Oceans Eleven: the flustered girl’s guide to chitchat at backline

I’m stoked I’ve made progress since that cold and drizzly morning last year when I braved my first wahine session.  In fact the nice people at xpression on the beach may corroborate my story, perhaps conceding that I’m no longer a kook?

I’ve learned so much from my fellow wahines and the Coreban team at xpressions; as well as my most compelling and insistent coach: The Husband.

While I am now quite proficient at paddling out, catching 3 foot waves, not snaking too many surfers and surviving the impact zone, no one prepared me for the most fascinating social interactions I’ve had in years. (Not counting Twitter.)

Who knew I would be in for such entertainment at sea? Here they are. The ocean’s eleven most entertaining people at backline :

The Unsolicited Coach.  He’s a useful guy.  Sort of.   When the xpressions crew and The Husband are not around,  he says things like:

“If you had stepped a little more forward you would have caught that one.”

Dude. Seriously, I would love to be able to step a little more forward. If only.





The Cheerleader. I love this guy. He shouts, “Woo Hoo” as you take off on a three  foot monster, and another “Woo Hoo” for good measure as you surf straight to the beach. Shout out to the cheerleader. I love you.




The Kindergarten Cop.  This guy is clinging to his pre-school vocab, he’s still looking for Nemo. “Mine, mine, mine,” he shouts as he takes off on his wave. Shem. Let him have it.                                                                                                      Nemo-seagulls


The  Foreigner.   There are two types:

The Winker  He’s a pretty good surfer but he doesn’t bother with a rashie or a wetsuit, even in False Bay.  And he winks as he paddles past.  Maybe if you don’t speak English and you’re a swarthy, bare chested Latino this works for you?  Do you wink at the boys too?Don’t answer that….

.          don-juan

The Wallower  He is pale and can speak English. Either American (but not from California or Hawaii) or British. He’s large and loud and has Northern Hemisphere peaches and cream skin. I don’t think he’s ever surfed before (unlike the Winker.) He’s not too muscly and is scared of sharks. He says things like: “So where does the spotter sit?”  Usually wearing a bright surf school rash vest and matching board.


The Hipster They come in the Voluminous Beard edition, the Man Bun edition and the Hairy Combo (man bun and beard).  He reveals his communist ideology, with an accented:

“Someone’s going to knock you off because you’re the only one who isn’t wet.”


“Your hair is  dry. You’re asking to be knocked off.”

You fake smile.

Then you go:



The Grommet  *sigh* A huge set (Calm down. No FOMO necessary. It’s like dog years and human years. Huge in Wahine-speak is about 4 foot.) So, a huge set  comes through and clears the lineup. Except for a little grommet.  (And me. Barely. I am slapped hard by the lip and brought to my knees,  gasping, clinging to my board like a barnacle. The grommet is, however, upright and cheerful.)

“Did you see that?”

He points at the carnage of boards, foam and soles of feet behind us.

“You made that standing up,” I say, with real admiration.

“My dad taught me to paddle quickly,” he replies, and then, like an untroubled mosquito over a tsunami, the grommet disappears.

Jack The Stripper . This guy strides out of the sea with his board under one arm and his wetsuit over the other, leaving only a Speedo at his loins for the foam to splash around. I can’t even…

The Dad Bod.  This is a sweet guy. Mr nice guy. He chats like he’s your Daddy, in the same way that people speak loudly to those who don’t understand their language.  I paddle for a wave and don’t catch it.

“That was a yucky one,”  he says.

are you kidding me                                                                                                           

Yucky?  You read that in the Zag?

The Old Salt. This one is usually a grey haired oldish dude with a bit of a tum, but he’s out in the water mid week because he’s got his work/life balance sorted. (It takes years of personal neglect and business lunches to pull that off, right?)  Anyway, he doesn’t chit chat or, heaven forbid, wink, but he operates on the waves like the middle aged legend that he is.


The Mermaid. This lovely is a lady. She’s a little weathered because she’s been in the sea for years, but she knows her stuff. She’s got a waterproof watch to share the time and she offers useful tips and encouragement. Chattier than the Old Salt, she is a happy blend of the Cheerleader and the Unsolicited Coach. She’s afraid of nothing.


The Saint. He’s the longboarder who says it’s okay when you bail and your board nearly takes him out. He’s also the surfer you hit twice in the same wipe out but who  still smiles and helps get your board fins down again. The guy at the shop who helps carry your board. The car guard who keeps all the keys and helps you get your board off your roof. The lady parked next to you who helps you get it back on. The roadside laborers toiling in the hot sun who offer to carry your board. The  Shark Spotters (personal fave). The barista who makes awesome post surf coffee.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       the_saint

The question is, ladies and gentlemen, which of the ocean’s 11 are you?


First published in Zigzag




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