Surfing is often referred to as the ultimate natural high, and this is no revelation to most of us. The world seems to want to learn to surf or get better at surfing, people want to make you the perfect surfboard, sell you perfect holiday and clothe you in the coolest surf brand t-shirt. The industry is rolling. But what of the dangers?
There are no warnings on the 'Learn to Surf Package Holidays' tin but maybe there should be.
There seem to be adverts everywhere, there may be even an advert on the very side or bottom of this article, for the best surf holiday ever. They tease, promise and taunt you with pictures of perfect A frames, perfect point breaks or white sandy beaches and blue skies but the is no hint of the potential life crushing torment that might ensue for eternity.
So let's say you do it, go on the holiday, you start surfing.
You catch your first 'green wave' and that's it, you get the fish hook addiction right in the guts like so many of us before you. You begin by booking another holiday straight away. You tell yourself it's going to be okay as you know when your next adventure will be. You just need to check, to make sure that it wasn't a fluke, that the feeling WAS that good. The second holiday comes and goes, you get validation and you realise that you can't live without regular surf trips. While you are waiting for your third surf fix you spend your hard earned money on a new board, maybe a new suit or some boardies. As the date draws near you study the surf forecast charts with a frothed up dependency that is almost unrivalled. You have your next trip. It's Flat. You get 'Skunked'. You are in paradise with no waves so you drink, you swap stories, make friends but it's not good enough. Each morning you feel the loss when you check the non existent swell. This will be the feeling that you have to carry through the rest of your life. There is no escaping it. This is now you.
If you don't believe me ask anyone that surfs. Aside from a loved one passing away I am not sure I know a more familiar or worse feeling. If the above text does not warn you enough I will endeavour to bullet point three reasons for you.
Resaon One - Relationships
The surfing image may well, in certain circumstances, help you to appeal to the opposite/same sex as it promotes a certain level of fitness, sun exposure and a relaxed outlook on life. The stereotype is an attractive one to many, but is the reality of being in a relationship with a surfer a good one?
If you find a partner that understands your needs, priorities and moods as a surfer then you should grab them and hold on with both hands. They are in short supply as they have to understand that for the majority of their life they will be playing 'second fiddle' to hypothetical meteorological events, swell forecasts and last minute decisions. I won't even start on the mood swings, from excited, swell expectant high to reality of no waves 'rock bottom'
To be concise, surfers come with a lot of baggage and needs which can thin out the potential for partners or destroy current relationships.
Reason Two - Jobs
With a few exceptions, the geographical location of 'good jobs' and guaranteed, consistent quality surf do not go hand in hand. This is the first problem. There are certain areas of California, the East coast of Australia and Lisbon (the capital city of Portugal) if you live in Europe, that are exceptions to the rule. These are all places that can provide a range of 'better' paid jobs that have titles maybe befitting of what we can call a 'career'.
So let's say you are one of the people that has a 'career', lives in one of these exceptions and has the addiction sometimes referred to as 'Mother Natures Skag'. It's like having huge responsibilities and an addiction problem but living next to your dealer that only has deliveries on certain days. When to work and when to play? You still NEED you time in the water but can you work around your addiction, especially as it stares you in the face? Very difficult.
So if you can live somewhere, have a good job and surf, you still have to surf. Which is a problem. Right?
Reason Three - Moods & Health
The big one of the three as it will affect you whole life in a way that you can not possibly fathom until it is too late. The rapid 'octave changes' in mood are unprecedented, unpredictable and unavoidable. Male or female, this mood swing knows no gender boundaries and if you have kids that surf from an early age you should understand it for what it is and not medicate unnecessarily. It's just called a 'flat spell' and it will eventually end.
There are many ways which folk of the addicted ilk try and combat 'flat spells', some try different sports that will occupy their focus while it is flat, others agonize over charts to plan the next fix. In my experience it does not matter what you do, it is impossible to replace, distract or do without what you need.
I was once on my way for a surf, I was shaking with anticipation and I could taste the need for good waves on my tongue. It was a real, physical need and it occurred to me that any bystander might confuse me with someone who needed help.
Now that I have got all that out of the way, I find it necessary to point out something my mum told me in my adolescent years that now seems relevant. The saying, 'what goes up must come down' was meant by mum at the time as some warning not to indulge too heavily (or at all) in narcotic stimulants or suchlike. As so many things in life I find that I can apply that to surfing. So if you are partaking in the truly unsurpassable passion of surfing and attaining (in my opinion ) the perfect high, why should you not also experience the perfect low. It is an addiction and while not an advertised as such, it's clearly the case, and it's common sense now I think about it.
The point of this article is in part a warning to those who have not yet had a 'fish hook in the gills' and in part a deeper message to those like me that are beyond saving. When quietly nodding acknowledgement to another surfer you don't know in the line up, maybe try and think of them and how much they need waves too. They are just like you, hungry and needing their waves so share more, understand more and don't cock-block their waves.
May your life be forever blessed with glassy perfection.