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the problem with being a very old ex-surfer

The problem only exists in the more mature amongst us, the ones who have long given up surfing for a myriad of reasons: wife, health, geography, blood circulation, strength of will, wealth, substance abuse or just a general disinterest in riding waves because all riding waves is, is just riding waves – the ledger of life has more pressing matters to consider.

After sixty plus years of surfing a melancholy condition at times governs our vision of the breaking sea as we wonder along the shore like a vagrant, bent over, stooped, contemplative, looking for treasures amongst the sea wrack and driftwood piled up against the dunes, ignoring the helter skelter of youth as the rush past on their way to – riding waves.

At these times a man might look up and out to sea to watch the surf, not with any urge to paddle out, those days are long gone, but just to see how the waves are breaking, and it doesn’t matter whether they are big or small, onshore or offshore, hollow or fat, left or right, closing out or peeling – because all we see is their ride-ability. The edge, the barrel, the wall  … the stage.

Because a wave is not just a wave to a surfer.

We plant our ego on it and imagine speedy lines, deep cover-ups, meaty gouges, sheets of spray. Hoots and whistles from the pack. A magazine pic, a moment’s fame.

Some old boy was fishing at Lighthouse Beach the other day, armed with a ten-foot split-cane rod and ancient bakelite reel, hoping for a bite on the inside channel on the half-tide. So I wandered over with a pile of driftwood in my pocket and stopped by his side,


‘Good waves today, you reckon?’

He turned and looked at me, then out the back.


‘I don’t really know, mate, I’m just here for the fish.’

9 Comments Post a comment
  1. A joy to read Pete. I neither surf nor fish, but I know a bit about planting egos.

    August 15, 2020
    • Thanks John, just as well the few friends I have left have a robust sense of humour.

      August 15, 2020
      • Pour yourself a beer and have a good evening. I’m off to get breakfast… 🙃

        August 15, 2020
  2. michael bennett #

    Pete you’ve hit the nail on the head again about staring out to sea and watching the waves. How many times my wife has said to me “how long can you just stand there looking at the surf?” I told her I can never get enough. As many times as I tell her and others that haven’t surfed, they’ll never get it. I love watching the surf for all the reasons you stated above. Your fisherman, he’ll never ever get it either because he never surfed. Stuck in Arizona this year because of Covid I can’t get to Hawaii to stand and watch the waves. Guess I’ll just sit in my office at look at old surfing pictures on my wall! Thanks again for the memories Pete. Spot on mate!

    August 16, 2020
  3. Terry Jenkings #

    Mike Bennett- I hope in your Arizona Dreamtime you are able to picture a powerful surge of water coming around the point at Ben Buckler with only the brave and foolish taking up the challenge- best wishes from Bondi. Keep well.

    August 21, 2020
  4. Mike Bennett #

    Terry, still dreaming mate that’s the good news! Got the Covid two months ago and survived. So…I can still dream of the one big day at Ben Buckler when I was very young and foolish, or should I say stupid. Survived that too! To all my Aussie friends, be careful and be safe. Thanks for the good wishes mate!

    August 28, 2020
    • Terry Jenkings #

      On a recent trip down South I came to the conclusion “ looking out to the surf”is an honourable past time – sadly, after heading out to conquer a 2 ft wave and feeling my hip pop as I straddled the plank a young grom ( once called a gremmie) paddled over and asked..”Are ya Ok Mister”. I retreated to the shoreline, but was further embarrassed when the first song I heard on the car radio was …” Yesterday’s Hero”. It ain’t much fun being over the hill!!! Watching the surf roll in seems to be the way forward!!! Sadly, there’s no going back.
      Keep well Boys.

      May 18, 2023
  5. You know what hurts? Seeing an ocean going yacht heading out to sea with a couple of young tow-heads handling the sails and half a dozen boards bagged up and tied to the boat’s rail …. Heading to Tahiti, or Hawaii, maybe Indo … be back in a year or two.

    May 18, 2023

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