Pura Vida – Surfing on the Gulf Coast

January 15, 2009

Bobby Johnson catches a wave near WaterColor. Photo courtesy William Chandler
Bobby Johnson catches a wave near WaterColor. Photo courtesy William Chandler

Getting in the ‘Zone’

Our true surfing period begins in November and can last through March if we are lucky.  This period of time I like to refer to as “surf season.” Hurricane Season is fun but luckily not as consistent as Surf Season.  I guess we can be thankful for that although in 2005 one began to wonder.

What makes Surf season so special is the continuing change of weather. Right now we have a cold front so the gulf is as flat as a duck’s back.  The moment you feel the air warm the winds have switched and the change begins to occur.  We call this a front or a swell on the way.  The wind will blow, the rains will follow and the Gulf of Mexico becomes a play land for many.
Most folks head in.  Surfers head out.  I often think that Jim Morrison was referring to the Gulf when he sung ‘Riders on the Storm.’
Nothing makes me smile more then a wet, windy day.  The icing on the cake for a Gulf Coast surfer is when the Gulf is churned and the buoy readings range from 4 ft. to 10 ft., and then, a warm front is followed by a cold front. The winds become offshore and the play land now becomes paradise.
When this happens, the Gulf can get as good as anywhere I have ever surfed.  It does not happen much, but it happens more then a non-surfers realize.  The other day at a secret spot (for fear of my life, I can not disclose), we caught the offshore day as good as my last surf trip to Costa Rica.
The processes of catching a wave is more involved then most people realize.  They should call it paddling because you spend way more time doing that then actually surfing. On a decent size day, just getting in the lineup (pass the break zone) can be a feat in itself.
As a wave approaches a surfer must decide many things.  Which way the wave is breaking, is it a close out, is the one behind it better, am I going to cut anyone off (I have been known to do this).  Once all this is factored in you take off.  Keep in mind if you do not explode faster the approaching wave you will wipe out.  The laws of physics will plant you on the sandbar wondering what you did wrong.  If you ask me what went wrong, I will tell you to paddle faster and paddle at an angle.
Once you catch one it can change your life.  I liken it to the way a retriever goes after a ball.  That dog will go back and forth until completely exhausted.  The reason for this is during his ball chase nothing is on his mind.  He is not thinking about the fleas or ticks that are nagging him, or that his owner no longer lets him sleep on the couch.  He is in the zone.
Taking off after a wave is the same.  The moment a surfer sees the wave from a distance they begin to paddle hard in that direction. They must make many decisions before the wave lets them in or crushes them on the sandbar.  No matter what happens during that short period of time, nothing else can be on your mind.  When you allow your mind to be clear of all the chatter things really fall into perspective.  I think that is why surfers are always accused for being stoners.  They are not stoned.  They are not high, they are just stoked.
Repetitive clearing of the mind from chasing waves in a session gives one an almost Zen like feeling.  Maybe this is why surfers always use terms like, “No worries” or “it’s all good”. They simply have a different view of the world.  The fleas and ticks of life simply don’t bother them as much.  Thanks for taking the time to read my short spin on surfing and hope to see you in the water.

Pura Vida!
Pura Vida is a column by Santa Rosa Beach resident Bobby Johnson. Bobby is a local realtor and surfing enthusiast. You can reach Bobby at 850-865-7798 or www.bobbyjblog.com.

1 Comment
    1. More surf on the way!

      SUNDAY
      SOUTHWEST WINDS 10 TO 15 KNOTS…INCREASING TO AROUND
      20 KNOTS BY AFTERNOON…THEN BECOMING WEST LATE. SEAS 2 TO 4 FEET
      BUILDING TO 5 TO 7 FEET. SCATTERED TO NUMEROUS SHOWERS AND
      ISOLATED THUNDERSTORMS.

      SUNDAY NIGHT
      NORTHWEST WINDS AROUND 20 KNOTS DECREASING TO 15
      TO 20 KNOTS TOWARDS MORNING. SEAS 6 TO 8 FEET SUBSIDING TO 4 TO 6
      FEET. ISOLATED EVENING SHOWERS.

      MONDAY
      NORTHWEST WINDS 15 TO 20 KNOTS. SEAS 4 TO 6 FEET.

      MONDAY NIGHT
      NORTHWEST WINDS 15 TO 20 KNOTS. SEAS 4 TO 6 FEET.

      TUESDAY
      NORTHWEST WINDS 15 TO 20 KNOTS…BECOMING WEST AROUND
      20 KNOTS IN THE AFTERNOON. SEAS 5 TO 7 FEET.

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