A Letter From Ocean Beach

sf-jimmicane1061Photo: Jimmicane

IT’S NOT THAT I DISLIKE THE ATTENTION, BECAUSE EVERYONE ENJOYS BEING FAWNED OVER OCCASIONALLY. I DO FIND IT ENTERTAINING, ALL THE ADULATION AND HONEY-TONGUED HEADLINES SHOWERED UPON ME LATELY: “OCEAN BEACH PERFECTION”; “SANDBAR BOMBS IN SAN FRANCISCO”; “THE BEST BEACHBREAK WE’VE SEEN IN CALIFORNIA.” BUT I GUESS WHAT I’M SAYING IS: I JUST DON’T UNDERSTAND IT.

seth de roul2018et ocean beachPhoto: Seth de Roulet

For the longest time I was nearly invisible. Too cold. Too foggy. Too windy. Too sharky. Too far north. Sure, I’ve had my admirers over the past 60 years, but they’ve generally been a fringe tribe of surfing misfits and lunatics, gathered around a roaring beach bonfire, trying to regain feeling in their hands while the rest of San Francisco – and surfing – went about its business, happy to ignore their existence. Now I have convoys of professional surfers and media driving eight hours straight through the night and showing up at my doorstep looking to dance. It’s surreal.

124A1473Photo: Taras

The only time anyone used to point a camera in my direction was the rare local news team after I accidentally sucked a city beachgoer out to sea or shots were fired in the VFW parking lot. When they first tried to install a wave-cam on the Great Highway, the locals kept tearing it down for years. Now there are websites and Facebook pages dedicated to me and I’m featured daily on Instagram – ironically, by a lot of the same guys who used to tear down that wave-cam.

seth de roul2017et ocean beachPhoto: Seth de Roulet

I don’t mean to sound like those bitter old locals whose favorite pastime is whining about how much the city has changed since Tech Invasion Part I and II, and the sacrilege of the Rip Curl Search event, blah, blah, blah (as far as I’m concerned, unless you’re a descendant of the Ohlone – they actually got screwed – no one wants to hear you complain about what San Francisco “used to be”). I’m just continually bemused by how many surfers are moving here from Southern California, the East Coast, South America, South Africa, Europe and beyond just to get next to me. Doctors, lawyers, dentists, investment bankers. Now more than ever San Francisco is the destination of choice for professionals with a surfing habit. It’s flattering, and at the same time hilarious.

seth de roul2021et ocean beachPhoto: Seth de Roulet

What I laugh about all the time is how easy you surfers are to train. All I have to do is give you a taste – just one day of long-period swell and offshore winds – and you’re hopelessly devoted. After that, you’ll stop at nothing just to check in on me. You’ll fight through rush- hour bridge traffic to come meet up for some crumbly, head-high waves. And spend your savings on a quiver of new big-wave boards I’ll only ask to see a couple of days each year. The other women in this city should be so lucky. From what I hear, in spite of OkCupid, Zoosk, and the million other dating apps produced in this town – or maybe because of them – San Francisco’s single ladies are living in dating purgatory.

damo seth de rouletDamien Hobgood. Photo: Seth de Roulet

I’ve come to the conclusion that you surfers are all closet masochists. Why else would you put up with me? First there’s the emotional abuse – enduring all my bitchy months of interminable fog and onshore slop in the irrational hope you’ll eventually be rewarded with a coldwater Indo. Then winter arrives and the beatings begin – Sisyphean paddle-outs, piercing ice-cream headaches, lung-burning hold-downs and phantom peaks that always seem to shift just out of reach. You’re gluttons for punishment, S&M surfers smothered head to toe in heavy rubber.

nate tyler seth de rouletNate Tyler. Photo: Seth de Roulet

Then there’s El Niño. There’s been a lot of hype and rumors surrounding our relationship, but the truth is I’m just not that into him. Any guy whose name is literally “the child” isn’t cutting it. I need a man, not a little boy. He comes on way too strong, pushing all those jumbled storms into my personal space and blasting me with south wind and rain – not to mention all that filthy runoff from the city streets. El Niño sent so many overlapping swells this winter the paddle-out was next to impossible most days. 12 feet @ 17 sec + 10 feet @ 13 sec = you’re probably not making it outside; I don’t care how big your board is. I even had to deny a hell-bent Damien Hobgood one hectic day in December. I felt bad, he’s such a sweet Southern gentleman, but sometimes I’m just not in the mood.

seth de roul2020et ocean beachPhoto: Seth de Roulet

Not to say I didn’t enjoy getting done up on a few special occasions this winter. I recall being in the giving mood post-Thanksgiving, and one day in January that brought smiles from Noriega to Sloat. Yes, making it out on those days was worse than trying to find parking in Nob Hill, but if you did there was that one wave that would’ve made your year (I tried to save it for a local, but Damien was just so damn persistent). And now that I’m California surfing’s winter poster child, that one wave was filmed, photographed and circulated throughout the world, meaning more romantic surfers will continue to flock to me, following their hearts and not their heads.

sf-jimmicane1059Photo: Jimmicane

And that’s what I admire about you surfers: your unwavering optimism and ability to see the best in me. I know I’m not perfect. I can be a cold, unreasonable bitch sometimes (OK, most of the time). I’m emotional, bipolar and probably in need of therapy. But so are you for loving me. And that’s why part of me is a fool for you too. I guess what I’m saying is maybe there’s a chance for you and I after all. You’ll just have to wait till next winter to find out.

XOXO,

OB

—Leo Maxam