When you start surfing you already have images: I pictured Kelly Slater in the tube, eighties boards with fluorescent graphics and 60's cartoons of happy Californians riding longboards, smiling and waving at the chicks on the beach.
As you learn and improve you slowly erase those preconceptions and replace them with experiences of your own.
Yesterday's surf was one of my best. Not because of anything spectacular but because of clarity. I'd had a busy, landlocked, half-term week of driving, visiting and working. I needed to get out in the water again to clear my thoughts. And finally, the beauty of paddling out, catching a few waves, being in the water with the rainbows and fellow neoprene-heads without surfy wannabe thoughts was sensational.
As you cultivate your surfing experience the tastes become deeper and more complex. But you're also clarifying and distilling.
My thoughts of thruster ripping quickly dissolved as I started surfing and were replaced by the fantasy of surfing 'cool' little fish. Now I'm surfing my little 5'10 Speed Dialler that weight has been lifted from my shoulders. Everyone tells you not to be snobbish about boards - but you can't be told. You have to learn it for yourself so you can feel it. One of my best surfs recently was back on my 7'0 Diplock thruster. When conditions get tricky I'm now happy to admit (because I've been in the water and felt the frustration) that my little fish is not the best thing. In some overhead waves I probably wouldn't have caught anything on the fish - but with the extra paddle power of the Diplock I got my biggest waves to date. This was a board I was going to sell. That I'd fallen out of love with. Fallen out of love - because of style/fashion/image and not because of the actual surfing experience. Now I've managed to erase those feelings things have become clearer. The Diplock's going nowhere... except in the water with me on the days that it'll be the best choice.
I look forward to surfing more shapes and erasing more and more preconceptions and misconceptions. Learning more by rubbing out the shit.
Yesterday, in those little 2-3ft waves I felt a freedom in surfing that was more and meant more than I've experienced before (the combination of escaping the life-sludge and the surf-sludge at the same time). We all know we're often more prisoners of our own minds than anything else. It's just funny that when you can't surf you're desperate to be walking down the beach with a cool little surfboard. And as soon as you can surf? If the surf's up, you're happy with almost any surfable stick under your arm or on your head.
So get out there and erase. Wipeout. It's as much about wiping out as it is about writing on the wave.
As a wise old shampoo bottle once told me: add, rinse and repeat as necessary.