The Inertia

What I’ve Learned From a Surf Deprived Life in College

There IS life away from the ocean! Photo: Shutterstock


The Inertia

To surfers, the only pain worse than not being able to surf is not being near the ocean at all. Its agonizing. The dry-docked surfer spends his days reading surf mags, watching surf videos, and making desperate attempts to stay sane by finding other activities that give him or her a similar feeling to what surfing provides – and very seldom does it work.

I recently moved from Santa Rosa, California to Reno, Nevada. I went from being half an hour from the nearest break to now being four hours away from one. You may be asking why exactly I decided to make this change. Long story short, I am going for my bachelors degree in journalism, and the University of Nevada, Reno seemed to meet my financial needs as well as fuel all my other passions, including hunting, fly fishing, and of course exploring extremely interesting places. One week I was surfing at any chance I got, the next I was considering dropping out of school and living in a van. Surprisingly, I stuck with school.

Leading up to the move, I didn’t do much preparing for the war that was about to take place inside my head; but really, how can a guy prepare for that? The months leading up to the big move, I really didn’t think the lack of stoke would effect me much. The week prior to the big move I surfed just about every day. As a matter of fact, I taught some of my best friends to surf so in some way I could surf vicariously through them. Now I’ve come to terms with the fact that I’m not going to be in the water as much as I would like to for these next two years, but I’ve also realized that I’m not the only one living this nightmare. There are people dry-docked all over the place who need a little love, and maybe a few tips and tricks to keep them from losing it at their nine to five.

Here are a few survival tips I’ve picked up during these last few months:

Start subscribing, following, and logging on

Whether your thing is magazines, internet videos, vintage jackass-style surf movies, social media, or even books, these are probably my favorite ways to reengage my beloved and no longer existing surfing lifestyle. The best part about this is that its so easy to access. This isn’t proven by science, but I am gonna say that a pretty large chunk of surfers out there have some kind of social media, and out of that crew, I think a majority of them are likely to be following some surf pages. Then of course you got websites to look at, and pretty much every surf video, picture, or article at your finger tips.

Magazines and books may not be as popular as they were ten years ago, but trust me, if you are missing the surf like I am, you are going to want a few good subscriptions. They are generally cheap and sometimes even come with some special offers. I’ve gotten my money’s worth just from the girls who want to talk to me when they see me reading a surfing magazine in the library – it pays for itself.

Hunt for freshwater waves

If you are as lucky as myself, you live somewhere with some sort of surfable freshwater break. This could be a gnarly river, a large lake that gets some heavy winds ripping through, or even some kind of wave pool set-up. I am fortunate enough to have lake Tahoe within a half an hour’s drive. It may not be going off all year but its about the closest thing there is to an ocean without it actually being an ocean. So it’ll have to do for now. I have yet to experience the swells that I’ve seen guys rip on internet videos, but it is definitely something I need to try during my time here, when the winds really get pumping. On top of that, it is, without a doubt, one of the most choice freshwater free diving locations due to the clear blue water.

Take up other action sports

I know, no other sport in the world can stir up the same excitement and emotions as surfing. Not much else feels as surreal or just plain liberating; but you gotta admit, there are some pretty cool hobbies out there that you though about doing once. Here in the Reno/Tahoe area, I don’t have much of a choice to get into snowboarding or skiing. The only thing really keeping me from getting into it like I had with surfing is the price. I can drive back to my home beach, catch some waves, and return to Reno, for about fifty to sixty bucks. If I want to go snowboarding, It will cost me quite a bit more, including the gear and the overpriced lift tickets. The main difference between the two activities is time; I can go snowboarding for a few hours or just an afternoon. Right now if I want to surf it would be an all day endeavor at the least. And of course I may also have to give up a few hours of sleep.

So I’m not in that much of a bind only being four hours away from the beach, but lets say you are in Montana, Colorado, Arizona, etc. In some cases, snow sports may be the most affordable option, but remember that wave only breaks when there is adequate snow on the ground. Some hobbies you may not have thought of include skating, windboarding (on land or water), biking (mountain, BMX, etc.), wakeboarding (if you have a rich friend with a boat), or even fly fishing. I tend to supplement my lack of surfing with hunting, fly fishing, and free diving. Free diving has got to be one of the best ways to get back into the water without actually being in the ocean; If you are somewhere you are allowed to spearfish, more power to you. Free diving is one of the purest feelings you will ever get; I think that is why it comforts and excites me in a way that is extremely similar to surfing.

Maintain those old boards 

So you got a few dings on your surf sesh during your weekend trip home? Maybe you had a few cracks developing that needed a little love? There’s never been a better time to do some repairs. Knowing that you are not going to be surfing anytime soon is likely going to give you the patience needed to make a decent repair. If you have the space, money, and time, it also may not be a bad idea to give shaping a shot – might as well do something while you’re doing nothing, right?

Find another unlucky landlocked surfer 

It may be harder in some places that others, but finding fellow dry-docked surfers can be one of the best ways to brighten up your non-surfing life. Conversation between two surfers stuck in this predicament breeds pure stoke and usually a pretty good friendship. While out in the line-up the guy floating next to you is just another surfer trying to get a wave. Take that same guy, put him by your side five hundred miles inland of your prior location, and that may be the only person in that zip code that you can talk shop with. Plus, you guys may end up finding the time to plan a surf trip together – and who doesn’t mind splitting gas? Sounds like a win/win to me.

Write About It

Whether you are venting on forums, publications, or even your secret diary, writing about your lack of surf is probably the most productive method to go about dealing with your deprivation. You can do it anywhere, conditions don’t have to be right, and you may just be giving another surfer some good entertainment. Sometimes we get so caught up in catching that epic wave, that we forget to reflect on ourselves, our sport, our lifestyle, and our thoughts. I returned home about two months after leaving Santa Rosa. I was only able to surf within the very last few hours before I departed back to Reno. I grabbed my board, my suit, and two of my best buds. Throughout the ride to the beach, I warned them that I was going to go nuts out there to make up for lost waves. During that short session, I only caught one wave – a powerful head high right. It was possibly the best wave I’ve ever ridden. I am not sure if it was because of the wave itself or the feeling of freedom that had been missing from my life the past few months, but that one wave felt the way surfing should always feel like.

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