’Tis the season to be jolly. Whoever wrote those lyrics was certainly not a surfer. Surfers, for the most part, are jolly from January to January, exhibiting ceaseless stoke whenever there are more waves than surfers to ride them. The arrival of north swells in late December are usually accompanied by an uptick in joy.
If you’re not currently jolly, maybe it’s because you lack a wetsuit capable of keeping the cold where it belongs, in the ocean. Our local surf shops offer a quick remedy for that.
Personally, I resist wetsuit season for as long as possible, wearing trunks and rash guard until I can no longer feel my feet. Last week’s 3- to 4-foot surf made most feel jolly until dipping a toe into 63-degree water sent many over to the dry side.
That said, some hearty souls continue to “skin it,” year ’round, something that is supposed to be beneficial to overall health. I have no experience in self-inflicted discomfort, so don’t ask me.
While my surf time has tapered considerably since my days of riding four or five hours each day, I still managed a few good sessions this season. Not sure if this sounds more like Scrooge or Grinch, but the mainstream surf spots no longer hold any appeal to me. They now serve only as off-ramps for surf schools and other migrating beginners who post videos of themselves lumbering straight-off toward shore.
Not that I’m condemning them, or condoning localism, but the arrival of the cellphone has made surfers reluctant to enforce unwritten laws based upon respect for those who live in the area. This has left a free-for-all of what appear AI surfers clogging the lineup with department store rubber surfboards.
That’s enough bitterness for one season. After all, there is so much to be grateful for. I’m thinking of all of you, the friends with whom I have shared hundreds of waves, bitter wipeouts, good rides, sunrises (rarely anymore) and sunsets with.
I gratefully continue to enjoy catching waves with people whose company I have held dear for over half a century. I am especially thankful to Skip Frye, Finn Madsen, Rob Wald, Marty Gilchrist, Ron Philipi, Jon and Tom Wegener, and Jeff and Jay Grygera for keeping me wet. They have been my main suppliers of water toys that help me defy the forces of gravity exerted by my office chair, leaving me with nothing but my fingers to get in shape, after typing this column each week.
Christmas ghosts arrive in the form of me driving Dad’s car to Lunada Bay one Christmas morning, only to face big, ugly waves breaking on the ship they had broken, the Greek freighter Dominator. Better memories of unwrapping morning glass on Dec. 25 with dearly departed Kenny Mann, Joy, Gary Taylor, Mike Romero, Terry Hendrix and Surf Eddy.
Ruben Zepeda, RC, Mark Donnellan, Peter St Pierre and other friends residing this side of the vail deeply enrich my memories.
Please don’t be offended if I wish you and all those reading this, and many who are not, a Merry Christmas. ’Tis the season, or a season to be jolly. May you remain so until next season and throughout next year.