Surf isn't just about the grand gesture or majestic swell event. Find magic in the little things.
There is no other sport with such a potential for grandeur as surfing. Football? Tennis? No matter how good you get, you'll still be in a court of the exact same dimensions. All that changes is the size and intensity of the crowd.
One week ago we saw the greatest athlete who has ever lived win, yet lose, in an arena that could just as easily have peeled a flap in his skull.
And all of us know of those great days at our own beaches, when spectators line the beach and choppers hover overhead, where we find, or at least experience, a moment of grandeur.
But surfing can't always be magnificent. In fact, it's rarely even good. Most of the time we nose our boards around imperfect wind-swells while competing for the experience with dozens of other surfers. Grand it ain't.
Lately, I've been trying a few things to squeeze even more joy out of my sessions. As in trying to find beautiful experiences in the smallest of moments. Perfect waves? They happen, and when they do you'll embrace them like an old friend, but their scarcity shouldn't be something to fret about.
Here are five tips to punch up the thrill of your own sessions.
1. Learn a new move: Here's a secret. Practise something enough and you'll learn it. Surfing is tough because you might get the one wave and the one section that lets you try that frontside reverse or club sandwich only a few times every session. But the joy it gives you when, finally, that board spins around, the fins connect back in the face, and you realise you've completed your first air reverse, even at some ridiculous age, is profound. Your enthusiasm goes through the roof. And you don't need – you especially don't need – good waves to try new moves. Never become one of those homebodies who sees a pro throw the fins and says something along the lines of, "Oh, that's amazing, I don't know how they do that!" Yeah, you do. There's enough HD slow-mo cam going around to dissect any move.
2. Open your eyes underwater. There's so much going on under there. Swim into the lineup without a board, before or after your sesh, and watch the waves from below. Discover how the three-finner generates tremendous cavitation and turbulence through turns while the quad is foam free. Actually witness the way energy spins through the tube.
3. Don't check the surf. So many days are wasting driving from spot to spot. Drive to the carpark, suit up, paddle out and vow to surf, to the limit of your ability, the waves on offer. Futile surf checking is the ultimate killer of any buzz.
4. Study sections. Every wave has at least three or four different sections. Learn to identify what you should hit, where you should top turn, cutback, toss the fins, spin or jump into a straight air. Look closely! They're like secret little doors.
5. Watch the best surfers. It's fortunate that we can so closely examine the ways of the sport's best. Any other sport and you'd be behind a fence or 100 yards away in the stands. There's not a thing stopping you from paddling out at Emma Wood to sit side by side with Reynolds or doing the same at Snapper with Mick and Joel. Watch how they paddle, their level of focus, the way they drop into a ledging wave. It might be the school of hard knocks, but it's there you learn well, and you learn fast.