The Answer To The East Vs. West Coast Debate Is All In Your Head

There's No Right Or Wrong.

I’ve heard a lot of arguments about which coast has better waves—the East or the West. And I’ve noticed people tend to talk about this subject as if there’s a quantifiable answer to the debate. They cite swell-consistency, size, prevalent weather patterns, dominant wind directions, fetch, angles of exposure, shoaling, decay, etc. And no matter which side of the country their allegiances lie, the people making these arguments seem to be incapable of seeing any validity in a counterpoint. They know they’re right. They know the other guy is wrong. They can prove it. Just listen. Just listen

It sort of reminds me of political arguments, or the debate about abortion—or any topic where passionate people with opposing viewpoints confuse opinion for fact. The conversations can go around in circles for days—weighing the pros and cons, comparing figures and stats—but, ultimately, it’s a waste of breath. Because there is no “right” answer—especially when it comes to waves. Fat, hollow, peaky, walled, warm, cold, reef, beachie, clean, stormy—how we perceive these words is about perspective, and personal preference, a point I had driven home a few weeks ago during a mid-East-Coast-blizzard email-exchange with a friend.

Me: I’m sick of winter.
Him: What do you mean?
Me: Cold, stormy, sloppy. Sucks.
Him: Dude, this weather is great. Snow, rain, wind, waves—what’s not to love?
Me: You being sarcastic?
Him: Not at all.

And he really wasn’t. See, my buddy is the quintessential East Coast surfer. He likes it stormy and hollow. He likes to catch about 30 waves a session. He likes to paddle against the current and take waves on the head because he knows that, in return, he’ll receive an empty lineup and more wedges than he can count. Essentially, he’s matched his preferences to his locale, which, aside from being an instructive lesson in happiness, is also, ultimately, the secret to ending the entire East Coast Vs. West Coast debate.

Why not skip the arguing all together—and just accept that it’s not really about which ocean is better, but about which ocean is a better match?

Our oceans (and our Gulfs and lakes too) each have distinctive personalities, just like us. And as such, they’re bound to appeal to different types of surfers. If you prefer it clean and organized and you have enough patience to wait for the sets, chances are you’re going to argue all day in favor of the Pacific when it comes time to compare coasts. If you’d rather be in constant motion hunting peaks—you’re an Atlantic guy.

But why not skip the arguing all together—and just accept that it’s not really about which ocean is better, but about which ocean is a better match? We already do this in our lives constantly, and watch with un-opinionated detachment as other people around us also pair personal preference with personal choice—from the girls/guys we choose to date, to the schools we attend, to the career paths we follow, to the food we eat. And, for the most part, we rarely stand around arguing—or blogging—about the righteousness of these decisions. I mean, yeah, sometimes we’ll give a guy shit for ordering his burger with Brie instead of cheddar. But deep down we know that—like everything else—that choice isn’t right or wrong, it’s just a matter of taste.

So, why can’t we do the same thing when we it comes to the oceans? Why can’t we stop comparing swell-size and consistency? Stop the online-photo-feature-arms-race that seems determined to prove, swell by swell, that one coast is better than the other? Then we could drop the whole East vs. West debate entirely—and waste our time arguing about something else, like…our Fantasy Surfer picks, or…maybe health care.