Actually, I think he's wrong, what I wrote isn't most intriguing example of surfing I've ever read (or written), and I'm pretty sure that without actually surfing, his wife doesn't really get it, but I thought I'd post one of the surfing excerpts here (there are several in the book, most more uplifting):
From The Silicon Lathe:
Surfing is not what most people think it is. Films and popular culture have presented it as either Beach Blanket Bingo-like parties on the beach with everyone sharing waves, surf odysseys where you meet friendly people around the world as you search for the perfect wave, or hard core life-threatening big wave surfing, where one mistake means certain death.
In reality, surfing is much less romantic.
First and foremost, it is the hardest sport I’ve ever tried. You’re skiing intermediate and advanced slopes after a week or two of trying. You can be soaring a hang glider within a couple of months of your first run down a sand dune. You can be paddling intermediate Class 3 whitewater after several days on a river. But with surfing, after two or three years of practicing every day, you might be an intermediate level surfer.
Part of this is strength, conditioning, teaching your body to do something unnatural, learning the timing of the breaking waves and understanding the differences between waves on a beach break, reef breaks, and points. You also need to know about tide changes, rip tides, wind forecasts, storm and swell prediction, and even water pollution levels which rise on the season’s first big swell or first major rain, both of which wash decaying matter from the hillsides and beaches into the ocean. I’ve already mentioned sharks. But more than that, it’s cutthroat competition. There are tens of thousands of surfers and they all expect to catch every wave that rolls in.
Most surf spots have locals. These are the surfers who surf there every day. Take a wave that ‘belonged’ to a local, and you will be physically attacked by his friends when you get out of the water. Your car will be vandalized; your girlfriend threatened.
Even when you’re a local, there are often so many people in the water that you’ll be lucky to get more than five waves in an hour. With fifty-degree water and wind, even with your wetsuit, you get out of the water so cold that you can’t put your fingers together. You might even have to ask a stranger to open the door to your car because you can’t grip and turn the key yourself. And then there are the bad days.
You paddle out, almost reaching the lineup – the place just outside the breaking waves where you wait to catch the oncoming swells, and a much larger than normal set of waves approaches. You use all your strength to try to paddle over the wave, but it breaks on top of you. You think this is okay because you and your board have punched through the wall of the wave and you are in the sunlight beyond. Unfortunately, the force of the wave and the vacuum created as it tubes and barrels towards the beach grabs hold of your feet which are not all the way through. The wave sucks you back into the hollowed hole from the collapsing tube and you are rolled over and over for what seems like minutes, even though it is only twenty or thirty seconds. You finally get free of the wave’s clutches and float to the surface. You quickly grab a breath as the next wave in the set breaks right in front of you. You attempt to duck dive, to force you and your buoyant board deep under the oncoming wave, but when it’s big, you can’t get down deep enough. The wave grabs you and your board and hurls you shoreward in a mass of churning whitewater. You’re thrown upside down, sideways, in circles, sometimes bouncing off the bottom, stuffing your sinuses with water that will flow freely from your nose later in the day when you bend over to kiss someone. When you finally escape this wave, there are more. You may successfully duck dive, but with each successive wave, you lose more ground; you’re almost back to the beach.
On a bad day, it’s all about luck and timing. You try to paddle out again, and just as you reach the lineup, you repeat the experience. After several times, you’re exhausted. Shoulders ache. Arms refuse to move. As you try to get speed to paddle over the next set, you’re too weak and it just gets worse and worse. In spite of all the energy expended, you’re now cold. You’ve spent more time below the water than above it and the wetsuit doesn’t help much. Tired and cold, if you’re a real surfer, you don’t give up. Ultimately, you luck out, there’s a longer lull than normal and you make it out to a chorus of, “Man, you really got worked in there!” And now you face the competition for waves.
Maybe you get lucky. Maybe your friends feel sorry for you and let you have one of the best waves of the day. You drop to the bottom of the overhead wave and look upwards. You aim your board at the feathering lip and feel the acceleration of you and your board as you rise upwards to meet it. With perfect timing, your board and the wave meet and the falling water forces you back to the bottom. You repeat this over and over. It’s a dance. You’re in perfect harmony. You look down the line of the wave and you see a concave section ahead. It’s already starting to pitch over. You have a choice. You could turn down and safely end your ride as the rest of the wave closes out ahead. Instead, you go for it, crouching, then extending your body forward to add speed. As you reach the edge of the concavity, you squat low and sure enough, you’re inside the wave with small window of light out ahead. You hold on and pop out a few seconds later to imagined cheers from the beach. Of course, no one saw it. The guys in the lineup can’t see the front of the wave and are looking at the next ones in the set anyway. It’s yours and only yours, and somehow even for just one perfect wave, the struggle and fatigue and stuffed sinuses were worth it.