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Meet the Crew
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How I came to be a Wave Chaser
By Bobby Keith
It was a dark and stormy night. I sat at my desk in Jennings hall at the University of Florida surfing the net for god knows what. Knock knock, I heard on the door. When I opened the door my friend Tom stood in the doorway with determination in his eyes. “There are going to be waves this weekend Bob,” said my new friend Tom. “But there not in Florida, we would have to go a little bit further away.”
Tom and I had recently met earlier that month. We both lived on the same dormitory floor along with 38 other guys. When I first met him, I told him I could surf. Sadly, I really thought I could surf, even though I never had before. That was my first mistake. The second was asking this question.
“How much further?” I asked.
“North Carolina, actually,” Tom said.
I was surprised by his response, but in the matter of five minutes or so, I decided to go with him.
The next night we set out for the Outer banks of North Carolina to hit up some spontaneous summer surf that came out of nowhere. I had my doubts as to what I would do when I got there, but I still thought that I could pull “surfing” off without anyone knowing that I had never even touched a surfboard before. Tom’s friend Adam came along with us. He was also a surfer. Unlike me.
After some minor traffic complications we arrived in North Carolina’s barrel country, the Outer banks, and we were amped and ready to hit the waves. I had no surfboard at the time, because I didn’t surf, remember. So I had to borrow one of Tom’s boards, or just sit there and guard the car (which in hindsight might have not been a bad idea). So Tom handed me his most prized possession, his Hawaiian Island Creations surfboard for me to ride. It was white and shiny and was probably the coolest thing I had ever seen to date. I could tell he really wanted to ride that board instead of his other one, but being the type of person that Tom was, he let me use it. All he said to me was, “just be careful with it.”
Then the inevitable happened, I found out that I couldn’t surf. I think I must have swallowed about a gallon of foam on my first attempt to dive a wave. That was before I got totally smashed against the sand from the waves breaking so shallow on the inside on the break. I got to the outside eventually, but was only pushed back in towards the shore as fast as the tide could push me.
As the day progressed, and I brushed of some Bob-can’t-surf-jokes, I began to realize that I was a long way from dropping into a Fijian barrel and I had a lot of practice ahead of me. The rest of the trip was history, as we say.
I hope this short story describes just what it means to be a real surfer. And that just because you buy a bunch of Quicksilver shirts and watch the Endless Summer, doesn’t mean you can surf. But it is possible to learn, it just takes time and patience and the realization that you will never be the next Kelly Slater. Surfing can be very frustrating at times, but when you finally get that one great ride of the day that leaves you so stoked*, it is the most rewarding thing you can ever feel.
And I can tell you from experience. As the years have progressed, slowly and surely, I have learned how to surf my board. And I love the sport more and more every time I go out into the water. Because it never gets old, it really never does.
I think Kelly said it best when he compared surfing to heroin in an interview a few years back, “once you’ve had a little taste, you’re hooked.” And I was. And still am. Surf’s up.
*Stoked- to be unusually happy to the point of unbridle joy that spreads throught one’s entire mind and spirit.
(Right below is an article I wrote for my college newspaper, The Florida Alligator, during Hurricane Frances. It was never printed in it's entirety but some of the quotes were used.)
Surfing the Hurricane
By Bobby Keith
Hurricane Frances brought about many concerns for millions of Florida residents who made sure they had plenty of food, water and plywood to survive the upcoming storm.
But it brought good news for those who were stocking up on sunscreen and surf wax.
The Florida east coast received some of its biggest waves of the year from Hurricane Frances. As a result, many Gainesville surfers grabbed their boards and headed toward the beach.
“Every surfer gets excited about Hurricanes,” said SFCC junior Erik Heidts, “because that means big surf.”
Heidts if one of the many Gainesville surfers who made the hour and a half commute to the east coast last week to get in on some pre-hurricane surfing.
This has been a nice change for Florida surfers who have who have been waiting patiently for the waveless summer to officially end.
The waves in northern Florida were consistently large last week, from 3 to 10 feet, but they grew to colossal heights of nearly 20 to 25 feet on Saturday and Sunday, according to the LOLA buoy off the Florida coast line.
Paddling out in big waves can be dangerous for anyone, but hurricane waves can harbor even more danger due to the strong winds and the perilous rip tides that can develop.
Tom Weymss, a UF surfer, said that surfing before hurricanes is not every surfer’s dream wave.
“East coast surfers are much more hardcore than any other surfers,” Weymss said. “Surfers from Cali wouldn’t even consider going out in these conditions.”
Weymss, 20, has a great deal of respect for surfers who paddle-out in even the most dangerous of hurricane waves.
“East coast heart” is what this type of utter determination that Florida surfers need to have in order to surf in situations like this, Weymss said.
Now that Hurricane Frances has passed us by, the waves in Florida will return to their normal size; small.
But Hurricane Ivan may have something to say about that.
Ivan, which was already a category 4 hurricane on Tuesday, could bring nearly the same destruction, and big waves, as its predecessor did.
Weymss is concerned about another Hurricane coming to Gainesville, but for the time being he will probably be out surfing, if there are waves to be ridden.
“For the moment I’m seeing it as good news,” Weymss said.
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