A couple of posts back I reflected on being 'the old guy', the ragged wretch sitting out the back waiting for a bomb, a wide one, a lucky scrap. This was not always the case, though at every age after about thirty, I saw myself as an 'older surfer'. In my early twenties the oldest surfer I knew was about 36, and the thought that beyond that was a surfing life held no immediate proofs. There were virtually no over forties in the lineup.
By the time I got over thirty though, I'd begun to notice that I kept setting deadlines for myself -
"Darling we've got to get to Hawaii again before I get too old" (33)
"I need to get back to Hawaii again before I get too old" (36)
"Darling; I'd really like to do a boat trip with the boy's for my 50th" (49)
"Darling, Tony's scored a killer price for a trip to the Banyaks! At 54 I've got go before the body gives out..."
And so on.
As you can see we must all ask permission, from long suffering partners, our kids, our guilty consciences, ourselves. It must be the way as the idea of something that is just for fun, and as intensely personal as a surf holiday, needs approval. Since our lives are rarely solitary, and involve responsibilities, the clarity that comes with a clear conscience means a guilt free head as you jump off the boat.
I'm searching for an excuse to make an over 56 trip, but the cupboard is bare, though come the time when coffers fill I have no doubt I'll rustle up a reason.
But back to the start, the old guy thing. Where I was going before being utterly distracted by a daydream. The old 'use it or lose it' principle.
I have managed, all my surfing life, to fill in the non surfing days with some activity. Running, swimming, gym, rowing, bike, bag, climbing wall. Cross training, I suppose, to fill the space a wave might have so that come the hour it is not a start from scratch situation. Not being blessed with the lithe frame of a Mr Slater, I am closer to Tom Carroll without the six pack, (not a sign, not a hope), a bigger bum and thicker legs. No chance of grace or a body shape made for a camera, nevertheless it has proved durable and has kept me able to ride a board length circling six feet for a long time now.
The struggle to scratch down a face in double overhead never gets easier, I wonder when the board length must go up, but those moments when it all comes together, the flow state kicks in and a magic at-one-with-the-wave moment comes, well, those seconds make the frustrations worth it.
My immediate surfing buddies, Richie, Marky and Rod, and Richie T, they all know those moments are becoming more and more scarce, but I know too, when it does come I might as well be twenty again.
Where am I going with this?
Muscle memory and experience, the ingrained technique of all your years on a board, stay into old age. Watching Nat Young surf Angourie, the young ripper still lurks, the injuries occasionally disappear in a Surfer Cover cutback, or a lip caress out of Morning of the Earth.
Wayne Lynch, not far off 60, can still bury himself in a barrel, yoga keeping him Evolution loose.
This past few weeks Maurice Cole was consistently the best guy out at perfect Bells.
And in thirty years time Kelly will be the hottest 68 year old on the planet. I bet he will still be able to air and on his best days then, he will not be 'just a shadow' of his former self.
Age wearies us, but old age can be kept at bay far longer than people think.
Just now I'm pining for 9'6" gun so that my bigger wave ambitions don't die forever. This spurred on by schoolmate Hellman Russ McConachy's recent 60th birthday month being punctuated by several sessions in easily 15 foot Voldemort* (*the break that must not be named) to add to the 300 plus sessions he's had out there over the past thirty years. Hard man to kill, that bloke.
For now, my only wish is that just after I got lumbered with the 'old guy' thing... I wish I'd scored a belter and proved there was life in this particular dog. As it happened, I didn't. Thank god for Maurice as he, at just two weeks younger than me, came home with the bacon and absolutely blitzed the next... and the next... and the next.
The pic, from last year, Cold Mr Lumpy, bum hidden by judicious cropping, stomach sucked in.