Enjoying the Wipeout

Posted: Jan 08,2015 Written by  Mike Reynolds

Surfer wipes out hard! How many times can you watch this?!?

When we leave the comforts of the sand and venture into a wild ocean, we all do so to feel the water, mix with the sea life and escape the stresses that hound us on land. But most of all, we paddle out because we’re searching for those rides that stay with us til we’re old and gray. Whether we’re looking for sketchy drops, hollow barrels or easy open faces depends on the desires of the rider and neither is any ‘better’ than the other. ‘Pushing the limits’ matters only to the individual and the bar they’ve set for themselves. The only constant between all of us is the one of failure. No surfer will make every drop (no, not even Slater); everyone bogs a turn (yes, Fanning too) and even Teahupoo clamshells from time to time. In a nutshell, we all wipeout.

The only time wipeouts rule is when you’re paddling in the channel and get a front row seat to your buddy when he’s lip launched into the flats. You may gasp til he breaks the surface for his first breath, but from that moment on, it’s the funniest damn thing you’ve seen. Like the greatest highlight reel ever, I can rip through hilarious scenes of buddies eating thick lips for breakfast, having shells shoved up their ass or getting bounced along shallow rock shelves. And I laugh. Hard. For a long time.

Of course, our own wipeouts suck. They’re ego-bruising, sometimes physically painful ordeals that can inject fear into our surf psyche. They may cause us to pull back on the wave of the day, straighten out in lieu of pulling in or, even worse, keep us on the beach. Boards get broken. Waves go wasted. We get to enjoy those seconds of ‘woulda, coulda, shoulda’ as we watch the wave spin off without us.

But here’s the crazy thing I’ve learned: if you embrace your wipeouts and expect them as an unavoidable element of every surf, you’ll progress in your wave-riding abilities. I don’t recall what the ‘aha’ moment was for me, but I know it was only a few years ago and I’m pretty sure it was on a big day. Most likely borne from frustration peppered with anxiety, I decided to laugh at the absurdity of blowing a drop or getting pitched towards a jetty in a rubber suit. I began to appreciate the moments of flight; the badge of courage granted for an impossible drop; the reminder that I’d never have a shot in hell of ever making the World Tour. And, without any thought to it all, I started to push the level of my own surfing. I started to take off on bigger waves. I snuck in a top turn instead of running for the shoulder. I successfully rode more waves in each session. Am I ready for the tour? Hell no. But I do believe that after several decades of surfing, I found a new way to progress.

So, the next time you find yourself weightless and flapping your arms in some senseless attempt at gaining control, throw a shaka, smile and take your beating with a gleam in your eye. It might just be the best thing that ever happened to you.

Got a good wipeout story? Fill us in. We’d love a good laugh.