Wednesday, October 6, 2010

#20 Paddling Out

Paddling out is at the core of any good surf session, in fact it’s a bona-fide necessity!  It’s the tenacious and repetitive cycle that delivers a surfer from the landlocked confines of the beach and into the lineup to score some much needed surf.  It’s a take it or leave it enterprise where the waves seen feathering on the outside are all the fuel a surfer needs to get out there and get some!  Standing there on the beach, surfboard in hand – paddling out becomes the proverbial dangling of the carrot at the end of the stick for any surfer with a set of surf stoked eyes on the prize.  It’s a means to an end that with some luck, agility, and experience will deliver the surfer out to the lineup and into some adrenaline pumping waves as quickly and effortlessly as possible. Now if we could only find a way to hitch a ride on some Jet Ski assist or air drop out of a helicopter into an idyllic tropical surf break in Bali like Andy & Bruce Irons did in Fuel TV’s ad campaign things would be so much easier.  Hmmm… not betting Christmas on that one.........

Paddling out is a highly variable experience for the surfer depending on when and where they choose to surf.  Unlike other sports where the playing field remains static, in surfing, no two go-outs are ever the same.  Paddling out requires dedication and mental as well as physical stamina to surmount the ever changing dynamics of the sea.  Erratic cleanup sneaker sets, rip tides, and angry walls of whitewater are all potential game changers of the paddling out experience.  One day conditions can be “surfer meets lazy river” where nary a hair gets wet and the next can produce an all out hell on earth paddle battle against detonating death walls of white water with your name on it!  When conditions are large n’ in charge, the paddling out game re-writes itself entirely and only those willing to take a few beatings need apply.  Paddling out becomes a series of heart thumping scratches for the horizon on par with a Michael Phelp’s Olympic qualifying 250 meter “mad-dash” as large black blobs rear their ugly heads from the depths of the oceanic abyss.  It should come as no surprise to the surfer who challenges Mother Nature on her own turf that sooner or later they too shall have to pay the piper!  These not so fun lickings can come in any variety of pain and panic inducing packages.  One option could be the infamous “having your board ripped out of your hands with a side of rag dolling along the ocean bottom until you can’t breathe so well anymore” scenario.  Or perhaps it’s the taunting heartbreak of nearly making it out to the lineup only to be sent packing for the beach as an angry outside canyon set swings your way, unleashing its wrath upon your vulnerable body like a calculated Mr. Miyagi Judo Chop to the head!! (Note -the only real benefit to this scenario is if you just so happened to scratch over that last bomber set wave.  This affords you the right to chuckle ever so briefly at all the less fortunate surfers left behind in the meat grinder.  Make sure not to laugh too long though – karma’s a biatch!!) 

Whether conditions are macking or a mere doggie paddle at the wave pool with Rick Kane, paddling out is here to stay. It’s as much a part of surfing as riding waves, perhaps even more so.  In fact, statistically speaking, surfers spend over 50% of their time paddling out and duckdiving with another 44% spent bobbing around in the lineup waiting for waves.  The actual riding of waves is only a mere 4 – 6%!!  With all the time surfers spend “not” surfing, perhaps some day in some far off existential surfing universe a surfer will compliment another surfer on some “nice paddling” versus catching a “sick wave”? Ok, admittedly not likely – probably just a pipedream born of oxygen deprivation from one too many brutal hold downs!!   But for all of paddling’s shortcomings, it does provide a surfer some undeniable bonuses.  For instance, it a) gets them into and out to multitudes of waves via their own motive power (i.e. – good exercise!), b) it provides them just the right amount of time to hoot their bros into waves as they scratch over the shoulder, c) gives the surfer time to curse themselves for kooking it on their last wave, d) allows them time to flaunt a shit eating grin for all to see as a testament to their freshly snagged epic ride, and perhaps most importantly, e) occasionally provides views like these!  When in doubt, paddle out!!


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