The best wave I've ever surfed is a novelty right-hander that spins up inside a sandspit-protected harbor in the little Central Coast town where I grew up. At a glance, the setup doesn't seem like it should be capable of producing surf—it's a good half-mile or more from the open ocean, tucked way, way inside a boat-filled bay on the edge of a brackish estuary. While it seems impossible for any swell angle to actually reach the break, it's somehow pumping every single time I'm there. There's no beach, just the rocks of the harbor, still water, and that absolutely flawless wave. Paddling out, you can't help but shout to your buddies, "Can you believe this wave is even here? This is insane!" Pulling into little shimmering tubes that rival any first wave at Slater's wave pool, peeling off in uniform fashion for minutes at a time, it feels like a dream. Probably because it is a dream—the surf dream I've had at least once a month for years.
For the first few waves of the dream, it feels so real, then, somehow, my logical brain kicks in and breaks up all the fun, announcing: "This is a dream. This wave isn't here. How could a wave possibly even break here, anyway? Don't be absurd! Show's over." Then I usually wake up, frustrated that I didn't actually score perfect tubes, and a little embarrassed to be tricked by my own subconscious again.
After a dozen or so years of the same dream, I got to thinking: what is my brain trying to tell me with this recurring experience at a wave that shouldn't exist? Seems like a meaningful dream fantasy, does it not? It inspired me to dig deeply into dream dictionaries to get a handle on what my subconscious was signaling to me every time I had this miracle session in my sleep.
Dream dictionaries, as it turns out, don't typically analyze fantasies of scoring novelty waves near your childhood home. So it inspired me to create my own dream dictionary. Sure, I don't have a degree in psychology or anything, but I spent at least 30 minutes reading dream dictionaries online, so I'm pretty sure I'm as bonafide an expert as you'll find. A brief survey of the rest of the SURFER editorial staff revealed a few other common surf dreams to serve as fodder for further study. Here's the resulting guide to help plumb the depths of your surf psyche.
Dream: The waves are on fire, and as you sprint over the sand to paddle out you glance at the bottom of your board and realize, whoops, you don't have any fins screwed in.
Meaning: You feel deeply guilty about the fact that every time your buddy picks you up to surf, you're forgetting something—a leash, fin key, towel, even a wetsuit that one time. You're that guy always asking for a scrap of wax. Either that, or this is a sign from your subconscious that it's time to pull the trigger on an alaia.
Dream: You're racing down the line, draw out a long bottom turn, and midway up the face as you prepare to unleash hell on the lip, you…just…can't…get…there. Like a fist attempting to throw a punch underwater, your board becomes maddeningly slow. When you finally arrive at the top of the wave, your knees buckle and you shamefully bog rail.
Meaning: Deep down, you're aware that you don't surf nearly as well as you think you do. This is your subconscious mind's way of breaking it to you gently. As this is far less offensive than watching yourself on video, you should thank your subconscious.
Dream: God, you're ripping. Barrels, turns, airs, all performed with enough speed, power and flow to cause a WSL judge to drop to his knees and weep. "Why not quit my day job and finally make that run at pro tour qualification?" you ask yourself, after gliding out of a no-handed backside barrel and then lofting a 20-yard-section-clearing alley-oop.
Meaning: You really, really don't surf as well as you think you do.
Dream: You're alone at the peak when a sweet headhigh wedge lumps up outside. You turn and paddle into the wave, but just as you try to push to your feet, nothing. Just can't do it. You drop down the face, helplessly prone.
Meaning: You've been putting off a task that seems too difficult to accomplish, even though you know it must be done. Either that, or that bodyboarding phase you went through as a kid should have been more than just a phase for you.
Dream: Surfing a novelty wave in your hometown that breaks where no waves possibly could.
Meaning: The waves where you currently live are often blown out, overwhelmingly huge and out of control, or otherwise not perfect little mysto runners, and they never will be, and it eats at you. The waves where you grew up probably weren't all that great either, and you really should have come to terms with this by now.