Sunday, October 24, 2010

I almost died whilst surfing.

I’ve tried my hand at a lot of different sports. I played football, basketball, ran cross country, threw shot puts, table tennis, and picnic table sliding (a friend and I made that one up, and we were the BEST at it). I quit football because I was a Nancy and it was too hard for me. I can admit it now; I don’t care whatchu think. I still love basketball, and played it when I was in junior high. I was tall in junior high, but I had apparently finished growing. Once I got to the high school level, I was the same height as I was in junior high and everyone else had grown taller than me, so the result was the terminus of my “cool athlete” days (and right when I enter High School when it matters most, right?). I don’t run competitively anymore, but I do run on a near regular basis. I try just about anything that I can, and when I do try something new I get really into it, to nearly outrageous levels. I try to skip the novice stage and go directly to (semi) pro. If I started gymnastics tomorrow, you can bet that I’d be attempting to do a full-twisting double back cabriole on the balance beam followed by a back salto dismount by the end of the day, all while wearing the most mind-blowing leotard (blue, because it matches my eyes) you have ever seen. I’ve said too much.

This next part is not for the weak-stomached. Those of you who know me well, know that I really push my body to the limit, usually until I vomit. It’s true. I always puked during football practice, after running lines in basketball, after getting splinters in my face from table sliding, etc. Even now, I know that my workout isn’t complete until I have spilled the contents of my stomach, and it’s not even done then! It usually goes something like this: I either 1) run for a straight mile as fast as I can (we’re talking dang near sprint), or 2) I keep a steady pace and run for as long as I can. At some point AFTER I complete my goal and slow my body down, I start to think, “Wow, I really don’t feel so good. I’m never going to push myself this hard ever again.” I take deeps breaths and suppress my gag reflex, because I really don’t want to puke, no matter how much you think I do. But the anger of my stomach is kindled, and its wrath is spewn upon the inhabitants of either the bushes or a garbage can (which is really uncomfortable when I’m in a gym with other people, strange people {known as strangers [that’s right, triple parentheses!]}). After I puke, I feel GREAT! See that? Adorned in all capital letters and an exclamation point. I feel GREAT! And then I usually run another mile or move onto some other form of self-torture.

I don’t really know why I told you about my throwing up problem. It has nothing to do with how I almost died surfing, but I will use it, tactlessly, as a bridge to the next topic: I once threw up in the ocean after taking a massive spill, and I was in deep water and couldn’t touch the ground. Yes, it was as disgusting as it sounds.

Before I start yakking it up (no pun intended) about surfing, let me say this: To my Idaho friends, or to anyone who has barely even seen the ocean and therefore have never cavorted in it’s mighty waves, you have NO idea how intense it is (if you’re Mike Haycock, shut up because you were on a 9 foot floatation device that even a quadriplegic could stand on). I’ve never felt anything more forceful, and I was once hit by a car (true story). And, to my fellow surf-buddies, don’t make fun of me. Remember that I’m still a noob, and try to remember what it was like when you were a noob. Remember? Back when you were 2 years old and your hippy father put you on a board and pushed you out towards a wave. The first time you ever stood up all by yourself was inside the barrel of a 13-footer. So be nice to me. Go buy me some Taco Bell.

The reason I talked about all the other sports that I played was because I wanted to make a comparison. Surfing is by FAR the hardest sport I have ever done. It’s also the only sport where I’ve said to myself “I think I’m going to die,” and I actually meant it. New term, write this down. It’s lovingly called a “wash cycle”: when a wave eats you and it pushes you under water like the bully on amphetamine at the public pool. The spin of the wave in turn spins your whole body around until you have no idea which way is up. All you can really do is hold your breath until the natural buoyancy of your body brings you to the surface, and if the frequency of the waves is high, you have only enough time to take another breath before another wave crashes on top of you and you go through another wash cycle. On my first day of surfing I found myself in cycle after cycle until the ocean pushed me all the way back to the shore without me realizing it. Imagine how dumb I felt when I eventually found myself freaking out in ankle deep water, flat on my back, arms a-flailing and legs a-kicking. Dumb kids collecting shells stopped and gaped at me, DIDN’T YOUR PARENTS TEACH YOU IT’S NOT POLITE TO STARE!?

On a particular day when the waves were rather large, I was feeling confident for no real reason. I knew that bigger waves meant harder falls, but that was far from my mind. I adopted the mindset that larger waves meant more room to stand (glass half-full assurance {or insurance [oh, snap, I did it again!]}, if you will), and all I really wanted was to stand. That day was brutal. I think I gave up at the moment that I fell off a wave, my chest hit the ocean floor, and the abrupt stop caused me to kick myself in the back of my own head. You read that right. I kicked my own head. With my own foot. I haven’t even gotten to the part when I almost died.

Here it is:

It was a particularly small day (“small” as in wave size, not the size of the environment or duration of the sun’s rotation) and I was taking out a short board that I got from my aunt (thanks, KC!). Short boards are significantly harder to ride than long boards, and I had barely earned enough experience with long boards, but I’m determined to learn to ride short. I wanted to go to a location where there weren’t a lot of surfers. I quickly found out that if there are not a lot of surfers in one spot, it’s usually because there is something wrong with that spot. I got out into the water maybe 30 yards from shore and tried, unsuccessfully, to ride a few gnarly swells. I was getting very tired and decided to go back to shore for a little rest. I was in waist deep water and walking on the ocean floor towards the shore when I strolled into a pocket of utter doom. It was like I walked off the edge of a cliff. I was maybe fifteen feet away from the shore and I couldn’t touch the bottom anymore. I didn’t think much of it at first. I just jumped on my board and started to paddle away from it, but I noticed that I stayed in the same spot. It was like some horrible, flooded eternal treadmill without a safety key that clips to your clothes in case I fell off that one time when my shorts fell down. It was then that I noticed that there were some evil, vindictive crosscurrents in that little pit of despair, and it was basically a small wake pool from hell. I paddled harder, but that just wore me out quickly, ekspecially since I blasted my triceps earlier that week. I got off my board and swam like a sober Michael Phelps, but that didn’t work, and I’m sure that the board strapped to my ankle didn’t really help my cause. I tried to backstroke out, doggie paddle, breaststroke, freestyle, monkey bite, everything, but I stayed on the exact same spot! I looked at people on the shore (15 feet away, remember) and noticed people watching me like I was a rare species of fish that they were about to discover and name after their snot-nosed kid building the sand castle. Realizing how stupid I must look, I calmly rested my arms on my board with my feet dangling into the pit of the unknown and pretended like I wanted to be there. That’s right, I meant to do this; I like the exercise. I thought to myself “So, this is really how it ends? I hope these people don’t provide eyewitness accounts to the news crews, which has potential to be embarrassing. Not even my own family will claim me. Maybe,” I contemplated, “just maybe I’ll get a Darwin award.” I don’t really remember how I got out of this embarrassing plight (I mean the crosscurrent, not my life in general). It’s all kind of fuzzy as I was too busy concentrating on passing my life before my eyes (It wasn’t a fast moving, “you-are-definitely-about-to-die” moment, so I had to flash my life before my eyes manually. It wasn’t pretty). I’m pretty sure what happened is that I rested on my board for a REALLY long time, then gave it my entire strength and got myself out by swimming away from the shore, then parallel to the shore, then I let the waves wash me up with the rest of the barnacles and other nasty pelagic whatsits. I’m pretty sure I puked on the beach too. This concludes the time that I almost died while surfing.

Why do I surf despite the near-death experiences, you ask? It’s splendidly awesome, that’s why. When you actually do ride a wave it’s exhilarating, and it can actually be very peaceful to sit on your board out away from land and just watch the horizon line. However, since I’m a noob I haven’t mastered the balancing technique of simply sitting on my board, and my falling off and splashing around appears to ruin the peace for everyone else, but I can imagine that it’s peaceful.

*If you’re wondering, I recently discovered the thesaurus feature on my Macbook Pro, and that’s why this entry is significantly more awesome than most others. Not to mention the ridiculous, absurd, preposterous, ludicrous, laughable, risible, nonsensical, senseless, outrageous, and antonym reasonable amount of free time I have at work right now.

Just to be sure that I keep up my reputation of writing unnecessarily long blog posts, I'm going to apologize and tell you why I haven't written very often. This will be quick. I got a job. It's a sad day, but it gets worse. I got a job with UC Berkeley, the Disneyland of Liberalville. It's really not that bad, and it's a great job, so I'm not going to complain. In fact, I am very grateful and lucky to have this job. And I just might be able to keep my promise of not blogging about political things, for a couple of reasons. 1, I'm afraid that people I work with will discover my true identity as a conservative super hero of sorts, and B, now that I have a job, I don't have time to keep up with current events as well as I did before. It kind of makes me sad, but at the same time I've kept my sanity intact, more or less. No one at work talks about politics all that much, which was sort of surprising to me. Anywho, maybe I'll tell you more about the amusing parts of my job at a later time. I know that you all are DYING to hear about my job. Well, just be patient for 2 or more months.