Thursday, August 9, 2012

The nail that stands up...

You stand up, you stand out. No two ways about it, if you paddle out on a stando, you're going to cause controversy. There will be a buzz in the lineup and you will be at the epicenter of it. 

Yesterday I paddled out to surf a really good left freight training through our pier from the south. I guess little Miss Summer must have read yesterday's post and decided she'd hike her skirt up a little and see if she could win me back (it worked, I'm so fickle). Predictably, the spot was packed with every conceivable type of wave rider, old barnacle to bearded hand-plane hippy, all of us wanted a spot out there and even more, all of us were crazy to get a wave. 

Standing out among the giants.

It definitely wasn't harmonious. There were cut-off, cut-outs, hack-jobs and just plain thievery going down out there. The sponger riders were hovering on the inside like a horde of jackals at a Serengeti potluck, slurping up every little scrap of a wave and leaving nothing to the bodysurf vultures  hovering around the perimeter. It was like watching sailfish go through a sardine bait ball, where the only thing that drifts into the deep are scales; there was not a single wave that made it to the shore unmolested.

Desperation makes you do weird things and with a summer that's left me wave starved, I thought it made perfect sense to insert my flesh and foam into that swirling mosh pit of a take off spot. All the chimpanzee-like jibber-jabbering came to a halt as I did the worst thing a paddlesurfer can do at a crowded spot- I went straight through the crowd right to the top of the peak. Basically, I cut the line. Eyes swung up at me from way down below, boogy boarders stopped scrabbling and went into a hover mode, placidly kicking their fins like ducks waiting for a wad of wonder bread, the group collectively inhaled. And then it came, one loud clear heckle from the alpha male, the head hyena, "Hey, John, did you bring your dust pan with that broom?". Man, that shook loose a tirade of comments, some barely audible, some loud enough for even the sunburned Arizona heat-refugees on the pier to hear just fine. My favorite was a nice, clear, succinct, "Get the f$#k out of here!". It was like a perfect Hemingway sentence, nothing more, nothing less needed- just one clean thought. 

There's nothing like a well aimed vulgarity to clear the senses. And there was no hiding because like the Chinese say, "The nail that stands up gets hammered down". Your existence comes to one point, the way you react says a lot about who you really are, all of your trials and tribulations, the life lessons you've endured, how happy you are with your place in the cosmos. And man, it's all about to blow up on the world stage with that vicious, little wave riding mob, sitting front row.

I flipped around, paddled right up to the big dog, the alpha male and said loud and clear for everyone to hear, "Dave, when you say things like that to me, it really hurts my feelings.". Jaws dropped, eyes went wide, body board ducklings stopped kicking and another deep, collective inhale was taken. It was silent. WTF did he just say?

Which gave me just enough of a diversion to bag that little southern-hemi, pier sucker and ride straight to the beach. After all, if you are going to stand out, a little well-timed stand up never hurts.


dietlin said...

"The sponger riders were hovering on the insane like a horde of jackals at a Serengeti potluck, slurping up every little scrap of a wave and leaving nothing to the bodysurf vultures hovering around the perimeter."

That is great writing in an awesome little essay!

Anonymous said...

i gotta say that was some of your finest prose right there Juan Hemmingway!
Totally classic.
By the way Summer and i are an item again so back off bro!!

John Ashley said...

Hahahahaha- thanks everyone! 90% of that actually happened- I didn't actually ride that wave to the beach, I pearled on take off like a kook and belly rode the whitewash in- but I was told to get the fuck out so there you go!

Anonymous said...

Same JA big mouth said to me to cool it had not caught one wave . BM caught 4 waves in a row so who is the hog?

Anonymous said...

the new england journal of medicine states, unequivocally, that "the louder the bark of alpha male, the smaller the weiner!"

Anonymous said...

I was SUPing Churches today and went North to the point. I was bagging head high waves by myself for nearly an hour. The further down the line I went the more guys tried to burn me. One guy dropped in and even shot his board at me - just because I was on a SUP. I laughed it off and paddled back up to the point. The point at Churches is the border between the State beach @ Lowers and the Federal beach at Churches. Apparently SUPing is not allowed in State beach waters (which I had no idea) and the lifeguard truck called me out of the water... and let me tell you, there must have been forty plus hoots and hollers to GTFO of the water. Seeing as how I have been SUPing Church for 3 years with nothing like that ever happening, and like any Marine would do, I kept SUPing. :-)

I paddled by one fellow who kindly told me where to go and where to put my paddle. I gently said to him "How about we switch boards and I'll show you how to surf that thing too... Cheers."

The more people hate us, the better I surf.

John Ashley said...

All you anonymous comment dude... I like your style!

Better Yeti said...

Here's the delicious part of being part of SUP at this point in surf history: we are, all of us, on the side of history, the right side of the trade, the practitioners of what -- in ten years' time -- will be forehead-slappingly obvious as the most accessible, legitimate form of wave-riding. Nobody said it better than Jerry Lopez, perhaps prone surfing's biggest living canonized kahuna: "Pretty much anywhere, you're better off on a standup board." Sure, you pronies can argue with some random guy in the lineup. You going to argue with Mr. Pipeline, too?

So, yeah, we all have to take some flak. Small price to pay for being on the green growing edge of the evolution of surfing, not enslaved by entrenched old postures and prejudices. Savor these years; we're all going to have a gigantic, I-told-you-so moment in the not-too-distant future. And we can all remember that we evolved, embraced change, and moved with the times. And that's something to be proud of.

Anonymous said...

Ironically, the fat guy on the longboard heckling SUP's at PB point probably used to heckle the long boarders when he was younger and could surf a short board. and coming out to PB every saturday for "like-ever" from your hovel in el cajon does not make you a "local".

Heckle from the pack, yes. but when I paddle up and point out that I haven't taken a wave within 100 feet of anyone else in the lineup, and I'm not one of those guys, I'm all about the karma, he says "i'm racist like that - you all look the same to me".