rob gilley

Lost Treasure

| posted on June 12, 2011

If you refer to set waves at North Peak as "the precious," you may have a problem.

Rob Gilley

As the sting of his recent SURFER firing begins to fade, Rob Gilley now turns his blog attention towards memories and stories garnered from his long lackluster career.

It was hard to believe: A surprise west swell had snuck in overnight, and now I had a peak to myself at Black’s. For being this uncrowded, it was as good as I had seen it in years. It wasn’t big—maybe a little overhead—but some beautiful, consistent, glassy A-frames were pulsing out of the canyon and delivered to us on a platter.

When I say, “us,” I refer to the 15 or so lucky souls who were out with me, all spread evenly down the beach like polite men using an expansive, multiple urinal facility.

When Black’s is this uncrowded, you keep a wary, pessimistic eye on the road and the Glider Port trail to see what kind of evil surf tour group is coming down the hill to spoil your fun. With CIA intensity, every movement down the cliff is monitored and assessed.

Being mid-week, there wasn’t a lot of people making the trek down to the beach, which today was a very welcome sight. However, about 20 minutes into my private peak bliss, I spotted two surfers walking down the road, and then walking up the beach towards North Peak.

I assumed, and I think my fellow surfers assumed, that these two guys would assess the crowd situation and continue walking past us to where yet another peak was delivering the goods.

However, to my complete surprise, these two guys stopped at the part of the beach right in front of my precious A-frame, and began to suit up.

This is when the impure thoughts started to kick in.

As they prepared to paddle out, I couldn’t, for the life of me, fathom the audacity of these two characters. What they could possibly be thinking. Why they weren’t paddling out down the beach where it was just as good, and completely empty.

Were they two La Jolla alpha males looking to assert their dominance and jump my claim? Or two visiting pros who maybe thought talent alone entitled them to surf wherever they chose?

The more I thought about it, the madder I got. Madder even, when I could see that one of them was sporting some sort of weak excuse for a moustache.

As they paddled towards me, I turned my back to the beach and tried to ignore them. Just faced the horizon and rehearsed snide, subtle comments that could be delivered on their arrival.

When I detected their presence next to me, I spun around to face them, and was about to say something sarcastic when I noticed something wasn’t right: They were both smiling.

This made me even madder. I began to boil. To seethe.

Before I could say anything, the guy closest to me opened his mouth, “Holy Shit, look at that one!” he blurted, now pointing up the beach at a roping left. “I’ve never seen a wave like that! That’s crazy!” he continued. “We saw you up here and thought we should join you. Is it OK if we surf here? We’ve never seen waves like this before! Does this place always have waves like this? Holy Shit!”

These words hit me like a hammer. These guys weren’t here to raid my treasure, they were here to share it. They weren’t a threat…they were novices. They were stoked out of their gourds.

Confronted by my mistake, I was crestfallen. Ashamed. Hit by a lightning bolt of guilt. Here I was, just stewing in selfishness and greed, while two relative beginners enjoyed, reveled, and basked in Mother Nature’s glory. The way I should have been.

I just looked at these guys with their gigantic smiles, nodded, mumbled something unintelligible, and paddled away.

What had I become?

Apparently some sort of human hemorrhoid.

As I paddled up the beach, I thought about all the bad feelings and fights and harassment I had witnessed and heard about over the years, all in the name of surfing. Of the North Shore, Kauai, Mauritius, Queensland, Baja, La Jolla, The Ranch, Oxnard, and Palos Verdes. Of elitism, localism, violence, anger and grumpiness.

And then I thought about my daughter who was just learning to surf, and her incredible stoke. About the proliferation of surf schools and how everyone just hoots and smiles all day. About a summer day at the beach where the human soundtrack is the laughter of innocent first-timers and literal screams of oceanic delight.

And then I realized that experienced surfers have it backwards: we’re the kooks—because apparently, the longer you surf, and the better waves you surf, the bigger of a dick you become.

Now the fog was lifting: Surfing was like Bogart’s transformation in The Treasure of the Sierra Madre. It starts out with wild-eyed innocence and spirals downward into a paranoid cauldron of greed, anger, and false-entitlement.

And here’s the really insidious part: Most of us never see it happening to ourselves. Inside, we still feel the same youthful joy when we ride good waves…but in order to secure this fix, on the outside we unconsciously start to act more and more like bitchy crack heads guarding a stash.

We think we’re Frodo but we’re actually Gollum.

Of course this is an exaggeration and there are thankful exceptions, but for the most part this transformation is pandemic. If you look for it, this salty, hemorrhoidal exterior is plain to see in every lineup.

We claim to feel this indescribable rapture, participate in this secret thrill, live and command life with the sport of kings—where, actually, most of us act like Barbarians: My wave, kook! Go home!

And these days, you don’t even have to go to the beach to see this ugly behavior in action. Thanks to the internet, our dark side is exposed like a festering wound for all to see. A brief look at the blogosphere comment boards on surf websites will show you an infected Petri dish of entitlement and hatred. Just stale, white-haired dog logs thrown every which way.

Even a blog with humorous intent and a tongue-in-cheek name like Waxing Gaseously is not immune. In a short span of eight short blog posts, the mean-spirited bile is splattered everywhere.

Like this bouquet of roses for Are You a Souther? from ‘Joam:’

“That was f—ing retarded, I hate you surf industry homos.”

Or a fun-filled, glowing appraisal from ‘Whamo:’

“Gilley started out like a promising writer, but he’s turned into a turd.”

Or a playful psychoanalytic study of The Young and Not-So-Brilliant from ‘Jojo:’

“Man, what made Gilley so bitter? The fact that he enjoyed a career most photographers can only imagine? Maybe he’s pissy because no one shoots film anymore? Whatever. I already find his schtick tiresome. It’s formulaic, it’s uncreative, and it’s certainly not clever enough to be funny. A column about young people being “stupid” is like an investigation of (gasp!) erectile dysfunction in middle-age men. It’s just too flaccid to be interesting. It’s also kind of sad. Rob, I know you were a young, stupid person at one time in your life. My advice to you: Go find that kid. I’d be willing to bet he’s a lot more fun than you are.”

Or an important, constructive writing lesson from ‘Nor Cal Locc:’

“Can you write something not ending in a one-liner? God that is like writing rule number 1. I won’t even lie. I’m jealous you have a writing job, when you obviously have not had an ounce of education on the subject.”

Or a loving, Waxing Gaseously blog status report from ‘Adam:’
“Jesus, these are getting worse every day…”

Or an oh-so-clever, turn-about-is-fair-play take on He’s on my Boat Trip from ‘SurfersAgainstBadBlogs:’

“Yes, Gilley’s blog is on my boat trip.”

And finally, one more helpful writing tip from ‘Nor Cal Locc:’

“Learn how to write. Kook.”

Sadly enough, Waxing Gaseously comment boards are actually tame and positive compared to many surf-related blogs. Surf websites are filled to the rafters with spewed venom (mostly from anonymous sources using clever pen names) so toxic that it would make a spitting cobra jealous.

All in the name of surfing.

So for all you experienced surfers out there, and especially for you mean-spirited blog haters, here’s my advice: Go find that wild-eyed kid again. Share a wave. Smile. Be more positive. Don’t take things so seriously. De-fang yourself. Remember what it was like when you first started surfing.

In fact, to remind yourself, go ahead and create your own formulaic blog that always ends in a one-liner.

Embrace your inner Frodo.

  • jose

    Couldn’t have said it any better

  • Brawaiian

    Man I get it… and u are right. I don’t care what peolpe think about each other… most of them are not really good in think. But u are right about how we surfers become agressive to defend “our” territory… Here in my land we have a popular kwonledge that say “Locals, the reals ones, are reefs and coconut’s trees”
    I mean, live aloha brah, surf is for everyone… you are not the best surfer in da world and even if you was Slater you don’t have the right to rules a beach, Mother’s Nature do it.
    Remember all the waves was here when we born… and they wiil stay when we die.
    So enjoy it with positive vibration.
    That’s it.
    Aloha and Axé

  • Shawn Parkin

    Right on the money, Rob!

  • a b

    this happens almost every session… well not really cause its always crowded but it dose happen, novice or not you should always find your own peak. Lead dont follow!

  • stu

    pussy. should have pop those guys in the face then got out of the water, slash their car tires and waxed the windshield

  • mike

    I think the Buddhists refer to it as a “Beginner’s Mind”.

  • Dora

    Your a kook that’s for sure. Mainly because you did not do what you should have… told these beginners that you NEVER paddle out to a peak where 1 guy sits when there are empty peaks down the beach. Now the next old crotchety guy like you who doesn’t have a guilt complex is going to pound them. You had an obligation to inform them and you failed.

  • http://n/a zeno malan

    Gilley, I’m pissed you didn’t use me as an example of one who has berated you in the past.

    Be my guest and wax nostalgic about the surfer you were in the past. What to do is move away from the easy access and stumbled on to days when you actually beat the crowd to the beach.
    Look what you’ve accomplished.
    More dawn patrollers scouting your whereabouts.

  • Eric

    I’m glad you came to this assessment at your age, most older guys I know are just salty old dogs protecting their bone. I have surfed my whole life, and at 29 I am just now realizing that putting on a smile and having a good attitude no matter what, even if four guys decide to paddle out right next to you when there is a peak 50 feet away is always a better call than steaming over it and doing something you will always regret later. Be the guy to create positive energy, not negative. If some one or other people are emitting a negative attitude then ignore it or leave. If some one is causing a dangerous situation because they don’t know how to surf, politely correct them. Don’t call them a kook and slash their tires and wax their windshield, help to make them a better and safer surfer in a positive way. Being an asshole breeds more assholes.

  • http://HolisticBamboo HoChiBonger

    Rob, Thank you for your insight. When Young=Stupid, then Old= Bitter. When Young = Curious, then Old= Wise, (or Enlightened). The inverse to this applies as well. Let us old dudes share with the young dudes and help them along. Otherwise we are doomed to a future of bitterness influencing stupidity.
    My advice to to anyone who can’t smile while,”Surfing”, Be nice or STFU!

  • http://www.abbaroo.com Lew Lamar

    Well said. I’ve seen some surfers who are such good surfers, but don’t seem to be happy. They rip it, but then make some mistake & they’re all pissed. The other day I totally blew a wave, dug my rail on a bottom turn. I was laughing at myself and a guy asked me why was I smiling. I told him I was laughing at myself & it was a beautiful day with good waves, why wouldn’t I be? He said he needed to try to be that way more often.

    BTW – Ernie says “hi” we’re surfing this week in Mexico.

  • Pete

    Well done Rob, best blog yet. I will be more cheery in the lineup. I promise.

  • jojo

    as one of the aforementioned blog haters, i, for one, want no part of the weird culture of online passive-aggression. i denounce my previous comments–well, everything except for the witty bits–and i would like to offer a kind word to mr. gilley. kudos. (that’s my kind word). i’ll also add that whenever i start to act like an a–hole in the lineup at some crappy cardiff reefbreak, i tell myself, “it looks like you’ve lost perspective, bodhi. both of your legs still work, right? you don’t live in north korea, do you? you’re pretty sure you don’t have herpes this time. pretty sure. and unlike most of the people on this planet, you have the financial ability to buy a brand new $600 surfboard, and the gift of ample free time. and you get to play in the ocean every day. with dolphins. f-ing dolphins, man! count your goddamn blessings, broseph. and just keep in mind that you have done nothing to deserve those blessings any more than the person sitting next to you.” (so good on ya, rob. the sincerity, the sarcasm, and the message were appreciated).

  • http://anonymous.com NM

    Using LOTR references to sooth the hater/geeks…clever work, Mr. Gilley. Seems to be working, until the next post (due tomorrow!).

  • http://www.surf-station.com Tom K

    Nail>>>>Head! Inspiring, post, Mr. Gilley! :)

  • Lance

    Sadly, those who have responded negatively to Rob’s “Lost Treasure” posting represent only a fraction of the universe of complete & unadulterated MORONS who think that being mean to a complete stranger, or someone less in surfing skill or knowledge, is somehow “cool” or “deserved”. Let me reiterate, the fact that they are NOT cool should be considered a massive understatement; rather, I view them to be short sighted, provincial thinking DICKS. I’ve seen/heard smatterings of “be good to all surfers” mantras over the years, but unfortunately there always seems to be one or a few surfers at the local break who continue to rule by fear and intimidation. Do I care that you might go “Pro” next year, and you need every wave you can get? You might, but no one else does, believe me!!! Try to balance two kids, a wife and a career, all while trying to continue to surf. That is enough to humble any surfer, at least the ones who end up getting the big picture – be the best person you can be to others and to yourself. Most importantly, DO NOT allow one or two pricks to ruin everyone’s time – if someone is acting the fool – call them out on it! If enough people in the lineup and in the surf community called people to task for their brutish and outwardly offensive behavior, soon enough they’d realize they can’t get away with their it. As for those who may not agree with this OBVIOUS common sense, those of us who get the big picture will continue to wait (and pray) that one day you too will figure it out. And when that happens, boy, will you feel bad for the way you used to act.

  • Garth Turner

    Quasi, defense Lancey boy, of ol’ man
    Rob or is it Robin???…

    He just got done shining his shades
    and de-salting his neo-prene girdle.

    Only 7 minutes left until you edit the
    reality you all don’t want to keep posted,
    ever hear of accepting public view, free and
    clear when you invite comments on blog
    editorials in your mag????

    Where’s you guts and acceptance of others
    opinion of this hag who was fired recently?

    At what point will Gilley or is it Gilligan
    become aware of snide, incompetent,
    bad breathed, no enhale, northern style?

    Or you guys just print his stuff because the old
    folk enjoy it.

    Robart, get some awareness from behind
    your all-lack of awareness, or maybe that just
    happens in you once a week Nancy Drew Blog-

    Was I sweet and obedient enough not to be
    deleted/censored, we who like to hang-ten,
    like unedited life – inconceivable ununderstandable
    By vast northern smudge terd…..A.K.A.,
    Fired, Devoured, Captain Roboticus…..

    Eternally yours, if you can take the heat,
    instead of hide behind the jetty at mid-night
    howl…..

  • hate river

    all your years of insight only yields a weak analogy and a comment to haters? good on them for seeing through your ‘embittered prose’ for how it really is – crappy attempts at…..i dont even know what to call it…..coming to terms…..or something.
    Hope you feel better with all the ‘positive’ comments this week Gilley.
    you still suck.

  • http://n/a zeno malan

    Gilley’s next blog -

    “My hiatus in the south west Pacific.”

    Trusted source states – “Gilley took a three wave sneaker set on the noggin and cried like a baby.
    Didn’t even bother to show up the next morning for more Chopes, backless type draining rights, claiming illness.
    Been to the dentist lately Gilley?

  • Neptune

    I’ve seen this happen to numerous friends. The older they get, the grumpier. Got to point where I won’t even surf with em. Why surf with someone if its not fun? Why surf at all if you’re not having fun? Thats why I started surfing, because it was fun. I rarely tell people I surf now just because so many surfers are complete a@#holes. It’s sad. People need to get over themselves. Respect and rules can be taught, they don’t have to be forced onto people through ill will.

    Sorry but I’d much rather have some clueless smiling idiots sharing waves than deal with grumpy yelling jerk$#@s any day.

  • SurfersAgainstBadBlogs

    Nice Mr. Gilley,
    Truthfully, your previous posts had intermittent wafts of unsettling self-righteousness akin to a toddler beauty pageant or an episode of Glenn Beck. Although it was likely employed to veil insecurities, it made many of your observations hard to swallow. Public forums are places to poke at the social fabric of our culture but only after we gut ourselves and chuckle at the stench of our innards. Continued self-reflection to the point of deprecation as illustrated in this post will ensure that your only haters will be trolls and your “gaseous waxing” will only serve to expand our consciousness.

  • SurfersAreMostlyLame

    Timely post for me, as I surfed over the weekend at a spot that by all means is no secret, but rarely sees lots of people. Sunday morning, one guy and myself out, splitting some fun peaks. Not another soul north or south for a couple miles. I nod, no reaction from him. Here we are two guys out with no one around, and the guy doesn’t even look over. Not butt-hurt about it, and not saying I need some Oprah-type conversation, but it’s just weird and comical that we are out there bobbing through swells sharing some fun waves, and the cool guy can’t manage a nod.

  • tonyard

    found you Gilley, you crustacean. was a bit crestfallen myself when I walked into the Cardiff Market center ,returning from pointswest, to find that you had cut and run once again.
    return your calls you creep
    peace, love and happiness from the land of the lotus eaters
    Tony

  • Marcus Fender

    I had to quit surfing for a few years to get that stoke back. That strong inner battle between joy and selfishness; between “defending” and “sharing”; “possessing” things which no one really has any right too. Humans, we think we “own” things. A “wave” is an intersection between time and space, I once reflected; and I expend so much mental energy to defend this abstract, my “right” to it; my fear of “losing” it. Humans; we’re all insane; those of us who glimps sanity suffer the more for it sometimes.