Lessons from my surf trip to Mexico's Salina Cruz:
1. Get Lasik done.
I can't see without my glasses. I don't wear contacts because I've lost them twice in the water, and each pair costs me about $300. So, I surf blind. How blind? I'm a -8 in both of my eyes. This trip... the boys (who are all older than me by at least 10 years) started clowning on me for not being able to see the waves. They said that I paddle into the waves way too late, and that I'm wiping out because I'm not in the sweet spot when I take off. So, I made a pact with one of our buddies, Nate, to get Lasik done by the next time we see each other. He lost his contacts one surf session and was super uncomfortable. He asked me how I can see the waves, and I simply said that I can't, until the last second. Bad way to surf big waves.
2. Paddle with a purpose
Brazilians are aggressive. Not only that, they surf very well too. If you don't compete with them, they will not budge an inch and you'll never get to surf any waves. I found this very uncomfortable because people usually take turns, but not Brazo's. They just compete and take every wave possible. "They're paying a lot of money to be here too," said my roommate, Pat, to me. He was right. And I paid a shit ton of money too. What am I paying myself to just sit there and watch? If I've been waiting in the water for a long time and it's my turn, I have to put my head down, paddle with a purpose of catching the wave, and just drop in. They'll back out when they see that. And they did.
3. Meet and Greet the wave
I can't just sit and expect a wave to come to me. When a set approaches, I have to paddle to it, position myself at the critical part of the wave, and then flip around paddle for the wave. Again, I have to find the sweet spot for the take off.
4. Two extra paddles for barrels
Don't we always hear, "One more paddle."? Actually, it's TWO for me. I need two extra paddles to get into hollow waves. Without them, I miss the wave and miss my turn in the line-up. "Back of the line, Klaude-O~!"
5. It's a mental thing
I had to figure this out for myself. It was big and gnarly and raw in Mexico. Probably more raw than Hawaii. Or maybe, I just wasn't surfing in Hawaii? Maybe I was just bull-shitting the whole time last December. In any case, I found that when I was frustrated or angry at myself with my inability to surf these conditions, it was my mentality that was weak. It wasn't my body's physical fitness. My mental strength wasn't there to push myself over the ledge. I finally found a good mentality on the 5th day of trip, when we surfed a spot that only barreled. There, I figured that I need to stop being a little bitch, and stop giving a fuck.
6. Charge hard, because everyone else is surfing better than you
I know I shouldn't compare myself to others, but it's hard when everyone around you rips, and they're in their forties. So, I had to sit on the peak, wait for my turn, and go for the biggest waves. I know some of those waves were just not make-able, but I had to go on them so that the boys won't give me shit about surfing like a barney. One of the compliments I received for my actions was, "You got balls kid," from my roommate Pat. Another was from Matt, a surfer from Texas: "Klaude, don't take this the wrong way, but I have never seen someone eat so much shit, and come right back out and charge like you do." I had one of the gnarliest wipe-outs of my life, and got shaken up badly. I went for the wave of the day, but ate shit.
7. Start pumping - FAST
I need to do more squats and get more power under me. Surfing California mush isn't going to allow me to catch barrels. I can kinda bullshit in California waves. I can't do that kind of surfing in raw waves. Once I start making my drop I need to start pumping. Engage those fins!
8. Your legs can get sun-burnt too
We surfed one spot for 6 hours with eight people out, including us five. I reapplied sun screen on my face and rehydrated constantly, eating mangoes and granola in between. I didn't realize our legs can get sun burnt until the end of the session, when my surfboard bag was brushing up on my leg and made me wince in pain. It wasn't just me - everyone got burnt this day.
9. Keep your basic paddle strong and fast
The current in Mexico... one of the gnarliest open ocean currents I have ever experienced. Keeping a slow-paced paddle was not cutting it. I was getting no where. I had to paddle hard, and paddle fast to even maintain a spot in the line up, let alone make it to the outside.
10. Do more surf trips
I can't get better surfing crap waves every day. I have surf quality waves as much as possible. Whether its to a point break in Los Angeles County or a foreign land abroad, I have to travel more to better locations if I want my surfing to improve. I could tell that a lot of people who surf well have traveled, or are still traveling, and that the waves they surf are making them better. I met people who came as far as Austria to surf Mexico, and they were great surfers.