I first heard this word in my teens. I spent a lot of time on a skateboard (which never paid off nearly as much as it should have for the amount of time spent on that thing…) and it was a word that was tossed around to add color and flair to the skateboard mystique. Note that I grew up in the Northeast, so the skateboard mystique was all about watching “Gleaming the Cube” with Christian Slater and wishing that kick-flips were easier that they really are…
My point is that I never really knew what the word was all about until I began to surf in Southern California. I bought a board less that 24 hours of living in the state. I was surfing 3-4 times a week. Having never surfed before, it took me about 4 months to get the hang of popping up (a must for all you new surfers out there) and timing your waves. But one day it just happened. Let me set the stage:
Summer. Long, slow rolling waves coming in from the southwest and west, making the swell around La Jolla as tasty as boiled crab and cold beer on a humid summer evening. My surf skills were still minimally functional and not at all fluid or consistent. But my persistence made up for my lack of skills and I was out in head-high surf just the same. My session was a flop and I was catching nothing of importance. But the planets, the ocean, my body and board suddenly aligned for one wave and I popped. I stood. I caught a wave. I shot down it (not in towards shore as most beginners do) at a speed I’d never achieved before. I could reach out with my hand and touch the smooth water surface as the wave continued to curl and unfurl before me. I could hear the roar of the wave as it crashed behind me but never caught me — I had this wave perfect. And that is when I realized the true meaning of the word ‘stoked’.
I catch waves like this alot now — a year later. But the feeling never goes. Stoked man, stoked. You dig?