Just me, the ocean, and a board. We’re 80% water, and in the ocean I definitely feel in my element, as if I just blend right into the rest of the universe.
Surfing cold waters in a wetsuit…. that’s a different story, and the cold is just the beginning.
The cold for me was the biggest fear. The reason I never got into snowboarding was because sitting on the chairlift was just torture, so as soon as I found out we’d be surfing Tofino in the cold, cold, month of November I started mentally preparing. I’m pretty proud of the fact that I made it out there on the first day. I didn’t, however, surf, per se.
Here’s me heading out, nervously.
Surfing in wetsuits
The first thing is getting it on. Like I said, surfing is about freedom. Squeezing into a neoprene suit and unrolling it, with great difficulty, so that it entraps you like a wet seal, then slapping your feet into booties, a hood, and finally struggling to tuck your clunky gloves into your sleeves is… well, just about the opposite of freedom.
It’s the kind of gearing up I was always glad I didn’t have to do, but alright, let’s put that behind us and feel like we’re superheroes about to kick some intergalactic @$$.
Here’s Eric modeling Pacific Surf Co.’s latest wetsuit rental style, complete with gloves and a hood:
That superhero feeling lasts about 10 steps, until the icy water starts slowly oozing into the wetsuit and you remember you’re about to be wet all over.
But that’s alright, jumping on the board and paddling will surely bring that surf feeling back and get me stoked….
It take so much strength just to hold your fingers close together, you can forget about gracefully cutting your hand into the water on the way in, and the sheer added weight of this suit, and the water in it, makes it feel as if gravity just went up 55%.
Gabriel and I one day decided that to get really fit, so every muscle in your body was fully activated, you’d have to create a suit that somehow was heaviest at the extremities to force your body to strengthen you from the extremities to the core. We decided such a contraption would be very difficult, if not impossible to create. Well, we found it, it’s called a wetsuit.
Trying to paddle in a wet suit is HARD work.
A duck-dive in warm waters can feel like heaven. It might be the most perfect sense of flow I’ve ever felt. Long hair mimicking the perfect motion of the curve of a well executed dive.
In a wet suit in duck-diving cold water feels like an ALS ice-bucket challenge on steroids, with extra added intensity down your spine; some sort of evil punishment by mother nature.
Needless to say I felt like a complete beginner again on day one.
The paddle power I’d become so proud of seemed useless in these conditions and I spent an hour an a half getting progressively colder, but no closer to gliding past the lip.
Day one attempt: fail.
Like everything else in life though, where there’s a will, there’s a way, and persistence is key.
Giving up has never gotten anyone anywhere and I wasn’t about to leave Tofino defeated by the elements.
Day two we went out again. This time, humbled, I went straight for the longest board I could find.
The waves were more manageable in size, and the temperature was significantly milder. The sun was shining bright and the black wetsuit was soaking in the rays with an insatiable hunger that didn’t have to be restrained by the fear of skin cancer. Bonus.
It was so nice out I actually took my hood off. I could have probably taken off the gloves but I decided to keep practicing this alien art-form.
I went for my first wave, and, lo-and-behold glided away.
They’re hard to catch, but once you get on one, you best bet it’s going to be close to the best ride of your life.
Every downfall to the wetsuit went out the window and I had a fabulous session.
Well, almost every downfall. In a wetsuit water falls to the extremities, making your hands significantly heavier than regular, which made every hand movement a test in balance.
We’ll spend the next week here battling the elements for some more amazing rides, knowing that once the gloves come off we’ll no longer need to suit up to feel like superheroes.