Friday, 6 April 2012

the latest mid-life crisis

Well, technically, I'm past mid-life unless I last longer than 100, but that doesn't mean I still don't have dreams of being young, and let's face it, I'm still deperately trying to avoid growing up.

So here I am, balding, fattening, aging. There must be something I can do. Most blokes:

  • go out and buy themselves a sports car or motorbike
  • wear shirts that show off their manly chest hair, generally in conjunction with a heavy gold chain
  • drink way too much
  • find a young hottie

Some blokes even take up a sport like cycling.

But what's the point of all that? I've ridden motorbikes for many more years than I haven't (since I was 14 or 15), and my current bike easily outperforms any car under half a mill until well past legal speeds (hell, even my clapped out commuter is quicker than most cars). I already have the death wish vehicle.

Manly chest hair? Is it manly if you also have moobs? Not that it matters, hair struggles to survive on my chest, even though it does alll too well on my back. :^( And I don't like wearing jewellery, so that rules out the gold chain (or a piercing).

Drinking too much makes me sick. Literally.Over and over.

Young hottie? Well, I don't have much in the way of money, no sports car, and no gold chain. I do have a nice, wide expanse of forehead ( a good investment, as it keeps getting bigger with no effort from me), the aforementioned moobs, a belly made of jelly, creaky joints, no fashion sense, and irritating bowels. "But you have a sexy, fast motorbike", I hear you cry. True, but it's a genuine sports bike, and very pillion unfriendly (let's face it, for these old joints, it's rider unfriendly...).  No, I can't see what would attract a young hottie - not even one deperate for kids, as I've been to the vet's.

Cycling? It's had to take up something you've been doing for 20 years. That was an early crisis.

So, I thought I was stuffed.

Then, a small, niggling memory fought its way to the surface. When I was a young man, a few of my friends were surfers. Sort of surfers - we lived hours from the beach. But no matter, they had boards, could stand up, at least briefly, ergo, they were cool. I'd even tried to join them in my twenties, and did get to stand up a few times on my first board ($24 secondhand, I think, including dings). I wasn't much good, but had fun until I broke the  fin. A while later I tried again, but bought a board suited for riders:
  • smaller than me
  • who could surf well
This board was hopeless for a beginner - I could barely balance laying down, and think I'd only have stood up a couple of times. despite blowing the enormous sum of over $100, this board got parked for years, eventually finding its way onto the footpath for the local hard rubbish collection (no eBay in those days), where it was quickly snaffled by some other hopeful.

I knew then what I wanted to do. We live even further from the beach than when I was young, so it seemed like madness. I told my wife, and she laughed at me, but I persisted. While SWMBO was away, I went down the coast to Gerroa, and did a surf school, riding a thick, soft mal about 9' long. The idea of these boards is pretty good. They're buoyant, wide, and long, and if you get smacked in the head by one, it doesn't hurt nearly as much a regular board. The one I had in the class wasn't so good - the hard laminate bottom was separating from the foam, and the board flexed badly as a result.

I hired a different board later, and it was much better, but it was costing me $50 per day - maybe I should just buy one. I haunted eBay, and saw plenty of boards going for under $300 - that's only six days hire! I researched what was the best size for a beginner of my weight, and found a myriad of answers - from 6'6" up, although most suggested 8' plus if you were a true beginner. I'd had boards before so I reckoned something from 7' up would suit, and I didn't want a long plank.

I bid and lost a few times, before going the "buy it now" route - a 7'3" fibreglass mini mal in bright orange. The owner claimed it was only used twice, but he'd been able to stand up. He weighed slighty more than me, so it sounded perfect. I bought it for $300, including leg rope (essential) and cover (less essential, but handy). It certainly looked new, so I was happy.

Back to Gerroa, and the surf was crap, and so was I. I stood a few times, but very briefly, and often found the board was slowing and sinking just as I got to my feet. Disappointed, I vowed to return on a better day.

In the meantime I went to Hawai'i, and since we stayed at Waikiki, I hired a12' (!!) mal and surfed one of the most famous beaches in the world. This was great. I could stand up, I could stay up, the waves were easy to catch, and ideal for beginners. The board didn't exactly turn freely, but I had some terrific long rides, despite spending ages waiting for a wave. The waves might have been well formed, they might have been easy to ride, but I got sick of waitng, waiting, waiting for them to appear. Even the view of many bikini clad young women surfers didn't help. Oh well, it was fun when a wave eventually arrived.

Back in Oz, I returned to Gerroa. the surf was better, but again I couldn't do any better than a few very short rides on a sinking board. My ever helpful wife took delight in pointing out all the  successful riders "look, he's catching one, why don't you do that?" "look at her, you should...", etc.

Me, I was angry and depressed. Angry because it seemed I'd blown me dough, angry because my wife was baiting me, and angry because no matter how hard I tried, I couldn't do it, yet I'd successfully surfed this very beach less than a year before. It was so depressing. I wished I'd not given up all those years ago, I wished my wrist had never been broken by that dickhead car driver (inflexible wrists make it harder to get into position to stand up, and I wished my wife would shut the hell up.

I decided I had to suck it up and... not give up, but buy a longer board, so it was back to eBay. I missed some beauties, but ended up winning an auction for a mass produced epoxy board. "These boards retail in the shops for $1100". Somehow I doubt that claim, but the $260 I paid seemed a fair price for a brand new board of its quality. I bought a leg rope and good quality bag for about another $100.

Back to Gerroa, and ...SUCCESS!! My first ride was probably the longest I'd ever had in Oz, and while I missed plenty of waves, and fell off heaps, I caught more waves that day than ever before. Huzzah!

Of course, now summer is over, and my plans will go into hibernation. Still, it's actually better weather than the lousy summer we've just had. I'd planned to be surfing Gerroa today, but official warnings of dangerous surf put me off. I know my limitations, I'm not a surfer, I'm an old bloke having a bit of fun. I also know I'm not interested in driving for a couple of hours (each way) on the off chance that the official reports are wrong. Especially not during a double demerit points weekend, when everyone pays more  attention to their  speedo than what's happening around them. You must be safe, though, because it's speed, not inattention, that kills, right?
Lack of summer will be less of a problem now I have two wetties - a spring suit, and a lighter weight steamer. Wetties are great, a layer of neoprene prevents chafed nipples (owee, owee), they keep you warm and of course, are well past SPF 50+ for those bits they cover. The steamer also prevents sore knees from dragging them across the board as I get ready to stand (what a sook!), although it does stick to the wax sometimes, stopping me from dragging anything.

Oh yes, Pacific Ocean, I'll be back. Maybe next weekend?

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