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“Paddling Out to a New Mat”

"He grabs his board and paddles back out.

He and the local exchange words...I’m thinking to myself,

‘You picked the wrong battle.’.."

The afternoon sky is showing off. The waves are glassy and peeling out of the southwest at shoulder-to-head high. They suck off the exposed reef, which causes a nice hollow wave. I was told I lucked out getting surf this good in the Gili Islands.

I sit on the outside and enjoy watching the locals getting stoked after every barrel or aerial they pulled off. I let the locals catch as many waves as they like, as this is “their house”.

Just then, I see a wave coming my way. I paddle and drop into a bottom turn. I do a few turns and kick out before the wave closed-out on me. The locals hoot and holler in excitement. Adrenaline starts pumping through my veins. I feel like I’ve been accepted into the pack.

I notice a new face in the lineup while paddling back out. Another foreigner. I’m not surprised. This part of Indonesia is full of foreigners.

I see the next round of sets coming. The long blond-haired foreigner starts to paddle. The locals are stroke-for-stroke with him, but he beats them in the paddle battle and takes off on the wave. The energy in the water has shifted.

Again, the foreigner takes another wave, and then another. The pack has noticed.

I hear Sasak being spoken. I sit on the outside and watch.

Again, it’s a paddle battle. The foreigner and a local Balinese take off on the same wave.

The foreigner is in front and the local is behind. The wave is now cresting, creating a barrel. The local turns hard to the right, diving into the wave; he catches the back of the foreigner’s left heel with his arm.

The foreigner eats shit and tumbles like a rag doll.

Damn...’ is all I remember hearing mumbled.

The foreigner’s head pops up like a sea turtle getting air. He grabs his board and paddles back out.

He and the local exchange words. Then the pack paddles over. I’m thinking to myself, ‘You picked the wrong battle.’

After more words and some splashing, the foreigner decides enough is enough and paddles back in.

Whenever I go to a new surf spot, my number one rule is to respect the locals. The same applies when visiting a gym.

The mat is their piece of the ocean. I don’t “paddle out” on the mat and try to challenge every roll as if it’s a gold medal match. This is their house, and I must respect it in order to be accepted into their pack.

Or the enforcer will step up.

When visiting, I keep it fun. I like to let my new friends put me in a bad position and try to figure out the new puzzle. Usually, the higher-ranking grapplers notice my tactic and invite me to go harder with them, and it’s a fun roll from there.

Visiting a new gym can be intimidating at first. The faces are new, and you don’t know how you’ll be accepted. Try my outlook and you’ll be fine. Respect the locals, and they’ll share their waves.

Read more from Issue 3 by CLICKING HERE