Friday, July 29, 2011

Surfboard Tales, Part Seven

As in any sport or activity, there is a certain amount of superstition in surfing. Surfboards, which are nothing more than foam and fibreglass, can be imbued by their owners with mythic qualities rivalling that of fabled Mjolnir. Similarly, a particular pair of boardshorts or a wetsuit may become an item of totemic power.
My surf buddy, Terry, had a hat that apparently served that purpose for him. Originally, I didn’t know the hat’s provenance; it seemed to me just to be an olive “boonie” hat that could be found at any army surplus store. I know he wore it both as sun protection and to keep his head warm in the water. Other than the practical, there seemed to be no other reason for its ubiquity.

One particularly wild day in Newport Beach, California, Terry lost the hat in a vicious wipe-out that, in his words, should have “busted my fool neck”. Despite a thorough search, we could not find the hat in the water anywhere. I suggested that, given the current was rather strong that day, it had probably already travelled to Huntington Beach, five or six miles up the coast. He grunted and revealed, “I had that hat on the first day I was able to stand up on a board; and every day since. That hat has power. It should be in a museum.” He was a little grumpy for the next couple of days. Given the fact that he’s eternally affable, this was a little worrying.

A few days after we returned from the West Coast, I got an excited phone call from him. “Check out the O.C. Register [the daily paper in Orange County, CA]” he said, sending me a link via e-mail. It was an article about a Huntington Beach surfing competition that started the weekend we returned. “Look at the photo.”

It was a picture of one of the winners. He was a typical looking young man for his sport: longish blond hair, well-tanned with 0% body fat, holding aloft some obtuse trophy. However, the one thing that stood out, perched on the back of his head, was an olive boonie hat.

“You see it?” asked Terry, “I told you that hat had power. He must have picked it up in the waves, put it on, and it let him win that contest. Don’t ever doubt the power of that hat. I feel better now.  Balance has been returned to the world!” Should I mention that this is someone who works on Wall Street?

I am far too wise in the mysteries of the world and the surf to ever disagree with Terry about the hat and its power. In fact, the next summer in south Jersey, all of us bought our own boonie hats, in a variety of colors, to wear in the water during the season. It was one of the best seasons we'd ever experienced.

[Excerpt from Reading Water, all rights reserved© 2011]