Kelly's right on the money. Once you start this gig, you just can't stop. Maybe you take a lil break here and there, get the 2.5 kids and the picket fence, move to Joey's for a job. But the salt water still runs in your veins. Like a faint drum beat that gets louder the closer you get to the ocean. No matter how long it's been since your feet have been in the wax, the minute you're standing on the beach seeing a wave reeling off, you're mind-surfing it, no matter what.
What is it that makes surfing so addictive? Cos I'm betting there isn't one of you that hasn't missed something important cos the waves were cooking! Maybe that's it. It's such a fickle b*tch. Not like tennis when you can just rock up at the court at whatever time, and hey, the court will be there, and you can play.
Scientists love to study rats. Maybe the rats have the answer. Researchers found that when rats were given unpredictable rewards they experienced obsessive behavior. American shrink B.F. Skinner did a study giving rats randomly-timed rewards. The rats were basically frothing the whole waiting period between the unexpected rewards, doing a lil rat drool whilst anticipating the next one. Some of the lil critters even obsessively tapped on a bar in their cage, hoping that this would trigger the reward.
What it boiled down to was that an unexpected reward had much more power than a regular, expected reward in driving behavior. Which pretty much sums up surfing. The holy grail of decent swell, the right wind direction and the right tide are not something that can be made to order. Factor in you have to be able to hit the beach during the perfect time when all the variables align - so work commitments, school, varsity timetables also have to coincide. You gotto be on it. Drop everything and go.
Despite the onshores, the crap waves, the crowds, the flat days, cold water & howling winds, we still keep coming back. Like rats tapping on the bar. Watching. Waiting. Just wanting to jab that salt water injection into our veins.
The average wave last no more than 6 seconds. Yet that's all it takes. As you kick out of that first wave, you smile, and all feels right with the world. The endorphins, adrenalin, dopamine and serotonin are doing their magic. Nature's happy pills. You're no longer worrying about whatever kak is going on in your life, all you're thinking about is the next wave. The next hit.
The cure for anything is salt water.
But it's not only the chemical cocktail from riding waves that brings on the stoke.
There're some vitamins in that air you're breathing. The turbulence created by breaking waves alters the physical structure of the air and water, breaking apart water and air molecules and releasing negative ions into the air. So whilst we're out there in your quest for surf you're slap bang in the middle of this altered atmospheric state.
It's not only the surf which generates these negative ions. You get the same effect at waterfalls and after thunderstorms. The overdose of negative ions has a positive effect on your mood by triggering the release of endorphins and serotonin – the same happy hormones that are getting triggered when you're catching a wave.
So we're getting our surf high whilst we're on the wave and whilst we're sitting out in the line-up. Double whammy. Certified surf junkies.
Only a surfer knows the feeling.