When I realised that I was dropping my knee on the pop-up, I was mortified.
Becoming an occasional surfer, a weekend warrior (at best), I had lost fitness and skill. We were on a family surf break; Anya was getting lessons from a pro, I was trying to get some waves. I was trying out long-boarding for the first time, expecting it to be easy, but finding that some bad habits had formed. They were hard to undo. I was taking advantage of the forgiving nature of the bigger board with a sloppier technique, when what I really needed was to drop weight, build fitness and be more disciplined in practice. It was like being a beginner again, getting some rides, moving forwards, but nowhere close to my potential.
It would have been easy to carry on as it was. So many of us do.
I took Anya’s shorter board in tiny surf, knowing that I’d get no decent rides. There was no forgiveness in the rockier stick, no way to cover up for poor technique. I had to pop-up properly and stay up – then get immediately get off again and paddle back out. For an hour or more I looked like a kook, playing on a board that was too small for the conditions and falling over again and again. When I did make it, a local instructor gave me the thumbs-up, thinking I was a true beginner. Embarrassing.
The next day, I took the longboard back out the main reef. By going back to basics, being critical of my own technique and swallowing my pride I had made some important improvements. By the time tide dropped, my arms were tired, my neck was stiff, but I had my stoke back. Then it was time to go home.
I think now I’m a longboard convert, my shortboard days behind. Roll on the spring.
A different type of drop-knee, this one beautiful.
These two clips, from the McTavish “Dedicated to the Craft” series are really lovely. The first, a profile of Byron Bay legend Ray Gleave, showing off real grace and a lovely drop-knee cutback, is a personal motivation. If life is like that in 21 years, I’ll be happy. The second showcases a young boy and his older sister: their relationship with each other and the ocean something I hope for in my own kids.
Finally, here’s our surf break video. Anya’s still rocking, and Happy Surfing Okinawa was brilliant.