Why surfers need Vitamin O
Over coffee this morning, my husband asks what I have on tap for the day. I immediately reply, “I need to get in the ocean. I’ve gotta get some Vitamin O.” Being a surfer for over 25 years, my body craves the ocean. I am not alone, most of my surfing friends will attest to their need to get wet on a regular basis.
I came to recognize the Vitamin O factor while living in Kauai. The Hawaiians did in fact invent surfing and their entire culture and existence was factored around the ocean. Being on an island that small, you literally are surrounded – you can’t escape it. Everywhere you look, you see surfboards, paddleboards, outriggers, fishing poles, scuba fins, boogie boards and snorkels. “If you no like ocean, no go Hawaii,” as the locals say. So, for Hawaiians and those born on the Islands, Vitamin O is in their blood.
The act of surfing waves was originally reserved for Hawaiian royalty. It was an extreme privilege to catch waves, and I still consider it to be just that: a privilege. Every time my toes leave the sand and I paddle those first few strokes, I can feel the ocean seeping into my pores. I mean how lucky are we? We have the most high-tech wetsuits to keep us warm, making not just warm water surf breaks possible — we can now surf in Alaska. Thank you, Jack O’Neill! (Whom, by the way, I interviewed over tea at his Pleasure Point home for an article in this magazine over 10 years ago. It felt like I was interviewing one of my heroes.)
We also have insane lightweight, high-performance surfboards. The Hawaiians had 100-pound koa wood boards called Alaia, which you could barely carry let alone turn on a wave.
Surfing is a privilege, not something that should be expected or taken advantage of. Yes, the surf is getting more crowded and COVID created a whole sea of newbies in the water. With the privilege of surfing comes responsibility, which means different things for newcomers vs. long time locals.
For the newcomer, this means really KNOW the RULES and RESPECT them. Don’t go out to places that are beyond your ability and put yourself and others at risk. Know how to safely hold onto your board and the rules of priority in the lineup. If you don’t know the rules, ask someone, or google it for Christ sakes!
To the seasoned surfer and locals, chill the F out and don’t be an asshole. I see far too many people so uptight about getting their “wave count.” Surfing is not only about catching waves. It is about being in the ocean, seeing an otter crack open a clam, having a pelican swoop overhead, and feeling the ocean glide through your fingers like silk. Surfing should be safe and inclusive to everyone, something to be cherished, not something you’re entitled to. To all you surfers out there, please stop and take a deep breath. Fill your lungs with salt air and realize what a true privilege it is to enter the ocean and get some Vitamin O.
Read other article by Krista Houghton here.