A friend recently sent me a self-produced zine entitled Small Wave Hellman. I loved the title because, if nothing else, it acknowledges that not every surfer goes through his or her life in pursuit of waves that would have made Greg Noll soil his patented jailhouse shorts. Some of us—many, in fact—are content to spend our surfing careers riding waves that we can see over.
Nice enough – but not for me
My wave height preference varies depending on what type of surfcraft I’m riding. On surfboards, I’m more than happy to avoid the barreling, spit-throwing waves. I don’t ride shortboards, so what on Earth do I think I could possibly do on WCT-worthy wave with a longboard or mid-sized hull . . . other than get hurt, embarrassed or both?
When I ride my surf mats, though, I am almost fearless. I will huck myself over a ledge and drop into bombs that I would never surf on a board. One of my fears when surfing a board in larger surf is that a good wipeout will result in me getting seriously injured by the board while we’re both being worked. (When I saw the pictures of Keala Kennelly’s face after a recent wipeout at Teahupoo, I knew my fears were justified even though I would never ride a wave that large and powerful.)
Part of what prevents me from pursuing larger waves is the fact that I am an admitted shape whore. I don’t keep score when I surf; I have no interest in catching more waves than the person next to me. I am more interested in catching the wave that will give me quality face time. As a result, size doesn’t matter. (I’m talking surfing, people, not matters of the heart . . . er, libido.) When the waves are pumping at Beach A, delivering overhead bombs that test one’s mettle, you can inevitably find me at Beach C riding smaller waves that quietly peel across the beach.
I’m no thrill-seeker. I’m perfectly happy to go to my grave never having been inside the “green room”. I will leave that experience to the men and women who get paid to have themselves photographed in waves that allow them to stand up straight with outstretched arms. My joy is in being able to get up and surf almost every day of the week. Being able to say I surf on an almost daily basis provides me more happiness than being able to say I once (or twice or several times) rode a wave so enormous that dropping in took my breath away.
Small wave hellwoman . . . and proud of it!!
How about you? What’s your wave height limit?
Surfsister Mary Mills will be back at the same time next week.Greg Noll, Small Wave Hellman, Small Wave Hellwoman