Fiddich Review Centre

The Surfer’s Curse – The Provincetown Independent

You might see surfing as a virtuous thing. It provides a rewarding focus. It ignites a sense of passion and serves as a creative pursuit. Surfing tunes you into your surroundings in a tangible way. In it, you find connection and community. You push the edges of your comfort and encounter humbling moments of beauty.

But being a surfer is also a kind of curse. You cannot stop thinking about waves. You see them everywhere — in the clouds in the sky, in the curl of a wind-blown snowdrift, in the folds of the covers on your bed. You watch the wake of a passing boat break on a tiny sandbar on the bay side and imagine being three inches tall, so that you can surf those perfect miniature peeling waves. You are tormented by the idea that there are real waves somewhere, and you are missing them.

A blur of rain and windblown beach grass greets surfers at their newly discovered remote spot. (Photos by Kai Potter)

One of the things surfers do to quench this wave lust is chase novelty waves. These are waves that aren’t “real” waves. They are setups that break under unique conditions and often in strange, unlikely places. Searching for them is like being on a treasure hunt. They are elusive.

A few weeks back, I flew into Boston on a clear day. I watched through my tiny oval window for three hours as waves broke on every beach, point, and reef from Miami to Boston. The entire East Coast was being swept by a giant swell.

As we banked into our final turn over Cape Cod Bay, I could see the long arc of the Cape off to the east, lines of glistening waves breaking on its ocean side. Directly below me, a long, narrow strip of sand with a little kink in it caught my attention. The big swells were wrapping deep into a protected bay and bending around a headland, turning back into the wind, and forming small but perfectly groomed waves. As I watched, my mind turned on how I might get out to that strange little spit.

In the days that followed, I read up, checked maps, and decided that when conditions were right, I would find that place.

The following week, a swell nearly identical to the one that was running the day of my flight started to build. I loaded up the boards, called a friend, gassed up the truck, and packed bananas and water. I strapped a ladder to the roof of my truck and threw some orange street cones in the truck bed before setting out at sunrise. A ladder and street cones will gain you access to even the most private neighborhoods unquestioned.

We wound through neighborhoods, passed over a long wooden bridge, and zeroed in on the little sliver of barrier beach I had seen from 10,000 feet up.

Confronting sought-after novelty waves that are perfect but only knee-high.

Getting there was an adventure. The washboard road rattled the interior of the truck and sheets of wind-blown rain lashed the dune grass and junipers outside. There were potholes. Wrong turns. Dirty looks. Not knowing what we’d find at the end of the road, if we could even get there, was invigorating.

The first spot we checked was wind-blown and the swell did not make its way around the bend in the coast. We continued to the next point. The road became softer and the wind more ferocious. We passed ducks huddled in sheltered salt-marsh tide pools. And small beach houses that wore painted slogans whose clever meanings were lost in the gray winter air.

When we finally did reach the end of the road, we ran over the dune, like kids on Christmas morning, to see the surf. And there it was. Clean, peeling waves, breaking for 100 yards, wrapped around the headland. They were bending into the wind, just as I had seen them do, their faces groomed and smooth. They were perfect. Glassy. Empty. And they were tiny. Ankle to knee high, with waist-high sets.

But we surfed. We surfed until dark fell. And it was so much fun. Because surfing is not just about the riding of the wave.

Often, if we knew how much work it would take to get the thing we want, we might never set out in pursuit of it. Good thing for the blind spots in foresight, and for curiosity and optimism.

If you were to ask me if I’d like to drive six hours, get pummeled by rain, spend $137 in fuel, and eat gas station food just to surf knee-high waves for an hour, I would likely say no. But every time I say yes, I am grateful I did.


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