The Wetsuit

Old wetsuit

  1. When I bought you, in early 2018, I thought very long and hard about this financial decision. I was back in Australia and preparing to move from my home in New York to San Francisco, where it might be actually possible to see a beach after work. It felt like a really big purchase. Maybe the most expensive thing I would own? I treasured it before I even used it.

  2. But at first, it didn’t get much use. It was hard to get in the water. I might get invited to go surfing with a friend, but I wasn’t bringing much to the table. I had no surfboard, no car. But I had a wetsuit. I would borrow a surfboard, or rent something from the surf shack at Bolinas, north of San Francisco. Surfs were few and far between, and rather than that buzz beginners usually get, I always felt a bit disappointed. I was so bad at it, and there was something always wrong’ with the conditions. The surf was better last week.”

  3. The next year, in 2019, I started taking things more seriously. I invested in a foam board from Walmart. I focus on Pacifica, a beach break about 20 minutes down highway 1. It’s close enough to home, popular with city slickers. Couldn’t hold much swell without dumping onto the sand bank but could get a nice clean ride if you knew where to go. Crowded on a hot Saturday, but empty at dawn on a Tuesday morning.


  1. I’ve got my 8ft foam board from Walmart. It’s embarrassing, but it’s cheap and convenient and you it actually catches every wave. I’m booking cars on Getaround or Zipcar. I’m planning backwards from when I need to be at work, at 9am. I need to wake up, walk to the car, drive it back to my house, load my wetsuit, board, towels, change of clothes, drive to the beach, suit up, stretch and trudge across the cold sand, surf, see the sun come up, load up the car, drive home, trying to warm up in the car and miss some of the incoming rush hour traffic, unload my stuff at home, drive the car back to it’s parking spot, jog back home, wash my wetsuit and board, hang everything up, shower, get dressed and jump on my bike to ride into work.


  1. Sometimes I would park the car and walk home with my surfboard, juggling a backpack and dripping wetsuit, often walking past homeless guys who would nod and excitedly yell out, the surfboard adding a bit of exotic flair to the city street.

  2. By the end of 2019, I was sharing a house with a real surfer’. He would check forecasts. He had a thicker wetsuit, and boots, and a hood. He would sometimes surf before and after work, even though he had an hour long commute. He had multiple surfboards, all short and aggressive looking. My surfboard starting to sag and crease, and had pink fins.

  3. I surfed with him a few times, and had a handful of friends who liked to surf, but often I was by myself. I started to surf Ocean Beach occasionaly. It was usually out of bounds for me. Too big. Too stormy. Too cold. Too windy. Too rippy. Too many sharks. I read about the doc and gained new respect and admiration for the ocean around me. native San Franciscans will tell you that there is no surfing in San Francisco. There is surf, of course, but the ocean, they say, is too cold and stormy for surfing.” But sometimes it was perfect there, at least for me. Small, fluffy and clean. The sky would be pink in the morning above the sand dunes and one time I dragged a friend and showed her - look, it’s not that bad right?

  4. End of 2019. I gave my wetsuit a rest for trips to Sayulita, Mexico and Costa Rica. The water is warm. The sun dancing off the water looks like a bowl of fruit loops. You catch more waves in 5 days than you did in the last few years. Surfing doesn’t always need to be cold and dark and hard, but I feel like I will always associate surfing with a wetsuit.


  1. The foamie is gone, and so is San Francisco. You’re back in southern Australia, and the water is cold, and all you can do is surf. Actually, you may not be allowed to surf. Well, if there’s a beach within 15km radius of your house, and you better not spend longer than an hour, because this is just your portion of exercise for the day. And I heard police were checking license plates and you’re really not a local here are you?

wave pool

  1. You’ve snuck in another warm water stint, in El Salvador. The waves are point breaks because of ancient volcanos stretching out from the mainland, creating perfect peeling rights. You’ve played in wave pools and a handful of different, shorter surfboards. You still can’t turn. You fall off all the time. You still can’t read a surf forecast. The wetsuit, your treasured possession has several holes. Wax is caked into the knee pads. You’re shivering after 20 minutes when you really thought you were tougher than that. You’ve got to let it go. But maybe one more surf.

El Zonte

June 6, 2022