Friday, September 5, 2008

Adrenaline, teenage boys and some body-surfing prehistory

Yuri just sent me this great link about 10 Terrifying Activities for the Cheap Adrenaline Junkie.

I had a couple thoughts as I went through the videos. First off, I noticed that it's all boys doing this stuff. Are girls doing all this stuff too and not filming it? Or do they lack the idiot deathwish bravado that many teen boys possess, as well as the (seemingly hard-wired) need to show off said bravado. Then I thought, did I do stupid shit like this? Of course I did.

Watching the free runners and cliff jumpers, I flashed back to my bullet-proof and invisible days. It took me a minute to find the correlate, but then it came to me -- The Wedge [see the distinct wave formation that gives this spot its name here]. It is one of the world's most famous body surfing spots, in Newport Beach California, and a Mecca for a particular clutch of adrenaline junkies.

When I was a teenager, I'd throw fins on (overly tight Churchills at the time, I didn't have the money for Vipers unfortunately), and swim out into that pounding surf over and over again for the rush of falling down the face of a wave and avoiding being beaten directly into the sand by the shore break. It was fantastic.

For some serious journalistic extravagance about bodysurfing at The Wedge, check out this Outside Online article, "The Lip Comes Down." He describes the scene much, much better than I will be able to this early in the morning. He pumps it up, of course, to make it "extreme" and exciting, but it's all true, just overly dramatized for effect.

The video below is of Matt Larson taking an enormous wave at The Wedge. Bodysurfing is hard to capture on film, and can be boring to watch if you aren't an afficionado -- the ride is slow enough that the rider is often eaten up in the whitewash most of the wave. So, it gets little attention on sports channels, etc. From the experience of the rider, however, it's a whole different animal than board surfing (hard or soft) exactly because of this immersion in the wave.

I don't know that I can express how intense the experience would be if you took this same ride -- it is somewhere between falling off the side of a cliff, flying, being tied to the back of a rampaging buffalo, and going through a spin cycle in a washing machine. And make no mistake, when the break got this big, I was on the beach and part of the crowd of admirers. I wasn't even close to this good.

For lots more footage, check out this video, which shows not only body surfers (some really excellent ones) but body boarders (much easier to see and appreciate on film).

Last but not least of the video links, here is a great compilation of Wedge Wipeouts. Awesome.

There were a small band of legends that bodysurfed at The Wedge still when I was there in High School. Here is some blatant name-dropping: I've actually met the King of the wedge-heads, Fred Simpson. I was so star-struck that although he was often at the beach when I was, I think I only talked to him and shook his hand once. What a nerd.

Enjoy flashbacks incited by the youngins in your life,


[photo credit in Fred Simpson article]


Bentley said...

Youngin's in your life.
pffffttt. :P

Bpaul said...



JB said...

Dude - I can totally smell the surf watching these videos. Miss the south just a little bit now and then.

Bpaul said...

One of the few, very few, things I miss about being down there.