There are many things that grown-ups tell kids, but of all the faulty information and dictatorial orders, perhaps the most erroneous are two ridiculous words: Sit still. Guys, don’t do it. Fidget, for all you’re worth. Stay restless, explore, discover, investigate, question. This is our natural state, and one most ubiquitous in our youth. Fidgeting, i.e., movement, is healthy, just as flowing water in a stream is cleaner than stagnant water in a pond. Just as moving, well-circulated blood is healthier than inhibited, toxic blood.
See, whether we know it or not, for all their shoulder-hopping, five-at-time-paddling-out faults, inadvertently: Groms get it. And we could learn (or remember) quite a few lessons from those chap-lipped, board-bailing gnomes.
Be impatient. Grown-ups say patience is a virtue, but impatience is invaluable. Seize every moment, and never be satisfied. Put that wetsuit on in the car, miles before the parking lot. F–k it, put it on in the garage before your friend turns the ignition. Suggest to the driver an alternate (albeit arbitrary) route bypassing stoplights to get there faster (like you did when you didn’t have a license). Put that leash on before your feet hit the sand.
Be curious. Does that peak down the beach look a little hollower today? Doesn’t it always? Walk down and give it a fair shake. Then give it a name. Call it something vicious or cryptic and from then on keep wondering aloud if “Detonators” might have a couple today.
Stay out all day. Sure, wear sunscreen — you’ll regret it if you don’t — but stop giving your sessions time limits. Groms sure don’t. Groms go in when their ride is leaving, or when they’re critically dehydrated and/or famished. Other than this, there should be absolutely no other reason to go in.
Be obsessive. And shamelessly jealous. For instance, your friend is roughly the same age and size as you and somehow surfs better having started six months after you. Life is cruel and unfair like that. Let this keep you up at night and in the water far longer than him. Jealousy is a sure fire way to improve. Then devour all things surf, from the mags to the blogs to the clips to the webcasts. Draw waves on your TPS reports and pictures on your boards.
Don’t fall in love. With anyone. For as long as you can hold it. Stay totally, wholeheartedly committed to surfing till death do you part. Love distracts and keeps you up at night, tossing and turning. Then it makes you sleep in through the dawn patrol. It makes you choose between “the waves — or me.” And this choice will continue to haunt you for the rest of your life. So just put it off until, like, 40. Also, surfing with a broken heart sucks.
Have fun in the water. Like, smile and genuinely enjoy yourself. Sure, this session might be your only hour or two in the day (or week) to catch your breath from the old lady or crummy 9 to 5, but wipe off the mean-mug. Take a look at yourself: You’re sliding along moving lumps of water on a piece of foam and fiberglass and it feels really good. Take it from groms: Surf in the water, but laugh in it too. If you see a friend out, don’t hide the excitement. Call him by an embarrassing nickname from two peaks over. Make a small scene.
Lastly, live like how it feels. Save the pragmatism for old age. Did that feel like the best turn you’ve ever done? Don’t second-guess yourself; it probably was. Be a grom and just claim it. Was that the best Detonators you’ve seen all year? Sure felt like it. And while you’re at it, forget about logic and internal bargaining. Quit saying to yourself, “Well, I got Tuesday really fun, so I should be good for the next few days.” Don’t lie to yourself — until the next swell you’ll just be thinking about Tuesday. Responsibility is a slippery slope. And if you feel the need to fidget, no matter what they tell you, don’t fight the feeling. —Beau Flemister