THE BUG

Curl - - Last Word -

Words by Amy Mitchell | Im­age by Cory Scott

We all know how hard it can be squeez­ing ev­ery inch of your win­ter bod into a thick rub­ber suit. Es­pe­cially when it’s rain­ing, and cold, and your suit’s still soak­ing from your pre­vi­ous ses­sion. It can be a daunt­ing task tak­ing to the wa­ter un­der a blan­ket of heavy clouds and icy winds. The brain freeze that comes with the first duck dive can be the big­gest ob­sta­cle of all, that pierc­ing burn that dis­tracts you mo­men­tar­ily from the thun­der­ous win­ter waves. We like to think that this ef­fort and ded­i­ca­tion is rewarded with the sat­is­fac­tion of a thrilling surf, but of­ten this isn’t the case. And then what are we left with? Sore shoul­ders, wrinkly fin­gers and a shiver we can’t shake. So why is it that some­times you catch your last wave in, to­tally reel­ing with hap­pi­ness and adrenalin, and some­times you’re pushed in on your stom­ach to be beached on the sand in your mis­ery?

I think the dif­fer­ence be­tween th­ese two things is some­thing called the bug… For years I’ve heard surfers talk about this il­lu­sive bug. It comes up in sen­tences like “gotta get back out there, I’ve got the bug bad at the mo­ment” or “Na I’m just not keen, I gotta get the bug back”. So if it’s the bug that de­ter­mines how much we en­joy our surf­ing, how do we get it? And how do we keep it?

I sup­pose for ev­ery­one it’s dif­fer­ent. I’m sure for some, just the ocean it­self is a big enough pull. For al­most ev­ery­one else I bet mak­ing it out of a big spit­ting barrel will be in­fec­tious enough to keep you gag­ging for more. The prob­lem comes when the seren­ity of the ocean isn’t enough to tempt you into the cold, and a barrel is a far off dream more likely to be ex­pe­ri­enced in your sleep than in your re­al­ity. This is the prob­lem my friends and I so of­ten face. And I’ve only just re­al­ized the recipe for suc­cess­ful in­fec­tion is sim­ple.

Laugh at your­self, laugh at the waves. Laugh when you can’t pad­dle onto the wave and laugh when you’re whipped over the falls. Al­low your­self to grin when you feel you’ve done well and chuckle when you fail. Make jokes with your friends in the wa­ter in­stead of star­ing stone faced at the hori­zon. Call your mates into waves and give them a huge thumbs up when they’re pad­dling back out.

I think the thing we of­ten for­get is that un­less you’re a pro­fes­sional; surf­ing shouldn’t be taken so se­ri­ously. The rea­son we force our­selves into our icy suits and bat­tle through the brain freeze isn’t be­cause we want to be the best (well it cer­tainly isn’t for me). It’s be­cause of that feel­ing you get when you’ve got the bug. When you’re so ex­cited about your next surf you’re com­pul­sively check­ing the surf re­port. Or when you’re walk­ing up the beach feel­ing to­tally alive be­cause you’ve just been par­ty­ing with the ocean.

Of all my re­cent surfs my most mem­o­rable came on Easter Week­end in Whanga­mata. It was mushy one foot, the sun wasn’t shin­ing and there weren’t many surfers out. My friends and I pad­dled out on long­boards – just for a bit of fun. I can’t re­mem­ber the last time I laughed that much dur­ing a ses­sion. We were so fo­cused on egging ea­chother onto measley fat waves we for­got about ev­ery­thing else. We for­got about be­ing cold or out of breath. We for­got that we looked to­tally goofy try­ing to ma­neu­ver our long­boards. We for­got that maybe we’d be frowned upon for not mak­ing our tur­tle roll or for ditch­ing our boards. All we were think­ing about was hav­ing fun.

I’ve drilled this into my­self now that this is the at­ti­tude I should em­brace ev­ery surf, even when my board’s a lit­tle shorter, the waves a lit­tle big­ger and the crowd’s a lit­tle more in­tim­i­dat­ing.

I’ve quoted this be­fore but I will do it again. “The best surfer out there is the one hav­ing the most fun”. ASP re­cently shared this quote on in­sta­gram and I swear to you it made my day. All it takes is th­ese small re­minders to push us back out there and give us back the bug.

So I think I’ve found the an­swer to my im­pend­ing ques­tion. What keeps us itch­ing to get back into the wa­ter? Well I think it’s pos­i­tiv­ity, smiles and care free fun. It’s a com­bi­na­tion of adrenalin, en­thu­si­asm and pas­sion. It is born from good ex­pe­ri­ence and it thrives in gen­uine hap­pi­ness. It now seems so sim­ple, the more fun you have out there, the more you want to go and the more fun you will there­fore have. It’s the cir­cle of surf­ing. Per­haps if I can get this right I will be con­stantly liv­ing with the bug. Per­haps then, I will be the hap­pi­est surfer out.

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