Rules and Rituals
Cool beach walks. Cold beer. Great food. Old and new friends. Over the years, our surf club has boiled life down to its simple pleasures. While we’re relaxing together on this second day of our trip, let me tell you more about our discoveries and traditions we’ve developed along the way.
The Train Track Rule
All participants in our surf trips must agree to follow one golden rule—pretty much our only regulation—the Train Track Rule. Group members who leave the campground and cross the nearby railroad tracks are advised not to return empty-handed. Making it across the tracks means you have reached the little town across the highway where supplies are plentiful and cheap; and you are, therefore, required to bring back at least one of these top three items on the surfer survival list:
Before leaving the campground, take a quick inventory on what supplies are low. If you are price savvy, you are free to purchase the least expensive commodity to satisfy the “Train Track Rule”.
Fail to bring back at least one of these vital items and face the consequences; you must purchase one at a premium price at the campground store, and you may even be ridiculed and teased at the next sanctioned surf meeting. Neal has been known to give out demerits during story time around the campfire, too.
I have taken drastic measures to avoid that humiliation, not always with the best results. A couple of years ago, abiding by the Train Track Rule, I purchased a thirty-pack of beer. After exiting the store, I hoisted the case onto my shoulder; it broke apart, and beer cans flew in every direction. If that wasn’t embarrassing enough, some of the flying cans landed on the cop car parked in front of the store. Everyone nearby rushed to my aid and scrambled to collect the rolling cans of Pabst Blue Ribbon. I couldn’t stop laughing as I chased the two cans that made it under the cop car. The officer was not present, so we got away with this inadvertent vandalism, but I’d still take a fine over a Neal campfire humiliation any day of the week.
Saying the s-word is bad juju for surfers. It can jolt us out of the best of moods—temporarily, anyway. Here’s what that looks like.
Today, we work up quite an appetite on our beach stroll to Encinitas, so we make our way to the Ale House (imagine that) where we can satisfy our hunger and thirst for cold local brew. As usual, we strike up a conversation with the bartender, who is also a surfer. Neal loves to get to know the locals and tell them about our dynamic group and our landlocked Colorado surf club.
I don’t know how the conversation shifts from snowboarding the Rockies to great white shark sightings, but it does. The week prior, a girl was bitten in the thigh at a nearby surf break. The bartender tells us a dead whale washed up a few weeks ago. Instead of hauling the carcass twenty miles out to sea, the coast guard only towed it two miles. The locals believe that’s why so many sightings have been reported.
We all stare at different focal points for a moment and then simultaneously sip our beers. Awkward silence. Fear. Pause. More sips. “How about that game last week?” seems like the next logical topic.
The bartender meanders away, and Kristy, Neal and I chuckle at what just happened. Neal suspects this local is just trying to scare some tourists from paddling out. Shoobies are used to that. It doesn’t matter to me, but I prefer not to hear these stories. Surfers do not like the s-word.
We learned after our trip there were fifteen documented shark sightings nearby the week we all surfed.
Click Follow to receive emails when this author adds content on Bublish