Graphic illustration by Amanda Schultz

How to become a Humboldt surfer in 5 “easy” steps


Once you’ve completed all the steps you will truly understand what it’s like to give up your life to the never-ending pursuit for something that could be better.

In five easy steps, you can live out your life long fantasy of becoming a surfer in Humboldt County. Before devoting your life to these exaggerated guidelines, remember that surfing is based purely around enjoyment, and that everyone has their own definition of surfing because everyone surfs for their own reasons.

Surfing has a long history, so please always remember to be respectful of the history, the ocean and to all others enjoying it. Let us begin.

Step 1

First head to Craigslist and look for an old surfboard and wetsuit, preferably sold together by a sketchy, but nice mid-50’s man named Rusty who came up to Humboldt 20 years ago to, as he says, “Escape the so-cal crowd bro.”

Get ready to haggle, because there’s no way you’re spending over $80 for what he calls a “vintage” wetsuit and his magic wand from the 80s. Once the purchase is complete, he will enrich you with far-fetched stories of 25 foot Camel Rock, and when he paddled the jetty alone when it was 60 feet. Make sure to smile, nod and be respectful, because you have just been privileged enough to have a conversation with your future self.

Step 2

The next step is to convert your life to surfing. Do this by purchasing roof racks for your car, start wearing sunglasses everywhere you go, stop cutting your hair and most importantly, change up your whole wardrobe to surf attire.

If you manage to come out looking anything like Jeff Spicoli from “Fast Times at Ridgemont High,” you’re in the clear, ready to mingle and surf where you like.

Step 3

You’re going to need to find a friend or a local who surfs. So for the third step, you should get back in contact with Ol’ Rusty and see if he has any buddies who would be able to show you around.

Of course, he won’t, because he may have never surfed in the first place. So move on and head to Moonstone to look for some friends. You’re looking for someone your age or a little older who has experience.

Finding someone with the ability to shame you into constantly trying to surf better is a plus. They should be, for lack of a better word, an asshole. He, or she, will become your surfing confidant, as they will know how little you know about surfing while promoting you as someone who’s been surfing their whole life. Once you find your Bodhi from Point Break, you will then be able to experience the big storm.

Step 4

This step is all about patience. You must stick with it. Just because people told you surfing is fun and easy doesn’t mean you’re going to be good at it. Surfing is something many devote their lives to, not as a profession, but for the never-ending search of the same feeling.

So make sure to know your place and don’t screw it up for everybody else. Unless you’re a freak, you’re going to suck at first. Stay calm, take advice, and be prepared to embarrass yourself. It’s going to take at least a year of surfing once or twice a week for you not to suck and feel embarrassed. So embrace the year of suck and gather knowledge about spots, surfboards, sneaker waves and the Humboldt coastline.

Always be on the lookout for more old surfboards and wetsuits. Keep one thing in mind during this step. You should go on every wave that you can no matter the size or shape, go, as long as you’re not cutting someone off.

Pull into closeouts, throw yourself over the falls, go through the washing machine and meet Johnny hold down. Try and have fun doing it because more waves always equal more practice. Just make sure you’re safe and not alone, like Rusty when he paddled 45 foot Camel Rock alone back in ‘85.

Step 5

The final step is to buy an 80s conversion van during your senior year and drop out a semester before graduation, because hey, you can always go back when there’s no surf.

Only once you obtain the van will you truly understand what it means to be a surfer in Humboldt County. The world is now yours. You’re free to roam and surf where you like with the ability to tell others you really have goals, knowing you can go back to school for a semester and graduate.

Surfing is a beautiful activity, hobby, sport or whatever you want to call it. Please remember everyone starts surfing at different skill levels and takes their necessary steps to get better, so who’s to say that these five steps couldn’t work for you.

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