble, a toss up riding all on your shoulders. But back to the point: clinging to your favorite hobby or something you do quite often in a static sense leads to the most happiness. It is good to get used to envisioning it this way, as if you ever have an accident or something that pries you from previous ability or frequency in which you can perform it, you will surely be happy to just be doing it rather than not.

I SURF BECAUSE…

Parallels with one of my favorite surfers.

Now I am aware the title is rather cheesy, but let me explain. I surf quite a bit. Almost every day if I am lucky. And if you follow me on Instagram, you watch me surf quite a bit via the Surfline cams (sorry). But it’s not easy. Well, sometimes it’s easy. When the waves are pumping, I am sold on the idea the night before. Sometimes even days before. I check Surfline so much that I am always tapped in to what the next couple days will bring. If it really looks good, I go to bed excited. When I was younger, I often had trouble going to sleep in anticipation of swell (a feeling pretty similar to christmas, as waves on the east coast are far less abundant than that of the west coast). When the forecast looks good, it’s not hard to go surfing.

But back to when it is hard to get in the water. When the waves are small. When it’s windy outside. When your boards are dinged. When the waters cold. When the air is cold. Blah blah blah. There are so many more reasons as to why I shouldn’t surf than why I should. But for me, I never had a problem overlooking all of these negative factors. I just loved to surf. Day in and day out. I think it stems back to being wave starved on the east coast. But even when I am home, I am chomping at the bit to get wet. It’s just ingrained in my brain at this point. Surfing = fun. Who doesn’t want to have fun?

But, contrary to popular belief, surfing is far from fun sometimes. Bad waves, eggy crowds, or just not surfing up to your usual standard can bog down any session. Sure, all it takes is one wave to turn that frown upside down, but I’ve had sessions where even an immaculately surfed wave couldn’t make me forget the 30 waves I surfed horribly. 

I am sure people from the outside looking in wonder why I (and everyone else who surfs before their work, surfs instead of other obligations, or just is surf obsessed) surf so much. Especially those who hear me say “yeah the waves were shit” upon exiting the water or getting home. There’s just much more to it than the actual act of surfing. Let’s let one of my (late) favorite surfers explain:

I never knew AI and I would have so much in common. First off, we’ve both lost to girls in a surf contest. While he has a little bit more pride in his stride considering he is a 3x world champ, it’s a commonality nonetheless. Speaking of girls, we hear Andy mention one of the reasons he started surfing was that it would get him chicks. Take it from me, it doesn’t. I mean, maybe the odd few, but no one cares if you surf. It’s sometime seen as cool, but who care? I too had all these illustrious ideas in my head of what surfing would get me. Girls, social status, “being cool”. But the thing surfing gives me is something that isn’t really tangible. And is by far the most important thing I get out of hopping in the water.

The 3 minute piece ends with “I surf because I am always a better person when I come in.” Let me preface this real quick: this is not how it used to be or how it always was for me. If you knew me in my younger years and even on a (now extremely) rare occasion at the age of 25, if I had a bad surf you can tell. Before I went away for college, I really would act like a girl. After I landed at school in California, I knew I had to grow up. These temper tantrums would look foolish. But it still was really easy to tell how pissed off I was after a shit surf. A bad surf put me in a terrible mood twice as potent than when a good surf put me in a happy mood. But as I grew older, I soon realized how to just kick this embarrassing habit and enjoy surfing for what it is.

Long story short (kudos to you if you’ve made it this far) surfing makes me a better person. I don’t particularly know how or why, and I feel like many others would agree with this strange phenomenon. I mean hell, even Andy felt the same way. I just look back to times where surfing wasn’t as prevalent in my life or I couldn’t get a session as easily and correlate it to that being the source of my problems (or the reason my problems felt little relief). Sure, my demons aren’t anywhere near the magnitude of the late Andy Irons or others in this world, but everyone has their own problems and down days. It’s not always sunny. But for me, the ocean is the only way to rinse them off and part the clouds. And I am fortunate to now live in a wave rich environment where it isn’t that hard to get wet. Having a good session at this point is just the icing on the cake.