In the Thaw

Rob Gilley

Previously in denial about his photographic past, Rob Gilley now rummages through his trove of mediocrity.

With a certain arrogance, out it came:

"Why would anyone go on a trip to surf in cold water?"

I held my tongue. I wanted to respond to this comment badly, but decided that in the end it would be better to just keep quiet. This major surf industry leader had no idea—no clue—I thought to myself, and realized we'd all be better off if he just kept thinking that his annual Fiji trip was killing it beyond reproach, and leave it at that.

The hypocrisy in this thought process, of course, is that I had developed my own smugness in my opposing view. But you can't really blame me—I was just coming off two epic cold-water surf trips, and was feeling pretty damn self-assured.

After having the opportunity to do both warm and cool water trips, I had recently come to the conclusion that for my own surfing, I preferred the coldwater version. On those particular trips I had discovered a longer lasting, deeper satisfaction. A more profound stoke.

And then I came up with a theory as to why: it's harder to feel euphoric when you're sweaty.

Under further analysis, I reckoned that my higher stoke level on cooler water surf trips had something to do with the thawing process after a session. That there's nothing on earth like scoring epic uncrowded waves with friends, putting on warm clothes, cranking the car heater, and then sitting in a wind-protected backyard with the sun warming your face.

Nothing.

If you're not convinced, here's another scenario: You're in Ireland, and just surfed a perfect, draining, overhead left slab/point for 5 hours with two friends and a handful of friendly locals. You give lobster mitten 'high-twos' all around, don the parka and the beanie, and get into a warm car. You then stop at a pub and the friendly bartender offers you a frothy beverage. As you sit by a roaring fire, you pour the sweet creaminess of a Guinness straight down your gullet into an empty stomach.

Case dismissed.

This prolonged, post-coldwater euphoria is good news because it gives all of us an opportunity to spread out a little. To not all go as single migrating sheep-herd to the Mentawais or Tavarua or Costa Rica.

To explore cooler horizons.

Ireland. Photo: Gilley
Joe Curren, South Island, New Zealand. Photo: Gilley
Canada. Photo: Gilley
Scotland. Photo: Gilley
North Island, New Zealand. Photo: Gilley
Colin Smith, Western Australia. Photo: Gilley