Should You Listen to Music in the Lineup?

Jake Tellkamp

by on

Updated 122d ago

Cover shot, Malia Ward gets her music fix, by Jacqueline Miller

I was sitting in the line up at Lower Trestles last summer when the voice of Beyonce floated into my ears.

Behind me sat Malia Ward. She had pulled out a waterproof iPod shuffle from inside her wetsuit and passed the lull scrolling through her playlist. 

A set approached, she stashed her thumb-sized device and then danced down the line, grooving to a tune only she could hear. I thought ehhhhh, won’t catch on. The idea of surfing with earbuds didn’t sing to me.

Malia Ward's a fan and the muse who sparked all this.

Malia Ward's a fan and the muse who sparked all this.

© 2017 - Jacqueline Miller

First off, surfing isn’t like running mindlessly on a treadmill. It requires keen focus to the ocean’s ever changing rhythm and beat. Secondly, surfers rely on “Oi, hey, yew, got it, mine”- and other audible signals to avoid potential collisions.

If headphone usage became common practice, there’d be even more collisions on a crowded weekend. Look at our cousins in skate and snow however and you’ll find that headphones are a common accessory. Are they on to something? Physical activity to music has physiological and psychological effects. 

The Scientific American reports: “Music distracts people from pain and fatigue, elevates mood, increases endurance, reduces perceived effort and may even promote metabolic efficiency. When listening to music, people run farther, bike longer and swim faster than usual often without realizing it. When listening to music, people run farther, bike longer and swim faster than usual often without realizing it In a 2012 review of the research, Costas Karageorghis of Brunel University in London, one of the world's leading experts on the psychology of exercise music, wrote that one could think of music as "a type of legal performance-enhancing drug''

But for every runner that swears by laps around the neighborhood to the 8 Mile soundtrack, there’s the person behind the wheel who just almost ran him over. Still, I thought, could it be that surfing to music would make me better? I mean, it worked when I skated down the street. Rock n roll seemed to always embolden me and improve my mood. Would I take more risks and be happier surfing with headphones? Fortunately, I’d find the answer. 

Much to my surprise, my girlfriend gifted me a waterproof iPod Shuffle and headphones for Valentine’s day. She thought the idea of listening to music while surfing sounded fun and would make for an interesting article. 

Once the feeling of guilt subsided that I only bought her orchids and chocolate, which she totally loved might I add,  I plugged the device into the side of my computer and pirated a soundtrack to suit the mood the following afternoon.

Kept it mostly Hendrix, Zepplin, and Nirvanna heavy with a few Goons Of Doom tracks to ollie and chop hop too. The following day, I got off work and didn’t even check Ocean Beach before paddling out. I got suited and booted in a hooded 4/3.

I jammed the earbuds in deep and tucked the device where my suit’s chest zipper was. The cord was much shorter than normal headphones and didn’t feel strange at all. I ran across the Great Highway to Ozzy Wright playing ukelele and raced into the water alone on my 5’11. I duck dove and smiled underwater hearing music for the first time in the oceanThere was three hours before dark, it was a foot overhead and I had it all to myself. I duck dove and smiled underwater hearing music for the first time in the ocean. I paddled hard to Sympathy for the Devil and made it out the back when White Rabbit by Jefferson Airplane came on and shit got scary.

White Rabbit had never sounded creepy to me before but as a bomb loomed on the horizon that I knew I was going to wear on the head,  the song became terrifying.

The first wave landed just in front of me and I dove for the bottom. The earbuds held intact thanks to my hood as I was a rag dolled in the washing machine.

© 2017 - Jacqueline Miller

Fortunately, the set subsided and the song changed to Hey Joe by Jimi Hendrix and all of a sudden I felt like I was surfing in an old Lost … movie. With no one in ear shot, I sang to Hendrix above, who smiled on my rendition with an A-frame from heaven. 

As Jimi wailed on his guitar, I dropped into a a wave under-gunned. Going too fast to do a turn, I high lined and ran for the shoulder where I was met with a glorious section bending right towards me.

Normally, I’d fear for my ankles but the song had me feeling high so I went there with Jimi’s guitar. I ooped to the crescendo and for the third time in my life, I rode away from the manoeuvre clean.

After a few hours, I realized that the music had drowned out feelings of fatigue. I was paddling faster, surfing more aggressively, and having the most fun I’ve had in years. 
I’d be lying if I didn’t add I missed a ton of waves adjusting volume and skipping songs. But also at no point did I fear that I would lose the device either as it was tucked snugly inside my wetsuit.

Surfing to music was very much a treat. Normally, I feel a little uneasy surfing in the red triangle by myself but with music in my head instead of my own paranoid thoughts,  I  didn’t mind at all.

Eventually, I drifted to a peak occupied by another. I’ve made some of my best friends in life on similar encounters but I paid the fellow surfer no attention. He may of said “hi” but I’ll never know. Sublime was playing a concert between my ears and I wasn’t about to stop listening for small talk about the conditions.