Neu Perspectives

Catching Waves—and Steers

Roping takes practice

What do surfing and roping have in common? In my experience, finding success in both stems from time spent “paddling out.”

While living in California, I enjoyed getting on my longboard now and again to try and catch a wave. My brother, his friends and my boyfriend (now husband), Luke, were avid surfers and could bob up onto a swell and drop into a wave with ease. I admired the heck out of their abilities. I always felt like I was working, striving and struggling, and never quite getting my timing right. My goal was to stand up on a wave without being completely spent in the attempt. But for as little as I paddled out, I just didn’t have the strength or technique to make it look as effortless as they did. I feel the same way about surfing as I do roping.

One summer, determination set in, and instead of fiddling around trying to surf and just getting thrashed in the waves, I spent time getting ready to surf. I would flop my ol’ longboard in the bay and paddle until my shoulders burned. Staring at the ocean and watched the sets come in, I learned how to read them better. I also started doing yoga for core and arm strength, as well as squats, pushups, pullups and cardio. If I wasn’t happy with my results when I was in the midst of a surfing session, then I figured I needed to spend more time getting ready. 

Roping takes practice
Just like surfing, roping takes preparation, practice and just “paddling out” and trying.
Photo by Ross Hecox

I remember getting into mid-August of the same year and surfing with that same group of guys. Under that thick wetsuit I had on, I was strong. My lungs were ready for work from all my preparation. And when that first set came through, I paddled, I glided and I caught a wave. And I did it again, elated, because preparation felt good.

I was laughing about this the other day. I’ve pretty much chalked 2020 up to be a toss-out year for goals. Between having a 3-year-old, a new baby and the coronavirus leaking into every corner of my equine (and thus, social) life, I’ve let my bridle horse get fat and my roping arm go slack. However, a friend mentioned a ranch horse competition coming up and I thought, “Ah, what the heck, I should do it.” 

It’s also a dream of mine to team rope competitively. I haven’t done much of it, and I keep waiting for everything to come together: Our pen to be finished, my horse to be finished, a window of time to magically open up to allow for practice. Yes, I realize I have to make all of these things happen (and we are getting closer), but in the meantime I need to prepare. I don’t want to get thrashed in the waves next time I get a chance to surf. 

So now, I prepare. I’m legging up my bridle horse to go have some fun and put a run or two together this fall. I’m roping my dummy every day to improve accuracy and familiarity with my rope. And I’m working out more, building core strength and getting my body stronger. I have been loping circles in our front coastal field on colts and broke horses alike with a heavy nylon head rope, just a swingin’ away. The windier it is, the better. Boy my arms ache. I’ve been coiling and uncoiling my rope, building my loop as quickly as I can, and trying to master pulling my slack as smoothly and efficiently as possible. 

A friend watched me out in the field the other morning, sort of laughing and shaking his head, as I loped and swung my loop. He asked, “What are you doing out there, ol’ girl?” 

I hollered back with a smile, “I’m just doing a little paddling!”

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