A Surfer’s Dilemma: Being Tight vs. Being Loose

Womans. Some say you can pay at the point of service or pay bit by bit for dinners and houses and cars, etc, but either way, everybody pays. Photo: Laurel

The desire to surf waves which roll in unfamiliar fashion and surrounds, be they the next county, country or on the other side of the planet has obsessed the wave rider ever since the dawn of stoke.

Surfers go on surf trips. But travel costs money, and riches, like prize surf spots, are not evenly distributed among people and places. The humble surfer with his general distaste/lack of spare time for gainful employment might often represent the less affluent among society, and as a result surf travel has traditionally gone hand in hand with tightness, hustling, sticking to a doctrine of general frugality all aimed with the purpose of staying away longer, going further, scoring more perfect waves, even if that entails, at times, drinking another man’s wine.

But being tight to the extreme won’t necessarily make you happier. Like so many things, there comes a point of diminishing returns. Sure, save two bucks not taking the toll highway, spend two hours on back roads and miss-the tide/wind/whatever. Oops. Of course these days surf travel is accepted and catered for and available and easy to get. Let someone else do the hustling for you, collect you at international arrivals, deliver you to the waves without so much as having to think about reading a map or a swell forecast, as long as you have done the money transfer.

But did we all get lazy? Fat on overpriced airport sandwiches? Didn’t we use to laugh at people who paid that much?

A trip to the Banzai Pipe is tres cher and might be a touch crowded… but if you do snag one, what price do you put on a life-changing Baz? Photo: Timo

Tight vs. Loose

Years ago I was staying in a rented house in J-Bay, among the group were an American couple, Ray and Pam (‘with the cans’.) Ray was on a hard budget, he fed her rice three meals a day. He fed her only rice, sometimes with a spoon or two of canned soup in, because he’d figured out how long he could travel through SA and then Indo eating rice, and now she was here. Pam loved to play pool with all the boys at the pub but Ray never threw down a rand or whatever it was for the next game. J-Bay pumped a new swell every week or ten days and Ray got deep, we’ll give him that much. Pam was quite flirty. She tried the ‘have I got something in my eye?’ thing on me. One night at dinner they had an argument about some caves they’d visited. He’d paid her admission, which was about 50p and was now demanding it back. It got heated, ugly. Insults were exchanged. Pam was over it and soon moved her stuff into the room with the Australians. ‘What a kook!’ we crowed from the sidelines, ‘cannons gone forever over 50p!’

J-Bay. Photo: Timo

A few months later I bumped into one of the guys from the house in a London pub who’d himself caught up with Ray in Indo some five months later, still going. He had photos of Ray on foamball on the swell of the season. Ray’d scored two pumping months at J-Bay and then a full season in Indo on about a thousand bucks or something ridiculous. Apparently pulled it off.

Could it be Ray was right all along?

I’m still not even sure, they were massive, massive cans. But that’s another topic altogether.


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