Most of us can agree that riding the barrel is the pinnacle of the surfing experience. In fact, many might argue that it’s the best thing in life altogether. But for how much attention we give to the act, we don’t often stop to think about all that goes into getting barrelled. In reality, it’s the ultimate exercise in self-placement.
First, you have to be in the right place geographically. You have to be on the right coastline, at the right time, when the swell, wind, and tide are all perfect. And you have to choose the right surf spot—in this case, a secluded strip of sand somewhere in the desert.
Then, you have to be at the right place in the lineup—which, when it comes to tuberiding, usually means the most critical section of the wave. This becomes even more difficult when surfing over sand, as shifting peaks make being in the right spot as much about luck as it is about learning. And you have to be in the right place in the pecking order, otherwise you won’t have an opportunity when the perfect wave finally comes.
Of course, you also have to choose the right wave, which isn’t always as simple as it sounds. It is far too easy to froth out on the first wave of a set, only to kick out of a fun-but-not-overwhelming ride only to watch the next wave drain off and spit in your face. And even if you do choose the right one, you still have to make it, which requires being in the right headspace.
If you are too distracted, you won’t make the drop. If you are too timid, you won’t pull in. If you are too greedy, you won’t come out. If you are too deep, you will get gobbled by the foamball, and if you aren’t deep enough, you’ll have to settle for a pocket ride.
If you think about it, there’s a lot that can go wrong for the would-be barrel rider—far more than cactus-flatted tires and federale shakedowns. But if you do everything right, in the right place and at the right time, you might just find yourself locked into a life-changer. And maybe that’s why getting barrelled feels so good. For a few brief seconds, it doesn’t matter where you came from in life, or where you are going—in that moment, you are right where you’re supposed to be.