Part II: Before the ride stoke

It’s 9:38 you’re cruising down the highway on your way to the lake, you’re watching every tree, every flag, every smokestack.  There is something inside you that longs for the session to be.  Is it anticipation?  I’m not sure.  I think there is something more to it.  Is it a conditioned response not dissimilar to Pavlov’s dogs drooling as soon as they hear the creak of the door opening.  Again I think this over simplifies it.  All I know is I feel euphoric.  I usually have broke into song, or am singing along with something on the radio, most likely sounding hideous, but not caring.  My poor dash gets banged on in my really really bad, but totally cathardic, drum solo.

Even though I may be checking out the flags along the way, I am not focusing on the details of the session.  Maybe I’m engergized by the recently found freedom.  I am breaking out of my usual schedule…my usual day, and going to play.  There may be something to that,  then again, the feeling is the same on weekends, which might suggest otherwise

The one thing we all know all too well is that there is considerable uncertainty in each session.  The wind may or may not show up, even with the best forecasts.  The water may or may not create clean swells, the wind may or may not be gusty.  The sun may or may not be out.  I think this uncertainty is part of the reason we all are so drawn to windsports.  It’s a bit like the draw, back to the table, for the gambler.  The next game, the next session, may be the most epic session ever…maybe.  Since the uncertainty is fairly high, this might suggest that the stoke we feel with the approach of a session is not the result of anticipation.

an·tic·i·pa·tion (anˌtisəˈpāSHən) noun

1. the action of anticipating something; expectation or prediction.

“her eyes sparkled with anticipation”

Ok so maybe then it is a learned response.  Almost every day at the lake, whether we ride or not, are good days.  Hanging with friends, maybe riding, maybe getting a sunset session, maybe boosting to the moon…any or all of the above is really good.  Maybe, like the sound of the door opening for Pavlov’s dogs, the sight of wind in the trees, or all the stimuli that go into the drive to the lake, trigger an unconcious, reaction…stoke.  Possibly.  If that were the case, in theory, those who are new to the sport may not have established this conditioning and thus not respond in the same way.  Talk to any new rider though and that just isn’t the case.  Is the excitement the same or some other form of rookie stoke?  Who knows.

I’d like to suggest that maybe this Before-the-ride stoke is in part due to the stimulating of gratitude in each of, conciously or not.  When our schedules open up, when the winds come up, when the kids don’t need us to drive us somewhere, when there is an opening in our life for us to go out and play…it is truly a gift.  The gift isn’t the session alone. It’s that our lives are unfolding in a way that allows this experience in our lives.  It’s a bit like a sunrise; full of hope, a sense of a beginning, a rewarding sense of uncertainty about what is to unfold.

Happy, thank you, more please.

About the author


Tighe Belden has been riding the wind for over 30 years. He has been active in the windsport community for over 3 decades, as an instructor, event coordinator, creator of Lakawa and now End of Session, and stokes people on the latest gear as a Tech Ambassador for Slingshot Sports.