Does anybody else get super-bummed and a little angry when they see those incessant "Virginia Has No Waves" bumper-stickers?! I swear there might be a conspiratory secret society who has made it their goal to make sure I see at least three everyday. Like most silly little things that make us angry, I think it does so because it's a little true. I can envision you squinting with a dismissive look on your face because I said "a little true". Ok, it's true. Not totally true, but true! Ask any above average surfer if they have ever made VB a surf-trip destination and they'll only answer by laughing at you. I love it here and I know that learning to read and ride waves here has taught me things that would've been tough to grasp at a perfectly peeling point break, but there's a serious deficit here in terms of wave frequency, size, and quality and it shows in the culture.
You've probably been on the receiving end of the famine attitude that seems to be the norm in our local surf scene. Most surfers here are jonesing between swells --often for weeks!-- and you'd be damned to hell for inhibiting their ability to get their fill if they had their way. Ever taken a wave that was rightfully yours and still had a guy grumble or slap water in your direction or deliberately snake you just because he hasn't had enough waves? That's what I'm talking about. If you don't feed your dog for weeks, it's only a matter of time before he eats your cat; if you don't let surfers surf for weeks, they'll grumble or snake you or kook-shame you or worse.
Confession: I keep saying "they" because I tend to see myself as the victim in these scenarios, but I've definitely been the starving offender too. I trust that if you're honest with yourself you'll have been on both sides of the line as well.
Another confession: I LOVE THAT THIS EXISTS.
Don't get me wrong; I hate the act. I hate that you lash out at other people because of your interior overflow of frustration with not having waves as often as you'd like. And I hate that you do that because I hate that I do that. It's an ugly thing and I really see an inhibited ability for the surf community to come together here because we all have this defensive approach to the thing we love.
BUT, I absolutely love how much surfers love surfing. I love that any human cares about something, or feels a need for something so fun and silly as surfing, enough to act out of line if they don't get it. We live in a pretty passionless age and I certainly won't be the person to discourage an otherwise uncommon display of passion.
I think we need more passion; more surfers ready to fight for their right to get waves. The way I've found to reconcile my love for my own surf-passion with my hate for those acts is in large part the only way I've been able to keep living here. Like most people when they discover surfing, I didn't start out with the intention to live in a place where the standard forecast is 1'-2' and Poor.
The first time I made a surfboard, it was a box to be checked on my bucket-list and not much more. The first time that I went board-shopping after having shaped my own board was the last time I ever went board-shopping. I had learned just enough to recognize that the boards I was seeing on the racks were not going to give me the edge I needed to fill up my wave-count in a line-up full of other addicts trying to do the same. At that moment I decided that I'd start making myself boards that were better suited to my needs-- particularly my need to out paddle everyone while still getting the performance I wanted. I started making boards regularly between swells and it didn't take long for me to start missing swells because I was too focused on the shaping bay.
I don't think I've discovered life's greatest mystery, but I've definitely cracked a few codes about myself. My passion for surfing is good; one of my favorite things about myself. But in a place that has a bumper sticker to boast of its poor wave quality, actually riding enough waves to keep me from being a jerk to the guy next to me wasn't happening. I started shaping to try and make boards that would help me get more waves and good enough waves to satisfy me and that definitely helped. Ultimately, what has cured my unkindness has been the process of shaping itself.
In a shaping bay, I'm mentally engaged with waves more deeply than I've ever actually been on a wave. Each place that my hand touches the board naturally allows me to envision how water will interact with that curve and I often get a simultaneous feeling of how that board will trim, turn, pump, and paddle. Through the course of shaping a single board I mentally ride hundreds of waves and I'll let you in on a little secret; I'm nicer than I used to be. Partially because I get more waves as a result of building and choosing better shapes for myself and our conditions, but largely because I interact with waves every day--even if just mentally-- regardless of how many waves Virginia has. When a swell comes I am definitely still more excited than most, but I don't feel the need to defend my territory or maximize my wave-count anymore and my in-water and on-land interactions have seen the fruit of that.
I want that for the rest of our community. I know for a fact that MAR could generate more money if we moved to a bigger city with more surfers and better waves, but if I was in this for the money I would have worked in health insurance or some other lifeless business. We want to serve our community by fueling their passion and providing an outlet for that passion outside of the water. We see the unideal surfing conditions here as an opportunity to dive deeper into exploring what makes surfing work and an opportunity to connect with other surfers and shapers outside of the water. When you humble yourself enough to ask a question about board design or to admit you're not sure about something, you are taking the first step to building authentic relationships by allowing yourself to be vulnerable, which always brings out the same in others.
Our goal is to positively affect the surf culture and community in Virginia Beach; the city we love regardless of its lack of perfect surf. I totally believe that exploring the world of board building fulfills the need for surf that we all feel and that it therefore allows us to be kinder to each other. That is MAR's goal, specifically: We want to flame the fire that burns in surfers and then quench it with new experiences and relationships that give us all a more pleasant and meaningful surf experience.