Surfers look at waves, that’s what we do when we are not surfing. It’s always been that way. Watch any surfer as he leaves the water and he is constantly looking back over his shoulder at the surf that he just got out of. This is rare behavior compared to other sports. You don’t see bowlers lining up in parking lots checking out the local lanes. Ever seen a golfer parked on the side of the road checking out the 14th fairway with binoculars? I don’t think so. But you will see plenty of surfers lining up for the best vantage points in between sessions.

A few weeks ago, I was leaning up against a railing at the top of the stairs overlooking one of my favorite surf spots. The waves were tiny and the sun was just starting to peek through the morning fog. I had already made my decision to go out. I wasn’t in any hurry though, as the waves were only going to get better with the dropping tide. The warmth of the sun when it burned the fog off, would be an added bonus.

The beauty of riding a stand up board is that I know that I’m going to catch plenty of waves. This mellow attitude has replaced the frantic scramble I used to feel trying to find uncrowded surf day after day. I would spend hours driving up and down the coast looking and looking for a remote break. Half the time, I would end up at the same place I started. Now, I look at a tide chart, pick a time that works at my spot, and go.

But back to that day on the staircase checking out the waves. I was in a very relaxed pre-session zen-like mood. This may have been because I had surfed the last eight days in a row or perhaps because of the super grande breakfast burrito I had just eaten. Take your pick.

As I’m checking the surf, another middle-aged surfer leans up against the rail next to me. Three or four nice little waves peel off before words are spoken. “Looks like it’s getting better with the lower tide,” he says breaking the silence. I wait the time it takes for another wave to break, then with a half-nod half-grunt, answer in the affirmative. I look over and see that we are both dressed in the uniform of the middle-aged surf generation: shorts, hoodies, flip flops, baseball hats and shades. Sweatshirt and hat are both adorned with appropriate surf company logos.

We are at a break that is known for being SUP friendly, surrounded by spots that are … well, not. It takes a while but soon we start to talk in middle-aged dude speak. He tells me that he has a bad shoulder that is going to need surgery, but got good waves at the top of the Point yesterday. I say that I have a bad hip even after the replacement. Then, I tell him of the fun waves I got yesterday down at the beaches. We speak of Baja, Bali and Blue Cross.

After another story about his Lasik eye surgery where they only do one eye, and after the one about Kelly Slater’s Surf Ranch, the conversation swings around to Kauai. He says his brother has lived in Hanalei for ten years and loves it. Says he’d move there himself, if it weren’t for all the damn stand up paddlers. His next line is delivered slowly for emphasis, each word pronounced with a purpose, “Don’t even get me started on those mo-fos.”

We had talked for a good twenty minutes and this was the first mention of SUP. He slowly turns to face me, rubbing his bad shoulder. The waves are starting to look pretty good and the sun is shining brightly now. I have one hand resting my aching hip, the other holding my cup of Dunlop’s Doughnuts coffee. After a long pause, I look into his good eye and sigh … “Those mo-fos.”

Why ruin a good mood?

~ s.west