I read an article today from Surfer magazine’s website that speculated on Mark Occhilupo’s return to full competition. At first I felt a mixture of bemusement and admiration for this fella’s desire to compete at the highest level at the age of 46. Bemusement because, well he’s over the hill is n’t he? He cannot hope to out spin the current crop of pro surfers, can he? Admiration because he is a superlative surfer and has already made a comeback from competitive burn out. Who would bet against him?
More prosaically I met a friend last week at a Braunton petrol station, post surf. We kicked the proverbial tyres whilst discussing the parlous lack of swell over the last 7 months, and then moved onto the current conditions and then my friend; a keen cyclist recounted a recent tale concerning a time trial he did with a mate. He told me, with a degree of justifiable pride, that they had cycled 42 miles up hill and down dale at an average speed of 18.6 mph. Knowing a little of the effort involved in cycling the hills in this part of the world , I did not hesitate in conveying my wonder and approval for this feat. He then asked if I was cycling much at the moment and I had to admit that I only get out on my mountain bike due mainly to my lack of motivation for road cycling. At this juncture there was a slight pause in the conversation. Our minds were working in parallel, we both started to laugh at the absurdity of men past their prime pushing themselves to the brink of their physical powers. Cycling is huge at the present; there are serious minded men, even as I write, spending hours on treadmills and cycling hundreds of miles every week. Why the hell do they do it? There are no places on ‘Le Tour’ for them and no Olympic medals (Mr Hoy excepting: Ed). We parted without having come to a conclusion.
I finished the ‘Awesome Shoreham’ post by promising the world I would rediscover my ability to huck some airs. Have I gone mad? Should n’t I know better? Could I hurt myself? Probably, affirmative to all three questions. The thing is there is something that is driving this behavior, and probably that of the legion of middle aged cyclists and that of Mr Occhilupo’s.
So what is this force? Well there are in fact many of them but for the sake of this discourse there are two. The first that inevitably comes to mind is bravado. The formula goes something like …
1=middle aged man
T=threats to masculinity from modern life
Y=years of lost yoof
B=1/P x T^Y