512 Words

All the Best Surfers

M. Stanley Bubien

It was a summer day in the early 1980s when my buddy Al handed me the surfboard wax and said, "here, put this on your feet."

"Right," I laughed.

"No, man. I'm serious. Wax your feet."

Al's sense of humor was really dry, and sometimes it was impossible to tell when he was joking. Like the night he convinced sixteen-year-old me I looked twenty-one and insisted I go into a liquor store to buy beer.

"You have ID?" the store owner glared as I set the alcohol on the counter.

"Uh, I must've left it in the car."

"Well," he pushed the six-pack toward me, "why don't you put this back in the freezer."

Al laughed for five minutes after I walked out glowing cherry red.

Needless to say, I remained skeptical about this wax deal. "It's for your board. Not your feet."

"Yeah. But look, it removes all the grease and stuff so you get better traction."

I kept quiet.

"I can't believe you don't believe me!" He grabbed the wax, dropped butt-first onto the cement, and began rubbing it against his heel. "All the best surfers are doing this. I heard about it at a contest. It works---but you don't trust me."

"I trust you," I replied. "Just not right now."

"Whatever, man. You'll see, though."

What happened next was so perfect, I still wonder if Al somehow planned it.

Marching onto the beach with board under arm, I was momentarily transfixed by the medium-sized waves breaking against the outer reef. As I planned the best passage through the whitewater, Al elbowed me. I followed his nod toward a pair of surfers seated on the sand.

They were a couple of Filipino guys, which was unusual in North County---most surfers up here were as white as Wonder Bread---and they had these tiny five-foot boards with two fins---the trendy thing before three became the mainstay of surfboard design. At first, I wondered what Al was pointing out, the Filipinos or their awesome boards. Suddenly, I did a double-take. Sure enough, they were rubbing wax against the bottoms of their feet!

I shook my head and Al grinned ear-to-ear, an expression which grew even wider when we saw the Filipinos surf. Spray flew over the backs of waves as they carved their turns, flawlessly completing sets of 360s---also trendy back then, but these guys pulled them like full-on pros.

After one of them ripped an off-the-lip and soaked us with spray, Al could contain himself no longer. "Told you!" he boasted with a chuckle.

"Okay, you win," I grimaced.

Yeah, Al may have been right---but I'm stubborn. Even after that experience, I still never rubbed surf wax on my feet---and in the fifteen years since, I've never caught anyone else doing it either!

Because of this, I feel like I deserve the last laugh. But one thing keeps me silent: maybe those are the only guys I know of who waxed their feet, but to this day, they're also the absolute best surfers I've ever seen.

Copyright ©1998 M. Stanley Bubien. All Rights Reserved.

Please contact the editor for free text versions of this very short story formatted for e-mail, usenet news, or ftp.

Story Bytes


August, 1998
Issue #28

512 Words