Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Quality or Quantity

When you live in an ultra crowded beach town, the dilemma of quality vs. quantity can become quite real.

Me? I've always opted for the latter...and been fairly comfortable with my choice. 95% of the time, the pier in HB is by far the best spot in town. It ranges from "slightly better shape than the sandbars at Magnolia" to "everywhere else sucks shit and the pier is all-time firing".

On the flipside, the pier is also one of the most competitive spots you'll ever surf...and I've surfed a lot of spots. The most common, and popular, wave at the pier is an a-frame peak on the northside, but it doesn't really matter. The same crew of guys will be on it, as well as its twin brother on the southside when it's happening.

The crew can roughly be broken into two groups - the Lennys and the kids.

The Lennys are the older guys - 30's and up - who pretty much dominate the place between 10 and 2. I'm not sure what most of them do for a living (seems like mostly construction) but whatever it is, it keeps them in the water pretty much whenever the waves are good. They remind me a lot of the South Mission Beach crew down in SD - not a ton of natural talent, but lots of water time, lots of aggression, and a whole lot of yip-yap.

I call them the Lennys because the main guy, who is ALWAYS out, is named Lenny. Lenny is sort of the archetypal...well, Lenny. Mid-late 30's, great shape, chiseled, long hair (circa early 90's) pulled back in a pony tail. Loves to talk. Has a kind of goofy wide-legged, arm-flapping style, but knows where to be and when, and can bash a mean lip once in a while. He's also the guy who knows EVERYONE out in the water.

The Kids on the other hand are the legit HB kids. I'm not sure how many of the Lennys are legit locals. I think a lot of them live elsewhere but have simply chosen HB as their daily spot du jour. Some are probably trannies. The Kids, on the other hand, all live in the area, and all rip. Some are NSSA, some are on the HB High School surf team, some live in Seal Beach, and some are just kids who live up the street with their single moms.

The Kids dominate the early mornings and late afternoons and tend to congregate on the inside where the reform bowls are, but you'll find them all over. They don't talk nearly as much as the Lennys (especially when the Lennys are out), but The Kids are the guys who are really killing it out there. Airs, tail slides, the whole deal.

On a crappy evening glassoff, when it's mostly just them out the water, they're typical high school kids. Tons of shit talking, tons of hassling each other (the random kooks, spongers, and transplants like myself are just kind of ignored...invisible, like we're not there).

The bottom line is that you have two distinct and two insanely competitive groups of surfers who hug the pier pretty much each and every day. They're so competitive that the HB Pier is the only spot I've ever surfed where every wave is claimed long before you even have a chance to paddle for it.

"I'll go left."

"I'm going right."

Huh? What happened? The second a wave...or even an in-betweener...rears it's head, BAM!, it's claimed. Some 17 year-old Kid is going right and some 34 year-old Lenny is going left, and you're just going to sit there and wonder how long it'd take to paddle up to The Cliffs.

So, a mighty long digression, but you see my dilemma. Perfect a-frames and inside bowls with Lenny & The Kids, or walled up, backing-off closeouts at 6th St. with just you, a skinhead kneeboarder and two Asian boogieboarders.

In the past I've usually chosen 6th St. Unless the pier was just unbelievable and everywhere else was just pure crap and the pier happened to be between shifts, with Lennys and Kids punching their cards on Main St., I've always opted for crummier waves, but more of them. Kind of like that joke about the two old Jewish women (stolen from Woody Allen):

"The restaurant was terrible...the food was just awful."

"I know, and such small portions."

But I think it's more than just quantity. In a very real sense (for me anyway) it's about quality too. It's about the quality of my water time and how I spend it.

My whole life is full of stress. Kid, pregnant wife, demanding advertising career with heaps of travel, house under constant construction, in-laws, bills, cell phone ringing off the fucking hook...hell, anyone reading this probably knows exactly what I'm talking about.

The point is, an hour or two in the water is supposed to be my fun time to RELAX. And maybe crawling over 30 other guys and screaming out which direction you're going is fun for some surfers, but for me, like I said, I've got enough people to yell at - and to yell at me - on the land.

So yeah, I pull into a lot of closeouts. I sit around waiting a lot because the lulls are always longer where I surf. I get dropped into by a lot of kneeboarders. I dodge a lot of ditched longboards fresh from the rental rack at Java Jungle. But it's also quiet. No one is yelling, "Right...I said, RIGHT!!!" And no one is yelling, "Duuuuude, Lenny, that fucking bitch never called me back" in that weird, squeaky surfer/skater voice.

So there it is. My choice. Me decision to sacrifice wave quality for a different type of quality...a quality of solitude and the ability to pick almost any wave when they finally roll through.

But before any smugness sets in, I will admit this:

Today was offshore and head high. The Apartments looked fun, but the pier looked epic. The pier also looked really really crowded. So as per usual, I chose The Apartments at 6th St.

I dropped into a lot of closeouts, paddled for a lot of waves I couldn't catch, and then, right when I was ready to head in, I looked south just in time to see one of the pier rats drop into a reeling left, pull in, and get absolutely SLOTTED for probably 3-4 seconds and come swooping out with his arms raised.

We're talking quality.

The Colonel says, "Hey man, stick with the bit."