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Catching Waves: Finding Your Surf Haven
Finding that perfect wave is a very subjective hunt because skill level and personal preferences play a big part in where to go and what kind of wave you want to ride. There are some amazing places all over this ocean-filled world. With seven oceans, and innumerable seas to choose from, the most important factor is what kind of experience are you searching for? Casual or beginner surfers may dream of the ultimate surfing experience, such as surfing Pipeline, a well known Hot Zone, where heavy and hollow waves break very close to shore. If you fit into this category, you may find yourself frustrated because of localism. Typically, this type of surf attracts professionals or expert level surfers for whom these waves are their nirvana. Injecting yourself to their line-up can result in not only feeling the stress to match their skill and speed, but they too will become resentful of your casual approach. Conversely, if you are a highly skilled surfer and surfing is a part of your life, then finding a laid back beach, known as a Cool Zone, where it is crowded with newbies, families and weekend warriors, the experience will leave you unsated.  The waves may be mellow and crashing at a perfect angle, with that glass like glaze on the ocean, but you won't have the fulfilling adventure of chasing the wave with other like-minded members of a competitive pack. By all means, track down that rising swell, coming fast and hard towards the beach. High performance rippers will find the Hot Zones more culturally acclimated to their skill level. There are always the unspoken Bill of Rights and Lefts that should be followed no matter what level you are. Straight from www.surfline.com, here are the ten commandments that every ripper should follow. Bill of Rights and Lefts Pick the right location. Hot Zones versus Cool Zones, depending on your skill level, should be chosen wisely. Every surfer should have the experience they desire, and certainly can accomplish this with a little research of the area they want to hit. Don't drop in or snake your fellow surfer. These are the two types of essentially taking away another surfer's wave. Dropping in is when a rider has already claimed the wave, and someone else picks it up from further out on the shoulder. This may be an accidental occurrence, especially in a crowded line-up. If you do happen to drop in on someone's wave, be sure to get off as quickly as possible and apologize. Snaking is a more malicious because it is intentional and though still dangerous, often happens with highly competitive surfers. Essentially, when one surfer is lined up, preparing to take a     wave, the snaker will come up behind them while the first surfer is totally focused on the wave, and follow them off the shoulder. It appears that the rightful rider of the wave dropped in on the snaker, which onlookers will know the truth. Note: You may be visiting an area where you see drop-ins happen with a pack, and they are smiling and having an epic good time. They are probably friends enjoying a ride share, and by no means does this give you the a-okay to do the same. Respect the locals. While paddling out to or within a break, it is your responsibility to stay out of the way of riders on waves. Once a rider has caught a wave, it is good manners to allow them to enjoy the wave and do your best not to interfere. If you do find yourself caught in whitewater, push through it and don't frantically paddle to reach the shoulder. It is extremely bad etiquette, as well as paddling directly into a rider's take-off. Not only can this cause you or the rider to wipeout, you can get seriously injured and risk the wrath of your fellow ripper. Though shalt learn to take turns. Surfers tend to be greedy creatures, wanting all the best waves, all the time. However, unless you are surfing alone, it is a best practice to share wave-catching opportunities and keep the peace on the ocean. On occasion, hot surf spots will be packed with long line-ups and not enough waves for everyone. Surfline recommends you adjust your attitude to the situation, or find a better, less crowded spot to ride. In any surf session, respect the pre-existing vibe in the lineup. Any surfer will tell you that there is a distinct vibe in every session, and you can feel it change with new riders coming to join. The vibes may vary on the type of surf and the time of day, but ultimately the determining factor is attitude. To get a feel for the vibe, ask questions of surfers coming off the water. Ask various questions like “Get any good ones?” or “Much room out there?” This will give you an idea of whether or not it is a good spot for you to join, or move to a different area of the beach. Always aid another surfer in trouble. As with any potentially dangerous situations, you must keep your own safety at the forefront of your mind. However, surfing is a unique sport because often there are no paramedical services close-by, and riders rely on one another to stay safe. Being at the mercy of the power of the ocean proposes its own dangers, so be conscientious of your fellow surfers and be sure to help in any way you can if one is in trouble. When traveling, thou shalt respect the local surfers and their rights and customs, without forfeiting your own right to a wave. It doesn't matter if the “local” surfers grew up there or have only been surfing for a week in that location. They have more history there than you and know how the sessions roll. If you are traveling in numbers to a spot, don't immediately charge the water to catch the next set of waves. Take a little time to watch, and other riders will come in to give you space to join the session. Especially take heed when traveling to other countries to surf, as customs vary around the world as much as languages. Let the locals set the pace, and fall into their rhythm. This not only will create a positive experience for you, but leave the local surfers more open to the next rider who comes to town. Always thank them for sharing their spot and invite them to your home surf spot. Though shalt not use your surfing advantage to abuse your fellow surfers. This may seem like a complex piece of etiquette, it can be summarized in four simple words: don't be an a-hole. You may be stronger, bigger, have a longer board, better surfing skills, higher surfing fitness, and/or more knowledge of the local customs, but it doesn't mean you wield it to the detriment of your fellow riders. Surfing is all about escaping the rat race, to be able to have a physical activity one can enjoy, in the sun, on the surf, and for many it is a zen-like experience. Recognize advantages you may have over your fellow surfers and don't use them to put others at ease, or worse, in danger. At all times, be responsible for your own equipment and respectful of others'. Surfboards can be dangerous when mishandled, like letting one go in the middle of a ride. Never throw away your board, as it can injure others. Keep your board in good maintenance, free of nicks, sharp fins, or any other damage as it can cause problems out on the ocean. If you do cause damage to someone else's board, always arrange to have it repaired or agree upon a solution. Lastly, relax, have fun, and enjoy your surfing and that of your fellow surfer. Drew Kampion, famous surf writer and editor says, “Life is a wave and your attitude is your surfboard!” A good attitude goes a long way in life, and on the ocean. Always remember your fellow surfers' experience matters just as much as yours. Creating a surf haven for everyone to enjoy is up to each individual rider. Respect each other, and keep chasing your perfect wave.
Surfing for Total Health
“Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in awhile, you could miss it.” -Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, 1986. Everything is about speed today: how fast can a project get finished, how fast can I drive, how fast is the wireless internet? So much speed and efficiency and yet nothing ever seems to get finished. So many questions, so few answers. To some degree even our vacations seem to be stuck on fast-forward: rush to the airport, hurry to a hotel, get to the buffet, the show, the tour bus on time. So much scheduling and stress - is it any wonder that so many Americans are medicated nowadays? We are just not designed for this much unabated hustle. Even worse, we can make the time we DO carve out to invest in ourselves equally stressful. Exercise has long been a universally agreed-upon option for reducing stress, but so many forms of exercise are both competitive and anxiety-inducing. We are so organized, we take away the spontaneity and joy of the pursuit. Instead of running outside in nature, we’re on a treadmill multi-tasking (reading a magazine, listening to a podcast or TV) or taking on gigantic though admirable challenges like a Tough Mudder or a Spartan Sprint.  As a culture, we just don’t seem to be able to just let go. Life moves too fast - it did for Ferris Bueller back in 1986 and it certainly hasn’t gotten any slower. Finding an activity that blends the exercise our bodies need with the soothing discipline our minds require seems nearly impossible - until you look out to the ocean. In the water, free and unplugged from the distractions of our digital world, surfing may be a near perfect stress reducer for modern Americans. More than just a sport, surfing is a beautifully logical counter to the strains of the modern world. The benefits of surfing for both body and mind are extensive, having been proven to be an effective whole-body workout coupled with outdoor meditation. At www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au, they approach total health and wellness by taking small steps each day to exercise. They go on to say that going to the gym or playing a sport is even more important to boost overall health such as a stronger immune system and improved heart and lung function. Surfing, among other water sports, is physical and mental exercise, truly promoting total body health. The common parental refrain to children everywhere of “Go outside!” shouldn’t be forgotten as we become adults ourselves. Outside adventures with fresh air, room to move, along with time to just think or create never lose their value. As great as the ‘Great Outdoors’ can be, there is perhaps no better outdoors than that found seaside, on the beach or in the ocean itself. Time spent seaside has often been lauded as a great improver of disposition. Sheer proximity to something so enormous helps provide perspective, the sounds of the ocean is a natural white noise to calms our senses and quiet our mind, and even modern science is starting to investigate the impact that negative ions produced by the ocean have to lift our spirits. Simply spending time at the beach affords moments for mindfulness. Surfing takes that to next level. Surfing requires you to pay attention to the sky, the wind, the waves. Focus is required to be able to read the world around you, from current patterns and wave formation to the angle of the sun and weather changes. The accumulated mental hubbub and chatter we carry to the ocean have no place there, for distraction will get you a face full of seaweed or an unexpected cold dunking. Surfing teaches patience and keen observation skills, and rewards them with a glorious adrenaline rush. Waiting, adrift, while watching for that one perfect wave to come narrows your focus down to the purity of being absolutely in a moment. It engages all the senses, from the taste and smell of saltwater to the sound of crashing waves and the calling of gulls. The shading of sunlight on water surrounds you, and physical sensations abound: cold or warm water, pulling currents, the board under you. Nothing comes with you except what you absolutely need: no excess gear, no thoughts, and especially no cell phone or other digital tether. A whole wide world of clamor narrows down to waiting for the next wave and solving the problem of how to ride it best. In short, the soothing elements taught in stress management classes are all waiting for you out there on the water. All you have to do is engage with the environment to disengage from the fast lane. Developing a passion for surfing and a healthy addiction to the accompanying Zen peacefulness also have satellite benefits that cascade into aspects of everyday life. Surfing is a sport that chases the dawn, so being up early gives surfers a chance to go out and play well before any work or school commitments have a chance to cloud our minds. Starting the day with a brisk, fun activity makes the rest of the day run more smoothly, fueled by a greater perspective and natural endorphins. As a demanding and very physical activity, food and diet become essential to getting the best out of any given trip because a body must be fueled well for optimum performance. The exertion also counteracts one of the most diabolical aspects of stress in the modern world: insomnia. Peaceful yet exhilarating, surfing is a full body workout coupled with intensive meditative concentration. Together these components help to provide a deeper, more rejuvenating, and restful sleep, a sleep that allows you to greet the dawn on your board morning after morning with vigor. It is just as important to support a full body workout on the surf with the right equipment, such as protective clothing and leashes. Maximizing your workout is easier to do when you are comfortable and protected from burns, rashes and scrapes. Examined as a whole, the benefits of surfing coalesce swiftly into an argument as convincing and inevitable as the tides. Nature. Meditation. Exercise. Awareness. Escape. Ferris Bueller was right - if you don't slow down, life is easy to miss- but it can also be one amazing and enjoyable ride, where hard work and a mind at ease allow the balance we find on a surfboard to find its way into the rest of our day.
Limits Exist ... Sort Of
Everyone knows that surfing is one of the best exercises out there for all-over strength, conditioning, and overall physical fitness. It’s challenging, exhilarating, relaxing, and simply just fun. However, not all of us live within a reasonable daily drive to the ocean. Many of us live in places where the ocean is a frosty prospect for much of the year, or where the waves aren’t quite up to standard. For us, the mere mortals of the surfing world who do not own a beach house in the tropics, surfing as a sole means of exercise doesn’t work—not because we don’t want it to, but because of the constraints of normal life. Like many all-encompassing passions, surfing enters every aspect of your life, sometimes whether you mean it to or not. Sometimes it manifests in habitual checking of weather and wave forecasts, sometimes by pouring over surfing magazines and catalogs. When you are out there, it's all you can think of. When you’re not, all that you can think of is how to get back. Not bad for a pursuit that hones your core, strengthens your heart, and lends great mental balance to everyday living. Facing the Challenge The hitch is how to get the most out of the days you DO get out there, and how to fling yourself tirelessly (okay—almost tirelessly) into one wave after another all day long? If you’re landlocked, what do you do to prime your body for the best surfing? Like most great athletic challenges, the answer comes in the form of cross training. Not only does cross training up your overall performance, it also lessens your likelihood of sustaining an injury that would keep you from performing at peak efficiency. Professional athletes have been incorporating aspects of other branches of fitness for years; what works for them can also work for the everyday Joe who wants to make the most of his weekend or vacation. Like any great discipline, attention to the small details makes all the difference. The Basic Theory When people do repetitive actions over and over again, whether through sports, employment, hobbies, or habits, the great danger lies in overuse issues. Tendinitis, bursitis, sprains, and strains can all stem from overusing some muscle groups while allowing others to stay weak or underutilized. By incorporating different patterns of use and movement, any given muscle group can be toned and strengthened in ways that both prevent injury and optimize performance. This has been apparent in the NFL for decades, as ballet core exercises have been assimilated into training programs. Greater balance and flexibility allows for the body to undergo great strain and demand, while still being able to bounce back unharmed. In this light, cross training falls into three categories: cardiovascular activity, strength training, and flexibility. Training on the Run Cardio, in a nutshell, is the branch of exercise that focuses on training your heart and circulatory system. It may manifest in activities that make us pant and sweat; but the true target is to strengthen your heart so it can beat with greater efficiency and distribute blood and oxygen to all parts of your body. A strong heart manifests most obviously in great endurance—something that is essential, to make the most of a day of surfing. Paddling and swimming both take a great deal of cardiovascular training; and, while riding a wave is the fun part, it's only about 5% of your time in the water. Supplementing your aquatic cardio with land-based pursuits like cycling, dancing, running, and martial arts will pay of dividends. Pick Things Up and Put Them Down Resistance or weight training seems to evoke a love/hate reaction from people. Fear of “bulking up” or “not bulking up enough” haunts this otherwise very reasonable activity. It is also very time intensive and physically challenging—but it works. By including weight training in your surf body preparation and maintenance program, you achieve several different benefits. First, stronger muscles in general lend to better performance and balance. Squats are a prime example of a perfect land-based training exercise that translates well onto a board. By strengthening those muscles that most come into play, abrupt shifts through fatigue and loss of balance are less likely to occur. Push-ups, crunches, and plyometrics can all be assimilated into your land routine with spectacular results. Additionally, strength training has the long-term benefit of increasing bone density, making your skeletal structure less susceptible to the fractures and breaks that occasionally accompany rough surf or bad luck. Don’t Be So Uptight Like any physically demanding activity, warm up and cool down time are absolutely essential. Even if you have superb cardio capacity and rock-hard abs, you can still fall afoul of strains, sprains, and overuse issues. These are perhaps the most insidious kinds of injuries, accumulating slowly over time and taking even longer to properly recover from. Without properly supple muscles, abrupt shifts of balance can net you a painful tear that keeps you landlocked for weeks on end. To this end, attending a regular yoga or barre class can be an enjoyably social way to ward off injury while simultaneously improving your overall balance. No one has ever claimed that yoga or ballet is easy; that being said, this discipline of regular stretching may be the single most essential aspect to staying healthy and strong in between surf sessions. If you’re lucky, you can even attend classes that blend stand up paddleboarding and yoga, combining two challenges at once, with a guaranteed soft landing if you lose your balance. Just Do It The Ancient Greeks said “All things in moderation,” and to some degree that applies even to such a fantastic sport as surfing. Hampered by time, geography, and responsibility, not everyone gets to surf as often as they like—and that is perhaps not such a bad thing. Time away from the ocean allows for different but complementary training that enhances the time we do get to surf, and it wets our appetites and our enthusiasm.