‘Getting Barreled’ could technically be defined as “the act of riding inside the hollow pitching lip of a wave”. Speaking of it in excited, elevated tones and pitches, surfers unanimously regard it as the most coveted, sought after place on a wave to be. Transfixed with wanderlust eyes, gregarious grins, and infectious levels of stoke; surfers hoot in celebratory euphoria as they emerge unscathed from the remains of the wave’s last heaving breath. Paddling back out to the lineup, the surreal experience replays itself over and over again in the surfers mind like a recurring wet dream. The surfer feels a bit like they just had an “out of body” experience, internally speculating to themselves; “did that really just happen!!??” As the extra sensory perception and adrenaline rush of the experience fades away like the final waning pulses of a dying swell, the perma-grin planted on the surfers face only grows stronger. With salt water still dripping out of sunburnt noses, surfers cannot help but blurt the rhetorical question to all their bros – “did you see that sick barrel I just got!!??” Describing in vivid detail each play-by-play take of their shackadelic experience (gesticulating hands and water swooshing sound effects included), the re-creation, for all its well intended imagery, often falls on deaf ears. It’s not surprising really. Surfers by nature have a mental quota of waves they feel they need to catch to satisfy their ravenous wave riding addictions. Case in point, what surfer cares to be ear raped by their bro’s incessant blabbering about something that was “like… so 5 minutes ago” when the oceanic menu du jour is featuring a rare 2 for 1 special on the barrel buffet! When conditions align and the opportunity to get shacked silly exists, it’s all about some good ol’ carpe diem; translation- “every man for himself, seize the day!”
Surfers are forever infatuated with the barrel. It’s illusive, round, and inviting. They gawk at it in giddy, prepubescent wonder like a young buck’s first visit to a topless Euro beach. No doubt, if Sigmund Freud was a surfer, he would have linked some sexually repressed Oedipus complex to the surfer and their incessant obsession with the barrel. Really, it’s no wonder that surfers react in such animated swagger; after all, getting barreled just isn’t an everyday event for most. Unless a surfer is lucky enough to travel consistently or call their home break a heaving, barrel producing anomaly like Pipeline or Puerto, the odds of getting shacked decrease precipitously. So great is the desire to get barreled, that surf minded entrepreneurs and engineers have crafted ever evolving wave pools and standing waves like Bruticus Maximus to pick up the slack when Mother Nature calls in sick. While definitely not a replacement for the real thing, these carefully and not so carefully crafted (ouch, there goes my skin again on the sandpapery bottom) wave machines do a pretty decent job of mimicking the insatiable rush that comes from being deep in the barrel. “Order of 3 barrels to go!!!!!”
“Getting Barreled” has held many illustrative connotations and references over the decades. Many different dialects of surfer lingo lay claim to the timeless mystical art. The most commonly heard references to “getting barreled” are; “getting tubed”, “getting shacked”, “getting pitted”, “getting slotted”, “getting stuffed”, “green room”, and “catching some shade” to name a few. (Disclaimer: please note, caution is advised when using these terms. Mixing and/or overdosing of terminology can be harmful to one’s ego and reputation as a surfer. When it comes to discussing or reacting to getting barreled, humbleness is the key- Endnote.) Commonly referred to as “claiming it”, any semblance of chest thumping, fist pumping machismo upon exiting the barrel is generally looked down upon by the surfing clan. Surfers are notoriously overcritical of those whom claim mountains out of molehills (unless of course it is themselves they are talking about, “did you see me? Buy my poster!”). This is generally due to years and years of rising barrel claiming abuse instigated by an influx of novice surfers (a.k.a- kooks, barneys, buoys, etc..) trying to pass off wussy head dips, cover ups, and waist high closeout barrels as legitimate barrels. As a result, an entire generation of skeptical surfers has emerged, and for good reason. A good example of this can be seen in the movie “Point Break”, when after being subjected to some of the worst surfing re-creations ever made in modern film, Keanu Reeves strolls into the office and says in his best bro braddah accent; “I caught my first barrel this morning!”. Sure ya did Keanu, and I just caught it firing at Malibu all to myself, rightttttttt………….
In an ever evolving world of media surf hype and progressive surf maneuvers, many surfers still consider getting barreled to be the heart and soul of surfing in its purest form. It transcends all styles, fads, and genres (..yes, thankfully even tight black jeans). The act of side slipping down the face of a wave and into a living, breathing liquid medium is something few in the general population will ever get to experience. It is definitely one of those quintessential prerequisite “bucket list” items of the 10 things every surfer should experience before they die. Riding deep within a pulse of energy that travelled hundreds if not thousands of miles only to rise up and curl over in perfect bowling symmetry is truly a miracle unto itself. Now if only we could get some of these illusive barrels to show up when we need them; “does 2 o’clock this afternoon work for ya?, how bout’ Saturday?…P.S.- don’t be a flake! I’ll be waiting…..”