When I was 18, I decided to try surfing. It seemed it could be like part of the ultimate immersion experience.
First problem for a student, which I experienced as a drummer in a rock band, was transport. You need a vehicle.
So, I borrowed one and a board and headed off to a renowned surf location, Muriwai Beach, 45 minutes from Auckland, 30 kilometers of unbroken black-iron sand up to the Kaipara heads, with westerly exposure to massive swells rolling in 1,500 miles from Australia.
It's not warm -- rather like Malibu -- and I didn't have a wetsuit, like the cluster of surfers hanging around the break out there, but I braved the elements and headed out.
Now, the first thing you need to know, getting out ain't that easy. The board keeps getting tossed back by the breakers, and it's really tough on the upper body. All you have for propulsion is your arms. That's why a lot of surfers have those great pecs.
But that's the least of it.
When you get out, it's a whole new community. If they let you join.
Because there's relatively small space right there, where the good breaks are. So it's crowded.
If they let you in -- and believe me, it's a trial out there -- you are literally cheek by jowl.
And here's the downside: You have to listen to the dialogue.
Which goes something like this:
"Hey Choppah! What's you do last night?"
"Nuthin' much. Got pissed [this in New Zealandese for drunk], chundered [NZese for vomited], banged this Sheila [NZese for woman], flaked out. How about you?"
"Nuthin' much. Got pissed, chundered, banged this Sheila, flaked out."
Now, here's the thing. You have no choice but to listen to this. You're all jammed into this little cluster at the right spot, which, by the way, isn't delivering all that much in the way of aquatic thrills.
I lasted about an hour, froze my ass off, and vowed to never go surfing again.
Here's the other thing . . . That getting pissed and chundering was on the worst beer imaginable. And these guys don't drink wine and never will. Even Chateau Cardboard (NZese for Bag-in-Box wine) is too expensive. Or if they do, you do so by lying on your back with open mouth and turning on the faucet. It goes down and back up again with alarming speed.