Featured in the Fall 2016 2010 Edition of Standup Journal // By Tom “Wart” Craig
The ocean is an amazing thing. Think about how it creates storms, floods, hurricanes and tsunamis. The thought crossed my mind last night as I was surfing with my friend Lars at Cayucos Pier, here on the Central California coast.
As he and I traded off waves, we would comment in between rides about how lucky we were to be riding perfect peelers with no other surfers around. This is an age of crowded surf conditions for the most popular surf breaks–be it Newport, Huntington, Trestles, Wind and Sea, or Pipeline. They all suffer from overcrowding and, here we were surfing with just each other. Just then, a voice calls out, “Is that easy to do?” It was coming from up on the pier. A teenage girl with her family and friends was very inquisitive about wave riding. I answered her as best I could. I told her that it is pretty easy, but that I have been surfing for over 60 years and Lars for over 30. She was shocked!
Well, after the beautiful sunset it got pretty dark as the clouds blanketed the sky. The pier lights came on but didn’t do much to illuminate our spot, so it was time to ride our last wave in. When I stepped off my board and looked back at the darkened sky, I asked myself, “How many waves have I ridden?”
I walked across the rock-strewn beach, dodging the larger boulders. Once up to the parking lot, I fumbled around under my bumper for about 30 seconds, only to find large quantities of dirt but no keys! I panicked for a split second before realizing that it wasn’t even my car! Now this is pretty funny: turns out another guy had the same kind of black Honda Element and was parked in my normal spot at the pier. I looked over to see my car about six spaces away.
Relieved to find my keys, I dried off for the ride home. During that drive, the thought entered my mind again: how many waves have I ridden in my lifetime? Up until about two years ago, I had never counted my waves during a session, until one day when Stacy Peralta [producer of Dog Town & Z-Boys, and Riding Giants] and I were sup-surfing small waves at the pier.
“30 waves per week for the next 15 years will bring my lifetime count to about 160,430”
He asked me if I had ever counted my waves. I said no, but I would give it a shot. Stacy was completely surprised that after a two-hour session, I had 52 waves under my belt!
I never counted my waves after that day, but still a little voice kept asking me for an approximate total lifetime count. Here goes my general assumption…
I started surfing in 1955 (admittedly this can be broken down into several categories ranging from bodysurfing to bellyboarding to surfing to windsurfing and now standup paddling), and I just turned 65, so I have 61 years of wave riding. If I surfed 3 days per week, then I averaged 156 days in the water per year. And if I caught at least a dozen waves per session (that is a conservative guess), then we’re looking at 1,872 waves per year. Multiply that time 61 years, and we come up with 114,192 waves ridden. Now we also have to consider the “freak factor” [the days you outdo yourself and seem to be in the perfect spot to catch more waves than anybody else], adding about 20% to the wave count, which equals 22,838 additional waves, bringing the grand total to 137,030 waves ridden before today.
My dad surfed until he was 80 years old. His wave count went down over his last few years, but I’ll bet he still averaged at least 10 waves per session. So if I surf until I’m 80, catching a minimum of even 30 waves per week for the next 15 years, I will add another 23,400 waves to my total. That would bring my lifetime wave count to 160,430. That’s my goal and I’m sticking to it! -TC