Sunday, September 16, 2012

Hoedown in the Park: How Many is Too Many?

Stoke is great, and it has to be shared.  But how many is too many?

Broadening the corps of real bodysurfers and the respect garnered for what we consider the purest form of surfing is a quest, along with pinning the Park as a base for a respected pod of this, most esoteric, expression of human interface with waves.  But at what price, and what "qualifies"?

Saturday was the second "Handplane Hoedown in the Park."  Depending on your viewpoint, the 'alternative' segment of surf is comprised of some portion of the spectrum from "pure" bodysurfing, to hand planes, paipos, surf mats and knee boards.  

I crossed the tracks approached the viewpoint rail at the steps with some trepidation.  A call had gone out on FaceBook for the hoedown, with over 1,000 individuals "invited" and over 250 "attending."  What kind of zoo was going to be in the water? 

Looking South, there were 30 heads in the water, clumped between the Main Peak and rock area, and another 20 scattered toward LG 1 past the rocks.  One half of the mind says, "Wow! Look at the turnout!" while the other screams, "how the hell are you going to find a decent wave?"

In fact, as I watched a nice, chest-high set roll in, at least 15 people dropped in on the first wave, hooting and hollering.  

 Looking closer though, at the Peak, two riders were getting unmolested rides.  More significantly, there was not a single "stick" - surfboard - evident, anywhere!  Clearly, the "hand plane" crew had chased them.

As I walked down the beach, analyzing the waist to shoulder high waves that were fighting through the high tide, sporadically, the good spots were pretty much as usual: the Main Peak was best, seconded by some nice corners peeling off the rocks further south, and some reasonable consistency further down at LG1. 

I could see Mark Ghattas on the South side of the Main Peak, with the scores of handplaners beyond him, but there was only a couple of kids working the Peak.  I swam out there, and was rewarded quickly with a couple of fun peaks. 

For the next 2-1/2 hours, I worked that area, while about 100 "hand planers" were in and out of the water to the South.  Some would spread North, into the Main Peak area, all pretty loose and stoked.  I seemed to be grabbing all the best waves, so I really had no problem, as I gathered plenty of respect for each of my rides.  Shortly, Craig Thomson joined Mark and me, along with his son and a friend.  The surf was very inconsistent, troubled by the high tide, but my patience was rewarded with a good wave ever 10 minutes or so.  I was definitely having fun.

 Cool water (64 - "shortie" time), warm air (80's), glassy surface, just enough swell to break through the high tide ... and 100 bodysurfers/hand planers to the South of me.  I did meet a few that I had a loose connection with through Facebook, but couldn't help myself from fearing how many were likely to be back.

For most sessions, we have between two and six bodysurfers out at the Park.  Better days, maybe ten, and with a call for an expression session, twelve to fifteen.  That makes for a great pod.  We know each other, respect each others' waves (for the most part), maybe take over a section for some stick-free surfing.  Share the stoke.

I didn't understand, but was glad of, the invaders' tendency to clump together, all take off on the same wave, and leave the best of the pickings to me.  It was amazing to spend over a couple of hours in the water at the Park without a single stick around.  

If this gets the Park some respect in the bodysurfing community or gets bodysurfers at the Park some local respect, that's great!  I am happy to share "my" spot with some that will appreciate it.  But what if, instead, more and more of these guys make it a habit to come ride what has essentially been a "secret spot," enjoyed by small, close-nit group...a group that, as I said, respects each other and the essence of the wave...which, in itself, is a solo experience?  What if this group, not a single one of them local or regular at the Park, creates a backlash in the stick community, with which we - the regulars, the locals, at the Park - have forged a good, shared vibe? I wrap this, Joe just arrived for Sunday dinner, and commented that there's a ton of social media "press" on the hoedown, beyond the bodysurfing/hand boarding community.  A good thing for alternative surfing?  Yes!  A threat to the sanctuary of the Park?  Yes, as well.  

I'm glad it wasn't a classic day at the Park, but glad the hoedown was fun and enjoyed by all.
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