Wonderful Curse

Looking for the next fix. Photo: Gilley

Rob Gilley

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

"We called it Piglet's because we saw a dead pig when we were paddling out."

Despite the near-absurdity of this statement, none of us even raised a brow. A brief collective chuckle for this post-rainstorm Mexican river mouth story, and that was about it. Unabated, this restaurant conversation just kept on going. What would have surely deployed shock and disgust in any other circle was just a simple entertaining anecdote.

Amongst this group of people, purposely immersing oneself in a smelly, poo-brown, debris-filled ocean was, apparently, perfectly normal behavior. Explanations were unnecessary. Everyone present—all seven of us, ages 9 through 51—understood the subtext. We all knew perfectly well why someone would risk their well being and subject themselves to a swine-marinated, disease-ridden lineup: because…it was going off.

This collective assumption reminded me how unbelievably hooked on surfing most of us are. That by all standards and definitions we are true addicts: willing to risk it all for a fix, constantly jonesing, and all suffering from some sort of withdrawal if we don't get it.

Pretty scary stuff if you really think about it.

To observe this addiction, I need to look no further than myself. From the day I rode my first "unbroken" wave, I was doomed. Locked in for life. A prisoner.

Like an addict might, I have built my entire life around exposing myself to a potential fix. Chose my university based on quality surf spot proximity (UCSD), picked my 'career' to maximize surf time (surf photography), and settled in my hometown because of it (Carlsbad). Even planned a honeymoon around it (Hossegor).

Sorry, honey.

Worse yet, securing my fix completely governs my behavior and has turned me into a predator of sorts. I constantly troll the internet for it, and even stalk my potential prey with ogling slow-motion drive-bys whenever possible.

Yikes.

I have also sacrificed a large degree of financial security for it. With a more normal career path, I would definitely be less cash-strapped and have more money in the bank. My kids would have more of a college fund, and my wife and I would have more of a retirement fund. We would actually have a retirement fund.

Right as I began to wallow in self-pity, though, I looked around the restaurant at the people sitting around us. Most of them were sullen, morose and glum—like life had physically and metaphorically beat them up and bent them over.

Then I looked at the six surfers sitting around our own table. At these tan-faced, ruler straight-postured, fit, laughing men, women, boys, and girls. These jazzed Homo sapiens. These stoked humans.

Gosh darn it, these people were happy and really…really….alive.

But then I remembered why.

We had all just gotten our fix.