by Diane Buccheri

Through the years I’ve come to know more and more dudes. Even been called dude. When I corrected the dudes that I was no dude, I was politely called Dudette.

New Yorker to Californian
It all began when I went, white as a ghost from dancing my days away inside New York City ballet studios, to the golden state of California. Attending college there, in the southern half of the state, lots of strange looking “dudes” lived in the dormitory.

Besides the ever dark golden tans (no sunburn because they are always in the sun), I first noticed the thong flip-flops they wore – all year ’round. Next, the handmade jute “necklaces” and “bracelets” (keep in mind that I had just come from dancing with men in tights and ballet slippers). The straggly, dried-out, usually light colored hair came next. Long shorts, made for water and land wear, and, if possible, no shirt. But in California, if the dudes wore shirts, it was a Hawaiian style multi-colored, buttoned, aloha one.

Their Language
Oh yes – the lingo. Still can’t repeat it quite right after all these fifteen years of exposure. The word dude is often repeated unnecessarily. (Nobody has a real name, I guess, or they relinquish it when they enter dude-ism. Are they ashamed of their parents’ contriteness?) “Rad” is another big and un-fad-ish expression.

Smokin’, curlin’, tumbled, thrashed, worked, fried, rashed, cookin’, eatin’, slashin’, wrappin’, pealin’ big, are just a few words used to describe their fun.

If you try to have a regular, normal conversation, forget it. You will be lost and so will they, if they are hard core. If they are so-so, then you can probably converse but then they are not real dudes.

Their Appearance
If they don’t wear rashguards, they have terrible chest rashes until their chest skin roughens up (maybe they have been wearing wetsuits and their chests got soft). Usually, their chests are hairless – all the hairs having been ripped off or worn off with friction.

Oh, my.

Salt covers their skin and their hair is brittle-y from it. Even eyelashes can look white – they are so salted. Often, their eyes are bright red. And dudes have callused feet with soles so thick they don’t need to wear flip-flops except health standards make them.

Their Preparation
I saw them carrying their boards into the dorm at 7:45 a.m. as I was leaving for classes. Evidently, they had been at the beach since dawn ridin’ the waves. Cool . . . way . . . dude.

In class they sat way sprawled out and usually looked as if they were way off someplace else. Surfin’ still? Dreamin’ of it? Or so tired from getting up so early and facing walls of surf and getting wicked exhilarating rides, maybe even wrestling a shark or two . . . (!)

Their Size
The majority of dudes are not really big. Too much height and weight makes it difficult to float and balance on the six foot long boards they commonly ride in the more popularly sought after big waves. In the sixties when surfing began, boards were longer – up to ten feet in length – and wider. As surfers got more proficient and could ride bigger waves and do fancier tricks, shorter, narrower boards allowed them more efficient maneuvering but less buoyancy.

Despite their skinnyish bodies, dudes have big, broad, tanned muscled shoulders from all the paddling to get away from the shore and then to pick up speed before standing up to ride a wave. They know where the waves are good each day and all crowd in the same “best” spot to get their free ride. Sometimes they crash and really hurt each other or just swear their dude swears.

The only thing I will say about the wetsuits is this. I windsurf. The wetsuits for windsurfing are different from surfing wetsuits. One day I was enjoying a fabulous session on the water with my board and sail. To take a break, I walked from the windsurfing section of the shore to the adjacent surfing section (underwritten rule: Neither side crosses over) in my wetsuit to watch the surfers.

Two dudes looked over at me and one said to the other, “Sure are some weird-ass lookin’ dudes around here.” My hair was wet and my feet were bare, like them. All I can think of is, it must have been the wetsuit they were referring to. Two slightly different but related species, I suppose.

Island of Dudes and Locals
Now I live on an island filled with rad dudes. Still can’t speak their language but I understand what they are saying. There are young surf dudes, kid surf dudes, old surf dudes. In fact, right here live some champion surf dudes! The ESA (East Coast Surf Association) Championships are held on this island of big waves regularly. Dudes (and the expression includes Dudettes) come from all over the country, including Hawaii and Puerto Rico, to compete against similar dudes in the famous waves of Cape Hatteras Island. The competitors range in age from five to the endless summer age and can include complete surf dude families. Besides finding out who is best, they find out who can party the best on the sand in the dark by the bonfire.

There are so many dudes here that most men go bare chested when it’s warm and no one needs to wear shoes, anywhere. The wild, scraggly hair look is normal. Dudes listen to the weather radio report given daily and updated every few hours by NOAA, the National Oceanographic Atmospheric Administration, for the wave heights – both the actual present heights and the near future heights. They pray for big storms at sea and those eroding coastlines are especially promising. A lot of them hold jobs at surf shops and if they don’t, then I don’t know what they do.

Apart from the dudes here, are the island locals, who are for the most part, fishermen. They have made their living and fed their families while experiencing the fearsome awesomeness of the sea. To them, the sea is not for fun. And they work hard and experience unshare-able hardships. Their lives are not soft nor are their families! Surf dudes are fools in their eyes.

Dudes don’t work much because then they couldn’t surf much. And when they work, they are probably tired. They live for the waves and don’t need much else, just a pair of shorts, a board, sex wax ($1.00 to give the board more grip for their feet). And maybe a few peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.

It’s all a matter of lifestyle.

Dude, rad . . . catchin’ ‘m . . . you shudd’a seen . . . dude . . .

One more thing – do not mention surfing the web to a dude. You will be snickered at, badly.