August 10, 2008

Go and Do: Bodysurfing

By Mark LaFlamme

Just look at you. You've got the bleach blonde locks. You've got the neck beads and zinc oxide baked on your beak. You've seen "Point Break" a dozen times and can recite all of Bodhi's lines. You surfer stud, you.

What you don't have is a surfboard or waves on which to ride it. Because, though there is a surfer in your soul, you live in Maine, where ankle-slapping waves are barely enough to rile clams.

Buck up, Spicoli. If you want to ride some bitchin foamies, forget about Old Orchard Beach. Old Orchard is for hooking up, drinking and throwing up on the Pirate Ship. If you really want to carve it up, head to Scarborough Beach State Park.

Old Orchard. Bah!

"When they have five foot waves, we have ten footers," says Greg Wilfert, manager of the park. "They just don't get them like we do."

It comes down to geography. Scarborough is on open ocean. It is very deep far out, but becomes drastically shallow close to shore. The result: giant waves that will crash down upon you and rattle your world like it deserves to be rattled.

But don't take Wilfert's word for it, take mine. When I first heard about this magical place of mammoth breakers, I scoffed. Threw my head right back and laughed. Because this is Cumberland County, for Chrissakes, not Bells Beach.

So, I went out with my banana hammock and took a look around. The waves were impressive, all right, rising high and breaking with ferocity. There were people out there on by-God surfboards and they were getting time on the barrels.

I waded out, adjusted to the shrinking body parts, and within minutes I was upside down, turned around, thrashed, pummeled, chewed up and spit out by waves bigger and meaner than I'd ever seen up here.

Brother, I was in the water for three hours and I was chum by the time I came out. And I only came out long enough to get my boogie board so I might ride on top of the crests for a while rather than roil within them.

I should explain a little about technique. If you want to be all majestic and ride trauma-free with the wave, you can do it. It's all about timing. Catch the wave before it breaks completely and you will be lifted up to join in its glorious journey to the sand.

If you're like me and you like it rough, adjust your timing so that the wave breaks on top of you, instead. Welcome to the impact zone, an altogether different kind of thrill. For 10 seconds, you will feel like a bit of food being gargled in a giant's mouth. Or like lady Sumo wrestlers are having their way with you and there's nothing gentle about their play.

I don't mean to scare you with this talk of chum and scary women. The beach itself is very safe and you will find as many kids in the water as you will grown-up dorks like me.

"Our lifeguard staff is very experienced," Wilfert said. "Families feel real comfortable here."

So will your delicate parts, which typically turn blue in the ocean. The water at Scarborough Beach tends to be 70 degrees all summer in the surf zone.

It's vital to check the tide charts before you head there. Arrive two or three hours before official high tide and you'll have a rough and tumble afternoon.

Position yourself next to someone who looks like they might lose their top in the next big wave if you're looking for a cheap thrill.

Tie the drawstring on your bathing suit real tight before you go out so you're not the one providing cheap thrills.

There's a strong riptide on occasion at this beach. Swim parallel to shore to outwit it. Don't make the lifeguard come out after you.

If you get a boogie board, get one that has a leash you can strap to your wrist. The good boogie boards don't have pictures of sharks on them.

For some really choka surfer terms, see

Keep your mouth closed when you catch a wave, even if you were in the middle of a pick-up line. Don't swallow the chowder.

These are just some general tips, kook. Are you writing them down?

Scarborough Beach is where Maine surfers go. It's the only place in the greater Portland area where they can get their boards on the water during daylight.

They are required to hold season passes to the beach and to stay in the area of the white buoy. They generally keep to themselves and provide hours of entertainment while you're recovering on the beach.

You won't feel inadequate out there, even if you are presently riding on a Pink Panther boogie board. Because most of the people in the water will be just like you - rookies eating more salt water than a barnacle.

To get to Scarborough Beach, just head up Route 1 into Scarborough and bang a left or right at Amato's (depending on which way you're coming) onto Route 207, Blackpoint Road. Roughly 2.5 miles down there is the park and 500 parking spots waiting to receive your Pinto, though on hot weekend days, competition for parking is as fierce as the mall on Christmas Eve.

I'll see you out there, Johnny Utah. One hundred percent pure adrenaline.

Please let me know if you find my shorts.

Originally published by Staff Writer.

(c) 2008 Sun-Journal Lewiston, Me.. Provided by ProQuest Information and Learning. All rights Reserved.