La Petite Mort


Well-Known Member
May 1, 2021
This happened a while ago now. Ten foot summer swell, Trestles. I have taken out a 7'2" Russ Short. I do not ride short(ish) boards all too often. Actually, this is my first attempt at trying to surf a short(ish) board well--or at all--as I have been continually drawn to bigger boards. But general consensus deems longer boards less conducive to enjoyably surfing larger waves and I want to know what everyone is going on about.

The intimidation is real from the size of these waves. I fear having to move ever closer to where the wave breaks in order to catch it. I appreciate the safety net of time which the shoulder begets. I fear dropping in only to bottom turn into a section breaking ahead of me. A dilemma all to familiar to anyone who surfs larger boards more regularly.

But I urge myself on, and sit closer and closer in. I chase the standout sets and try to find the farthest out I can be to just eek into the rolling mass of water beneath me. And I wonder how it will go, how it will be once I have gotten up. Once I am on the wave. And like a soldier to battle I accept the possibility of failure with a reassurance of solid mind, and hours of practice. And I have fully accepted that what I will be trying must end with failure. As to ride the wave to completion and in the style that I want would mean to attempt maneuvers I have never done before. Only visualized in my mind. And as vision meets reality I should meet my demise with grace knowing that it will only help me improve. Further my understanding. Failure, I am ready for your ignominious slap, and suffocating tumble.

I pull into the wave. I make the first section in trim, pulling into a high-line as the lip crashes just behind me. I fall down the face of the wave and turn yet again. I see where I will be. I see where I will propel all my weight to dig my edge and slash into the face of the wave. And all to suddenly am I rocketing down the face. A moment of astonishment as the frozen image of my feet before me completely on rail exposes onto the film of my memory. I hit the foam and turn back down the line. I find speed and turn up the face of the wave to meet failure at my limits. With all abandon I attempt a turn yet again. But all I meet is another fragment frozen before me, my heelside rail dug further into the water than ever before and all has gone right and I am falling down the wave once again. No time for confusion. The section is building before me. High-line. Too late. Floater. Failure, I meet your arms with grace. But my feet seem glued, I can not come off. And I continue to ride the wave to completion. To the shallows, the cobblestones beneath me. They seem so insecure as I walk over them towards the beach. Lose balance and I should cut my foot or twist my ankle on their slippery surface. But now I stand on the sand. Without injury. As though I had never paddled out at all.

Confusion sets in. There is no excitement. No contentment from a performance well-done. My best attempt at failure, failed. I have learned nothing in this moment, and yet surfed as complete and good as I ever might. A sadness sets in and takes the place of confusion. But the question lurks evermore, "Was it really that simple?".

I think I will stick to big boards, mats, and more. They're much more interesting.