We, all of us, travel to surf. We go to the ends of the Earth. We drive and fly and sail and let our hair grow and don’t shower and feel the salt on our skin for days, even weeks, straight. We adventure. And adventure narrative is always clichéd, or almost always, especially surf adventure narrative. It plays out awkwardly and causes reading eyes to glaze with familiarity. Listening ears to bore. The same themes. Discovery, hardship, discovery, the simple joys of sleeping on dirt and surfing clean, uncrowded rights or lefts. Always the same. But, I will say, there is also something cute about it. Something fresh and youthfully naïve. When we are on a surf adventure we are the first people on earth to experience what we are experiencing. We are the first people on earth to round the bend and see the wave. To get barreled. To crawl through the cave and climb into the light and really see. Even if the bend is just past Huatulco and the wave is Barra de la Cruz. Even if the barrel is Colorado in Nicaragua. Even if the cave is Uluwatu. For when we adventure everything that happens, happens only for us. When we go on surf adventures we are the first surf adventurers on earth.
It has all become so easy, or easier than it used to be. We can book our flights online. We can check spots, even watching streaming cameras, thousands of miles away. We can devour first-hand website information complete with tide, crowd, parking information. But as soon as we board our flights we are still the first. Our cynicism falls away and we enjoy the uniqueness of our situation. The clove smoke from the taxi driver smells alive. The Mexican ditch digger looks quaint and we imagine, even if for only a minute, that he has discovered the secret to life. He is unburdened by material possession and lives just outside of Barra. He can surf it whenever he wants! Of course, he has never surfed it, nor will he ever, but we can still naively dream.
When we arrive back home, regular life sets in. We go to our office jobs or back to school but we are tanner and leaner than we were before and our eyes are hungrier. When the receptionists asks about the tan we tell her, “I was in Indo…” and “Indo” has been done to death by surfers but it hasn’t been done to death by the receptionist and she coos and thinks we are exotic, as long as we don’t go on and on and on about the reef pass and the lost surfboards and the barrels. As long as we keep it simple. And we coddle our memories, chewing them over when the Northern Hemisphere winter sets in and we are cold and miserable and our own surf is flat. We go to the bar and, even if we don’t say, “I was in Indo three months ago…” we know that, “I was in Indo three months ago…” and that makes us better than every other person in the bar.
Yes, we are the first surf adventurers on earth, all of us. We are the first and we are beautiful because we keep the fires of discovery alive. And the older we get, the more complicated our lives get. They are shrouded in mortgages and bills and promotions. But as soon as we book another surf adventure, as soon as we board our flights, we are still the first. We are young. We are dumb. We are full of adventure.
- Chas Smith