Matt Potter 2:05 p.m., March 3
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With Guys Like These, Who Needs Sharks?
"Shark Week" is underway on the Discovery Channel with about 90% of the programs focusing on attacks. (Even though you have higher odds of dying from a falling vending machine or getting killed in a swarm of killer bees, for that matter... but that's a whole other post.)
But I argue that the real predators in the water don't have gills or fins. They are actually the Sticker Boys, Bros, and Douchebags that populate the line-up and insist on teaching their clueless girlfriends how to surf. These guys aren't really teaching their girlfriends anything useful. They're dragging these poor girls into waves that are too big, on boards that are too short, and pushing them to skills too fast with aggressive techniques that are patently male.
Take for instance, the Douchebag spotted north of Scripps Pier on Friday. He waded out into the breakers with his bikini-clad girlfriend in tow. (Let's forget that he obviously didn't warn her the ocean will rip that cute little string bikini right off her chest the very first time she gets tossed by a wave.) He paddled for one of the larger waves that were stacking up as the tide pushed in, popped up on a 6- or 7- foot funboard, made a quick bottom turn, cruised down the line, and skipped back out with a sh*t-eating grin on his face that said "See, look how easy?" The next hour consisted of him pushing her into waves that were increasingly steep and the poor girl tugging her bikini bottoms out of her crack every time she went over the falls on this idiot's wobbly board.
(Now as a beginner, I am overly aware of the danger I potentially pose to other surfers who go for waves too close to me because I may not be able to spontaneously turn on a dime and a collision is more than likely. I stay clear of crowded line-ups and only frequent beginner breaks where I'll have plenty of room, for my own safety and as a courtesy to more advanced surfers. Most surfing etiquette really isn't about seniority or locals' BS, it's about avoiding getting hurt and injuring others in the water.)
Ladies, if any guy offers to teach you to surf, I'd think long and hard about the testosterone circus you're about to sign up for. And for god's sake if that man is your boyfriend/fiance/husband, think twice. There are plenty of courteous, attentive guys out there who I'm sure make excellent teachers in other areas, but when it comes to sports, I have a strict rule to NEVER take instruction from a male. It's not about raw skill, or lack thereof, it's about teaching technique and sports philosophy.
Let me just explain here that I participate (and accel) in a wide variety of sports and the few times I've dared to learn a new sport from a guy, it's ended badly: broken wrists, concussions, bee stings, to name a few. My experience has taught me that guys learn (and teach) by tackling the toughest challenge and repeatedly failing (sometimes to their own or others' personal injury) until they finally succeed. For example, a high school guy friend learned how to snowboard -- and thought it was a great idea to teach me how to snowboard -- by taking the ski lift to the steepest, iciest, double-black diamond slope and bombing it to the bottom again and again until he/I finally got the hang of it. Or, most male runners I've buddied up with are determined to keep the same pace throughout a long-distance run, whether they're tackling a steep hill or a flat stretch. It's about going hard the whole time, but the women I run with prefer to strategize about how to budget their energy so they cross the finish line with just enough gas in the tank. Even if that means slowing down on a hill. It doesn't mean we're weak-- it's about playing smart, not hard.
When it comes to surfing, I've observed that beginner guys will paddle right out to a line up -- no matter the wave size, speed, or shape, the tide, the current, the steepness, the ocean bottom, the crowd -- and attempt to catch a wave, and inevitably eat it, over and over until the they get it. Women like myself seem to prefer to learn the beginner basics, before moving on to tougher skills, and progressing from there. Failing repeatedly only shows me that I'm doing something wrong. Failing repeatedly seems to only show these guys that they need to man up and try harder.
That might work for them but it's a recipe for disaster in the water and in a relationship. No matter how good his intentions, Douchbag McGee is showing that he doesn't really care about his girlfriend's well-being by taking her out in conditions that were unsafe for her level. On top of that, I believe a lot of guys like him only take their significant others out in the surf in hopes of transferring some of their personal interests to her. It sounds almost noble, but I know from experience that you can't manufacture the intense satisfaction and passion that comes from challenging yourself in a sport you love, and eventually reaching a goal all on your own. No boyfriend ever got me across the finish line at a marathon no matter how many insights or tips he offered. And those tips were usually not very useful, coming from a male way of doing things. The only person who got me to the finish was me.
If a girl really wants to learn how to surf, it only makes sense to me to learn from women who are already doing it. They are full of encouragement, patience, and advice that a guy would never think of-- put a rashguard over that string bikini! Women have being playing by boys' rules for so long, if they truly want to share the sport we all love, maybe they'll consider taking a page out of our playbook for a change.