Matthew Lickona 11:49 p.m., Dec. 10
The tourists have taken the shine off the summer earlier than I expected. I'm already sick of the out-of-state license plates tying up traffic on Sunset Cliffs Blvd. My patience for swimmers trotting out into the breakers on the wrong side of the checkered flag is starting to fail. I'm getting more and more irritated at the smokers flicking their butts into the sand with blissful, tar-smothered ignorance of San Diego's no-smoking laws at the beaches.
Still, yesterday I found myself feeling a little perturbed at a splash of graffitti scrawled on the concrete stairs leading down to Scripps Pier. In several places, someone had sprayed "Go Home Kooks" along the seawall. La Jolla Shores is a hot-bed of summer out-of-towners and the worst place for me to hang out while in the middle of my anti-tourist funk. But this time, I felt like standing up for the all the beginners in the water, in who I saw myself 4 four years ago, attempting a terrifyingly difficult sport for the first time.
The term "kook" is supposed to refer to someone who can't surf and fronts like they actually can. It's about lying or exaggerating your skill level in order to fit in or look cool. I don't consider anyone who honestly expresses their surfiing ability (or lack of), follows the etiquette of the line-up, and comes with a genuine enthusiasm for learning, to be a poser. So why all the hate?
I'll admit my patience for toursists evaporates the minute I hit a traffic jam out of the beach. But when I'm in the water, the surf classes are a refreshing change of pace from the usual line-up of agro, die-hard guys who seem to have lost all memory of surfing even being fun in the first place. Getting so preoccupied with catching a wave or mastering a new move will suck the fun right out of it.
When a total newbie stands up in the whitewash on a wobbly foamboard for the first time, you can see the excitement bursting right out of them. There is no better feeling in the world, and I imagine that's the reason nearly all surfers stuck with the sport in the first place. I'm still green enough to relive those magic moments when I catch a wave on those smallest of days, without getting bogged down in the seriousness of catching a good ride. The surf classes are full of laughter, falling, goofiness, and encouragement. Over at Surf Diva in the La Jolla, the instructors will cheer for you even if you're not in their class and just happen to catch a nearby wave. And honestly I can use all the help I can get.
As summer begins to wind down, I won't miss the line at Hodad's wrapping around the block, or the bumper-to-bumper traffic to get on the I-8. But a little part of me will miss the mountains of foamboards, the matching rashguards, and the smiling beginners splashing around in the whitewash. I'm sure when they leave they'll take home a little bit of the magic the ocean infuses in everyone. And hopefully this little refresher in the spirit of fun will stay with the rest of us until next summer.