Half Dressed in Soggy Neoprene: Insights from a Windy Parking Lot
“Okay, now I’m really stuck.”
I’m half out of my wetsuit, balanced precariously inside a rubbermaid container in the parking lot, hoping to keep a barrier between the suit and the sand once I’m finally free of it.
I lean against the side of the truck now and then to right myself, the side I’m on to get a little shelter from the rain, driving sideways, always sideways.
This protective layer of neoprene, which kept me from feeling the cold of the north pacific for the previous couple of hours, while trying to hold my status as a slightly-better-than-beginner-surfer, is always supposed to come off easier than it actually does.
My arms are so tired the effort seems fruitless before it’s even begun. Maybe I will just live in this wetsuit now. Or at least until after a nap.
I’ve gotten the arms out right down to my hands. So both hands are encased in two layers, the right-side-out layer next to my skin, plus the inside-out layer I’m trying to roll past it.
Now I’ve got two useless clubs, equally lacking in anything remotely like dexterity, and with enough suit already slack around my upper body that I can’t get far enough away from myself to create any tension to keep pulling.
It looks as funny as it sounds like it looks.
So I turn to Jeff. He takes just the right amount of time to chuckle, threaten to take a picture, then we tug-of-war until my hands return to me to continue the job.
And while I’m particularly good at accidentally doing things the hard way, I’m far from special in this scene at the beaches between Tofino and Ucluelet, B.C.
There are dozens each day at the beach parking lot, then out in the waves, going through the neoprene routine in the cold rain, paddling out into rows of whitewash, to once in a while (between smack-downs), MAYBE catch a short but exhilarating ride.
Like on the mountain, there are those that look like they truly belong there, have put in their years and navigate the environment smoothly, with form and finesse. Their rides are certainly a lot shorter than a heli-ski run, but at least they’re ready to grab one when it comes along.
But what amazed me more were the scores of folks like me.
All the beginners. The people who (mostly) knew to keep closer to the shore, hoping to grab a wave with less power. If we managed not to bail while trying to stand up, that is.
They all signed up to try a notoriously difficult sport. They signed up for the cold, the rain, the epic wetsuit struggle, toting a long board confidently into the pacific to be mostly pummelled by waves – to mostly, do nothing more than that.
Once in a while, a success. Three seconds of standing and gliding.
The STOKE that is created, in those few seconds. The feeling is so POWERFUL.
I thought to myself, back in the parking lot, during a wetsuit-escape breather: would I keep skiing if it meant slogging through deep snow for an hour to be rewarded with a three-second ride?
Depends on how good that ride would be, I guess. I’m sure glad that’s not the case.
It’s remarkable what we’ll do for that feeling. In his novel, In Search of Captain Zero (which you should totally read, so good) Allan C. Weisbecker calls it The Glide.
In fact, Weisbecker waxes pretty philosophically about that thing we chase, when we’re sliding over an unlikely surface, feeling the energy of the medium around us, in a moment when there ceases to be a significant past of future – no worries other than ‘oh s*** I’m not making that section’ or ‘uh oh, this landing is gonna be flaaaat’.
The moments where FLOW is our only reality.
Clearly, it’s something so many of us value, and will go through the ringer to get it.
For some reason, I find that really inspiring.
Ski season has ended, but we’ll be looking for some Glide until it returns. How do you find it between winters?
The Call of the Mountains. It’s that persistent pull to explore, no matter what the season or the equipment required. The call to be IN IT. In the environment and the stuff of nature.
So whether on snow, in the forest, on the trail, the pitch or in the water, happy exploring, friend. I hope you find your glide.
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