My cup is 1/12th full, or 1/12th empty, or…hell, the drink’s frozen anyway


Since we got that crap out of the way, now’s a good time to look back at my first month of surfbriety. As many have commented, not surfing in January in Virginia Beach is simple. For most it’s as easy as a vow of celibacy on a desert island with the cast of Honey Boo Boo. You’d sooner die than give in.

The reason not a lot of people surf here is, it’s freaking cold. This year is no exception, water in the forties and more snow days than we’ve seen in decades.

But we’ve had waves! As the image above shows, even the snow on the beach is barreling. (It was a left but I thought it’d look better as a right so I flipped it around. Okay, I didn’t flip it around. I had my daughter do it. I don’t know how to do that kind of thing.)

The longest I ever go without surfing in the winter is around two weeks, and that’s due to lack of surf rather than lack of desire. At that stage I’ll paddle out in anything. If January was any indication, this thing’s gonna be an ordeal.

Cold and flat. Wouldn’t have imagined paddling out today. Supposed to be waves this weekend. I don’t know whether or not to be excited.

Waves. Head high. Kinda chilly, but I wish I was out there. Would avoiding sight of the ocean make more sense? Sure, but I’m taking this challenge head on. Rode bike along the boardwalk to First Street. Wow, looks good – lined up and not too crowded. Dammit! On the bright side, at least now it should be flat for a while.

Wifey has nothing planned for us, so I’m free to…not surf. Wouldn’t you know it’s 70 degrees and there’s a building south swell. I’ve only told a few people about my new mission. By 10 a.m. I get a text from one friend and a voicemail from another. I respond to each with, “I quit surfing.” They both think I’m kidding.

Waves again, and still warm. WTF? This sort of thing doesn’t happen here. Somebody is messing with me.

The high today is 20, and the wind chill isn’t even in double digits. Snow blankets the beach and everything else, enough to bring the city to a standstill and cancel school.

Cold hasn’t stopped me from surfing since 1982, before I owned a wetsuit. Waves are waves, and for the fourth time this year, I’m staring at them. Only I’m not staring with the usual East Coast sense of urgency. There’s no, “It’s gonna be dark in an hour so I better get on it.” Instead, I have a sense of forced calmness. I know I’m not going out, but I have to remind myself why I’m doing this.

These are the days I lived for, the days everyone else is bundled up indoors with hot cocoa and feet propped on the ottoman and I’m zipping into my wetsuit and sprinting to the ocean, shivering to grab a half-dozen waves and lay into a few turns before the pain in my pinky fingers and toes spreads to my limbs and then to my body, whereby the only thing to do is catch a last wave and waddle on stumps toward a steaming shower.

Looking at my warm, dry feet propped on the ottoman, reality sets in. I miss surfing. It’s gonna be a long year.

5 thoughts on “My cup is 1/12th full, or 1/12th empty, or…hell, the drink’s frozen anyway

  1. One of my old friends whom did the ASP-East thingee too has not surfed in 2 years which far beats me. We paddled out right before Christmas and I was expecting to see him on his belly fighting to get to his feet. He wasn’t killing it but he did pretty well considering the waves were crossed up.

    Even the tour guys have some major injuries and sit it out for awhile. I did once. It was not fun but you get through it. Just like other things in life.

  2. If you don’t look like Bill Holden at the end of Big Wednesday by May this whole thing is a failure. I cannot WAIT to hear your voice of internal torture in August when it’s 75 and offshore. KEEP IT COMING #puresolidbortegold

  3. I can’t wait to see how long you last when the spring swells hit the outer banks and it’s warm and toasty out. Are you really gonna hold off if it’s glassy and clean with warm air?

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