Golden Water Time Rule

surf trip surfing Feb 16, 2021

My friends and I developed a Golden Water Time Rule when we first started surfing.  It wasn’t formally discussed, or written down, but this simple golden rule of ours kept us happy and would guarantee we would get in the water each and every time we went to the beach

I grew up about 35 minutes away from the closest beach, an hour away from the closest beginner break, and when I started surfing, I was too young to drive.  At one point, I created a foamboard presentation (that’s what we used before computers) attempting to convince my mother why it was in her best interest to drive me and my friends to the beach.  “You’d get a lot of reading time in, without interruption.” “Sun and relaxing!” (That one was a bit of a stretch in Northern California as the coastline is notoriously cold and overcast).  “We’ll even pay for gas.” (another stretch – I’m not entirely sure we had enough money to do that).

It worked once. 

But between the three of us, we were able to get a few rides in from our parents, and even a few rides in from other friends’ parents.  Not sure how we pulled that off. 

We had a general rule.  No matter what the ocean looked like, we were getting in the water. 

That rule isn’t so uncommon.  But it morphed into the Golden Water Time Rule that I stand by today.

Here it is:

“You MUST, without fail, be in the water longer than the total travel time to get to your surf spot.”

Read it again for effect. 

Seems pretty simple.  But I can’t tell you how many people I know who blatantly disregard this golden rule.  They pull up to the beach, it’s not quite what they expected, then they turn around and head home.  

This kind of behavior is easy when you have a sub-15 minute travel time each way.  It’s a lot tougher on the psyche when your travel time gets up there. 

Check out this chart to illustrate the Golden Water Time Rule:

I included up to 2.5 hours travel time because we would sometimes drive that far to get surf (and still do).  But we always, without fail, surf for just over 5 hours total to justify the travel. 

See, simple. 

But here’s where it gets really useful: Surf Trips. 

How to justify Surf Trips, how many days to surf, how far would you go?  This Golden Rule is perfect for this.  Keep in mind, you need to calculate total travel time, not just the flight.  But the entire door to surf break time – buses, rideshares, airport down time, plane flight, layovers, hotels, ground/boat transport, everything – until you hit the water. 

As you can see, multiple days of surfing will need to occur just to hit the minimum water time required.  For strike missions like the first two, we’re talking 2-5 days minimum to spread out your water time and make sure you don’t burn yourself out.  For trips farther away, we’re talking a minimum of 1-2 weeks

Using this Golden Water Time Rule, you’ll get in the water, and stay in more often than you would normally

And the best part is that it will force you to get creative.  Notice I state the rule is “Water Time”.  That doesn’t mean surf time specifically.  Any water activity – maybe you decide to get some fitness in and just swim.  Or you could dive.  Or best of all, find alternative craft to ride, even if the waves are terrible. 

Bottom line, spend more time in the water, and find new ways to enjoy that water time.  It will change your mind’s calculation on whether or not a session was “worth it”, because as long as you hit your minimum water time requirement, it will be!  Change the paradigm in your head that every surf needs to be perfect.  Get that out of your head because if you don’t, you’ll always be disappointed. 

Keep in mind that once you change the expectations in your head, you can still travel to the beach and surf less than the Golden Water Time Rule states.  I do that all the time now.  But I always get in the water. 

I don’t want you avoiding a surf if your schedule dictates that you only have a small window of time to do it.  All the Golden Water Time Rule does is get you in the mindset of always getting in the water, no matter what! 

Change your point of view.  Change your expectations.  And always get in the water.

Until we speak again, I’ll see you in the water (Guaranteed!). 

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