Words: Mat Arney

You hear it a lot amongst people who slide down mountains, but it doesn’t mean anything to surfers. We don’t play in a world where evidence of our presence remains long after we’ve had our fun; we don’t stick flags in or leave marks on our canvas. Our moments are fleeting; a rooster tail of spray that hangs in the breeze for less than a second, or the white wake of our paths across waves manipulated and obscured by the instantaneous and unending movement of the wave under our trail. No evidence remains of what each of us chooses to do on each of our waves.

Even our path to pleasure swallows the evidence, as wet sand accepts our footprints only to absorb them moments later. Even above the line of water-logged sand that morphs so quickly after we pass, our prints don’t last as in a matter of hours the tide will wash over them like a windscreen wiper over a slew of raindrops on glass. But why fret over lost proof? Who are you surfing for after all, and why? Sure, there’s some pride in being the first person in the sea before the first bit of yellow sloops over the horizon, but it’s no yellow-snow pissing contest like the charge off the first lift of the day. At least our enjoyment of the conditions that we’re met with each day can’t be marred by the trail of somebody who beat us to it; it’s not like the spray from somebody doing a turn on the wave before you prevents you from planting your turn in the exact same spot. The sea accepts our path across it and, whatever the ferociousness of the turns that we push into, heals itself in an instant. It’s like nothing ever happened. Did you really carve that full figure-eight roundhouse if there was nobody there to see it? Yes you did. You felt it, you enjoyed it, and you’ll remember it. As surfers we’re incredibly lucky in a sense; we don’t get up in the dark to beat everybody else to the peak because if we don’t then we’ll be forever eating scraps, or because it’s a score on the board. There’s little point in doing that, because these things don’t last in surfing. We do it for the feeling of walking back up the beach – all limp, lifeless arms and tight shoulders hunched up around your ears from paddling for so many waves; of salt-crusted eyelashes and eyebrows, and a slight sting when you blink; that feeling of being wide awake and yet exhausted at the same time; of knowing that you’ve just had a whole day’s worth of fun before everyone else’s has even begun. And nobody else even need know about it. It can be your little secret.