I don’t remember what it was like to first learn how to golf. I was a kid and to my recollection, I picked it up pretty quickly. I DO, however, remember what it was like to first surf. I was about 25 years old and I did NOT pick it up quickly. Here’s the thing: kids are jerks. While they’re casually walking to the nose of their longboards on the first try, us adults are experiencing the frustration, struggle, and embarrassment of trying to find our feet in the whitewater.
I often get asked by novice golfers “How do I get better faster?” and my answer is always “There’s no shortcut; all you can do is make the journey as enjoyable as you can.” These are a few things I’ve picked up in my fledgling surf career.
“When In Doubt, Paddle Out”
I remember my first time surfing on my new Costco foam board. I spent 30 minutes flailing around in the whitewater, trudged out, and threw my board on the sand. Exasperated, I asked a local: “WHEN DOES THIS GET LESS FRUSTRATING?”
He laughed and answered: “Never. But at a certain point, the joy of riding starts to outweigh that frustration.”
“So..How long did that take?”
“I went every day for a summer.”
“EVERY DAY FOR AN ENTIRE SUMMER? That’s really going to cut into my plans to binge-watch Gilmore Girls this offseason.”
“It doesn’t have to be for a long time, just try to go out every day.”
His point was that it was more beneficial to paddle out every day for 10 minutes, than to surf once a month for 10 hours. Similarly, golf is best picked up in bite-sized pieces. Even if you’re just practicing your grip on an old 7 iron at your office desk (when your boss isn’t looking), make an effort to touch your clubs as often and as consistently as you can.
“Find Your Froth Crew”
I met my closest surf friend Deena on an early morning as a huge swell hit San Diego. Six foot overhead sets were rolling in and I knew as soon as I drove into the parking lot that the conditions were way beyond my abilities. As I stood in the lot, finishing off my coffee and getting ready to leave, a girl approached me holding her own coffee mug: “Hey, are you going out?”
“Oh, HELL NO.” I answered.
She laughed, “Yeah, me neither.”
We ended up sitting in the parking lot for almost an hour, finishing up our drinks and watching the carnage of surfers that chose to paddle out, laughing at their wipe outs while at the same time admiring their fearlessness.
Now we surf almost every day together when I’m home, and knowing that she’s there waiting for me every morning encourages me to resist pressing the snooze button and get my lazy butt to the beach.
Even though golf is an individual sport, the social component is one of the main reasons I fell in love with the game. Don’t be afraid to reach out and use all the resources on the internet to find some golf buddies, or just wander aimlessly around the parking lot with a cup of coffee. It worked for me. Even at a professional level, nothing is better than a “Nine n’ Dine” with some new friends, or a putting match against your biggest frenemy (I’ll beat you one day, Jane Park).
Nugget of Tiffsdom #436: When you have 3 hours left at home and you have a choice between squeezing in one last practice sesh or paddling out with your surf buds, choose the surf buds EVERY time. ♥️ #Repost @hilsurf ・・・ Real life otters #sealife #surfeverydamnday #sdsl #voteforpedro #ashleylloydsurfboards #gopro #mermaids #encinitas #surflife #longboards #surfergirl #ripcurl #putyourhandsup #vivalavacay
“Take a Road Trip”
For the longest time, I went to the same beach every day, so when a couple friends invited me to come with them to try a different surf break, I jumped at the chance. I’d been surfing for a while at this point, and I felt pretty confident in my abilities. But when I paddled out, I was instantly humbled. The waves were bigger, broke faster, and catching them was a whole new challenge. I felt like I’d started back at square one. But after a few more trips to this new break, I picked up on its rhythm and I adapted. And you know what? It made me a better surfer when I went back to my home break.
If you play the same flat golf course every day, you’ll never learn how to hit shots off of uneven lies. If you only play narrow, tree-lined fairways, you’ll never experience the joy of British Open style links golf. Challenge yourself to adapt to a variety of courses and conditions. You’ll be a better (and more grateful) player for it.
Being a lifetime kook is a long, difficult, and sometimes humiliating journey…and I wouldn’t have it any other way. Enjoy it friends, and I hope to see you in the ocean one day. I’ll be the kook falling off her board and having the time of her life.