Neoprene in the Morning

19 06 2014

As an unthreatening waist-high wave leisurely rolled by, Jeff turned to me and shrugged his shoulders suggesting: any waves are better than no waves.

“C’mon…it’s perfect!” This coming from me, who had not been in the water in well over a year due to work and child rearing. (Grateful for both!) But it was time to return.

Ten years ago, when I first moved to Los Angeles, I went surfing almost everyday…terribly. I’m still terrible. But all these years, and even the few before, I’ve been drawn to surfing. But why?

There is a romantic notion of living by the beach. From time spent in Tucson. Where we almost died dreaming of cool, crystalline water and luscious ocean air. Windows down, Chili Peppers gleefully streaming from speakers. Surfing represented of freedom of spirit defined by adventure and unimpeded creativity. It still does.

Of course, there was the coolness factor, the fitness and sexiness. Which I now know is a joke, for me at least. I can only imagine how ridiculous I look slipping off the back of my nine-two Dean Cleary (this board deserves a post all to itself) because I still haven’t bought fresh wax. Such a kook.

And I think I may have sat in our house on Tyndall Ave. in Tucson watching Endless Summer 2 too many times. Going bonkers over Costa Rica, mind blown at Cloudbreak.

Yet still, I’m conflicted with this obsession. Surfers tend to be an environmental bunch. And this is only natural. Spending more time in the ocean than out, they would obviously be concerned with the health of our oceans, the quality of water and of beaches. But for as long as it has been around, the surf industry has been somewhat toxic. Professional surfers leave massive carbon footprints with their constant globetrotting. And the tools themselves are severely gnarly, without many sustainable options until recently. Surfboard “blanks” are predominantly made from polyurethane or polystyrene foam, the latter can be recycled which makes it a more politically correct choice. Polystyrene boards also can be strengthened with newer epoxy resins, which can be formulated with plant-based ingredients and are much less toxic (for shapers and the atmosphere) than the tradition polyester resins. And anyone who’s ever squeezed into a wetsuit knows instantly the chemical presence in the sport.

That said, I do love the smell of neoprene. For me it triggers memories of trips to Manhattan Beach from Arizona, and gloomy mornings at Nicolas Canyon or County Line stealing glances at the Santa Monica mountains, colored yellow, purple and orange with wildflowers.

Nothing compares to a couple hours in the ocean. Not the gym, the court, the pitch, the track, the stage, studio or gallery. In the ocean is always an x-factor, placing safety, life and limb, into question. Walking out of the water, board under arm, refreshed and more alive than ever is indeed both life and a reason to live it. The ends and the means.




2 responses

20 06 2014

I love walking into a surf shop or anywhere there is neoprene and surf wax(my brothers basement) it certainly wakes me up like a cup of coffee. Thank god wood boards are making a comeback. Too bad we all didn’t just make our own boards from wood and skip out on the toxins for the most part. It all has it’s pros and cons. All in all it is certainly satisfying to each their own. Great post!

21 06 2014
Zachary J. Wrobel

Surf wax smell is the best! Better living through chemistry. The nature of surfing is evolution. Styles drive changes in equipment and vice versa. Bamboo has become a more popular material, which I think is cool. And there is a shaper supply store in our neighborhood that sells and uses blanks of recycled polystyrene. It takes passion and time. On the other hand, I’ve been with the same board for almost ten years, so I guess I’m doing my part! Thanks for your response and good vibes!

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