The Downward Spiral of the Surf Obsessed

I have closed my eyes... It's obvious. Blinded by a deep desire to become better, to surf like someone other than myself, I've given time, money, unmeasurable amounts of energy and to some extent - perhaps most importantly - a lot of my life to becoming better. "Bullshit," you say, "you're not wasting your time or energy!" Surfing is good for the soul, etc. It connects us with nature, with water, with the essence of our existing (I'll save my breath for this bit, as I am sure you've heard it all before). But I'm not so sure I still buy into all that business. I'm beginning to think I've lost a lot of opportunities, a lot of time, and certainly a lot of money. I'm beginning to think there are other things out there, things that are in fact more enriching than this surfing stuff.

I suppose it started during the weeks after I returned from a fifteen day surf trip to a rather crowded but otherwise awesome spot in Costa Rica. Returning to colder climates, surfing in a suit, driving four hours in Fargo - these things almost always suck. But this time was different. This time I felt (feel, depending on when you're reading to this), that there was something else I ought to be doing. Riding my motorcycle, mostly.

While we search for waves every weekend - driving two-to-five hours in any given direction, scoring sometimes, being skunked more often then not - we weren't really exploring other areas. Albeit necessary to some, surfing the same spot(s) over and over again is limiting, to say the least. And while we have surfed other areas: Oregon, California, Costa Rica, Mexico, Hawaii and even Israel, I feel as though surfing keeps us close to home. The idea of living inland or landlocked is fully frightening. And herein lies the problem...

Save for a few days during the summer, I've been off my motorcycle for two plus years. Riding at a rally sponsored by a company I keep as a client, I couldn't help but feel as if I've spent the last two years living without something I find incredible: the sound of speed, fir trees flying past my face, the backend of my bike coming loose around a corner, climbing, accelerating, escaping.

And so here I sit, confused as to what exactly I want, wondering if this wave riding stuff is really worth all, or even some of my energy. Wondering if I should instead spend my time searching for a smile, in whatever way I can acquire one. Motorcycles, maybe, but more importantly not limiting myself to one spot, one source. Diversifying my stoke supplier.


vwalker said...

Well if you do decide to find a little happiness on the motorcycle, don't forget to share some stories and photos! That's how I first found you guys, from a moto post! Thumbs up, I say!

Anonymous said...

Damn dude. This one really hit home. I went through this about 2 years ago now. Growing up, I didn't really have any hobbies that I obsessed over. When I was 19, I got into surfing and that was my first true obsession with the outdoors. I gave it my all for a couple years. Driving up and down the coast, exploring new spots, meeting amazing people. But it was truly exhausting, and expensive. When I started thinking about how much time I was putting in to score a handful of decent waves per sesh (on a good day), it began to not seem worth it. I'm not sure when the transition exactly happened, but I started to 'diversify my stoke' like you said. This state is amazing, so much to explore. By cutting back on surfing, I was able to introduce dual-sporting, climbing, kiteboarding, backpacking, and skiing into my lineup. All things that provide the same level of adventure, the same types of amazing people, and all relatively cheap once you stomach the upfront costs. Anyways, just my two cents. I still get out and surf every once in awhile, but have come to terms with the fact that its not necessarily the pinnacle of what the region offers.

Unknown said...

Do you do what you want to do? Or what, you think, people are expecting you to do? Or what you think may be popular to do? I know that this sounds like an old man comment but, it's all a part of growing up.

I LOVE surfing but I also LOVE photography...and my wife, my dogs, my free time, travel, and yes, to work in photoshop as I make a good photo into a, somewhat relative, great one. It's like painting without the messy cleanup. But what do I feel like doing TODAY?

There's a couple of quotes I like; "The unaimed arrow never misses," and "Most of the time I do what I have to. The rest, I do what I like."

We are taught from infancy to package everything about life into formulas. "If you do this, you'll be happy. If you do that, you won't be. You can find happiness if you follow these rules..." It's all bullshit. There are no formulaic answers to living and being content.

There are facts of life we must embrace however. One of the main ones is; every choice you make is 50/50. And that's EVERY choice. Salad or soup? Left or right? Go or don't go? Surf or bike ride? And all choices will lead to either enjoyment or disappointment. Just don't let the disappointment factor be the guiding principle of how you make your choices.

It purely comes down to what you WANT to do with your DAY, not your life. Your life will live out no matter what you do with your day.

What will you do with your life? What does it matter? You'll still live.

Anonymous said...

Hey Justin, as you know I live in both worlds, surf and motorcycling. Part of buying the Harley for me was getting tired of chasing surf on weekends when I knew there was a good chance that it would suck. It is nice to be able to change the focus now and then. There have been times for me when I get skunked for 2-3 weekends in a row that I wonder if it is all worth it, but then it happens. The perfect day when conditions are good and everything goes right and I remember why we all do it in the first place. Many of us surfing types tend to be all or nothing people. We either want to do it all the time or not at all. Just part of the addiction and that sometimes in and of itself can become a problem. Enjoy the bike as I will mine this year, but don't ever totally give up on the surf stoke. As I have said to my Harley riding dad,"waves are more alluring than asphalt any day of the week". See ya out there! Sometime you and Karissa should rent a Harley and do the North Cascade loop. Nice change of pace.

justin cayou said...

dude...trailer the bike out with you and if it's flat...braaaap braaaapppp.

Unknown said...

You have that "I just went somewhere tropical and walked to the beach in my board shorts and flip flops view going" Not to worry, it will wear off. I was out at La push 2 weeks ago and the line up was me, a buddy, and 1 seal. There are pros to surfing in Washington!

Unknown said...

Justin, the frequency (and distance) you guys travel to surf is hard-core. I've been blown away by your effort and dedication. But I've also wondered how long you can keep it up. I think you could cut back on the surfing and embrace the satisfaction of knowing that you've pushed an activity (and lifestyle) really hard.

As yourself and others have stated, when one door closes, others open. There's a whole world of cool stuff out there. And chances are, you'll be able to spend more time doing and less time driving (which in my book, counts for a lot).

Again, kudos for hitting it hard. Looking forward to future antics.

Unknown said...

I believe surfing to be more of a transition, a rite of passage and just as life can feel boring and useless so can chasing imperfection. After all, are we chasing a feeling from ones self satisfaction or a feeling given from outside approval? You continually pushed hard. Living in the south pacific travelling by boat to many Atolls, and outer islands for almost a decade I experienced the same and it took about 1/4 of effort as you and yours. Now, living inland, I make monthly trips to the southern California coast to surf, and have since took up more backcountry fishing, dirtbiking, and finally decided to sell the street bike (duplicate feelings about the street bike, HA!). Thanks for the insight. Appreciating the beauty in all things wild,no matter what the source. DL

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