About five years ago I moved to Bend, Oregon. I only lasted about six months. Too far away from the ocean. But my arrival coincided with the debut of Bend’s Whitewater Park, a standing wave created by the Deschutes River and some clever engineering.

I leaned into the novelty. It was nothing like surfing in the ocean, and I was terrible at it, but omg was it fun. I’d go down a few times a week to flail, spin out, wipeout, laugh, swim, do it again. Every once in a while I’d get a good ride, a reward that was enough to lure me back over and over again. This was the pure joy of being a beginner.

Here in Portugal, I’ve been witnessing that joy on a near daily basis, with surf newbs from around the world surfing their brains out and having the time of their lives on waves that, on a scale of 1-10, I’d consider a 3.

For me it takes incredible waves — which I get maybe 20-30 days a year — to feel the same excitement they get in 1-foot slop. It’s like I’ve become addicted to the drug of surfing, and have developed an unhealthy tolerance level. It takes a lot to get me stoned these days.

But the beauty of being around so many lightweights? Their unbridled smiles after a good ride, I have to admit, gives me a bit of a contact high.