Tips for those competing in contests
by Corky Carroll
There is an old saying in surfing that goes, “anybody can ride a good wave, but it takes a lot of skill to ride a bad one.” Well, it also takes skill to ride the good ones too, but the fact is that riding a lot of bad ones can and does make you a significantly better all-around surfer. Bad ones are much harder to ride and take seasoned judgement to be able to handle with any degree of success.
When I was growing up learning to surf along the local North Orange County beaches there were plenty of bad waves to ride. The standard thing in this area is for nice glassy conditions, with good waves, early in the morning. By about eleven each day the normal westerly winds come up and badly chop up the surface conditions and “blow out” the waves. Most surfers would pack up and go home at that time. Not me. I was lucky to have grown up in a house right on the beach in Surfside Colony, just south of Seal Beach. And I loved to surf so much that I would go out in any and every condition known to man or fish. Big, little, good, bad, stormy, blown to smithereens even. We used to call the really bad blown out conditions “Victory at Sea.” This was from a TV series of that name that showed horrible windy seas in the credits at the end of the show. I surfed a lot of this kind of choppy blown out surf. I know this really helped me in competing in surfing events that would start out in glassy good waves and then would be horrible by the time the finals would roll around later in the afternoon. The only condition I didn’t like to surf in was fog.
Let me also use a couple other guys to use as an example of this same sort of development pattern. Two of the greatest surfers of all time, Tommy Curren and Kelly Slater. Both of these guys started very young and grew up riding more bad waves than good ones. Tom lived in Santa Barbara, home to perfect point breaks. The issue was that these spots didn’t break all summer, only in the winter. So, Tom’s mom would take him to surf the sloppy beach breaks south of Ventura in the afternoons after school and in the summer. It wasn’t all pristine days at Rincon. I will never forget surfing at an out of the way spot one day with Tom and Al Merrick. There was no surf, it was flat. Call it zero to one foot. Al and I sat on our boards and talked while Tom rode about 50 ankle high waves, and shredded them at that. He was about 13 at the time and already amazing.
Kelly grew up riding Florida slop. And a lot of it. My favorite memory of this was one day when I was back there visiting Balsa Bill Yerkes, who owned Sundek Surfwear at that time. I worked for SURFER magazine and we were working on an ad program for Bill. He lived on the beach in-between Cocoa Beach and Melbourne Beach, which were maybe 8 miles apart. One this one day we were sitting on his deck talking and looking out at the surf. There was a swell running and it was super blown out. When there is surf in that area it goes along with a very fast current moving north to south. We saw Kelly and his brother Sean coming surfing down the beach, riding a wave to the left and paddling through giant chops to get back out for another one. All the while the current taking them past us and then out of sight. A couple hours later they went by again. Turns out their mom was dropping them off in Cocoa Beach and then picking them up at Melbourne Beach an hour and a half later, that was what it would take them to surf and ride the current the 8 miles from point A to point B. Then they would do it again. Kelly was probably about 12 or 13 at the time. This is the kind of hard-core training that went into building an 11-time World Champion.
Riding bad waves will make ya good. Think about that the next time the wind comes up and you are ready to pack it in.