Surfing on the north coast can be a frustrating experience. It’s pretty cutthroat out there; especially in Byron Bay. Catching the waves is the easy part; it’s dealing with the pack that’s the problem. There seem to be a lot of men out there who have evolved into a kind of man-fish thing. Their hands are the size of flippers and they get onto the waves with about two strokes.
The pack takes your measure pretty quickly. Woe betide you if you paddle for a wave and miss it. From then on every time you attempt to catch a wave someone else will come in from the front or behind or materialise out of nowhere. It gets depressing.
My lack of action surf-wise has often given me plenty of time for observing the line-up. In a typical Byron Bay pack there are:
(a) The old crusties – weather-beaten old dudes who remember Byron Bay when you had to go looking for someone to surf with;
(b) The grommets – school age kids with no respect for their elders;
(c) The surfing lawyers – the new wave of surfers, distinguished by their tight name-brand clothing, shiny surfboards and superior attitude.
A number of questions usually jostle in my mind as I watch them. Why aren’t those kids in school? What do these people do for a job? How is it, regardless what time of day I surf, the same people are there? Are they really the same, or so similar I can’t tell the difference? Why hasn’t someone done a postgraduate study to answer all these questions?
So, next time you see me out there, letting all the waves go by, it’s not that I’m an incompetent surfer. I’m working up my PhD funding application.