12 June, 2014 12 June, 2014

Cat Poo and Surfing – by Adam Laister

Does cat poo make you charge harder? In this entry into our Write to Surf competition, which has some epic prizes up for grabs (see below for details), Adam Laister ponders exactly this…


“Inspiration can come from anywhere, anytime.”
The inspiration for this came from reading Dan Corden’s “Surf by Faith” article.


CAT POO AND SURFING – by: Adam Laister

Most surfers out there will probably agree, that the more time they spend standing up on a wave, the more they will enjoy their session. That’s simple logic, practice makes perfect right? But then, is there such a thing as a perfect wave? Every wave is different, and every surfer will ride it differently. But that’s the magic about surfing, which no other sport really has.

When it comes to board sports, I have tried my fair share, snowboarding, skateboarding, kitesurfing, wakeboarding, you name it. If it’s fun and involves danger then I’ll probably have tried it, or at least want to but haven’t had the opportunity.

Strangely enough my story starts with the faeces of a feline. I know you’re probably wondering what surfing has to do with cat poop, but bear with me. Let me tell you about a protozoan called Toxoplasma gondii. These little single celled organisms have evolved to reproduce in the stomach of a larger organism – like a cat for example.


This is why pregnant women are warned to stay away from cat litter boxes. So when I was a mere foetus, happily chilling in the warm safety of my mother’s womb, she had this Toxoplasmosis disease. She found out from routine blood tests the doctors had carried out, but I never knew this until around two years ago.

It was on the way back from the train station in the car with my dad. I was at university in Plymouth at the time, and he had picked me up for Christmas in Oxfordshire. He started explaining why my mum and him thought they knew why I was such a “reckless young boy”. He showed me an article in New Scientist, and I read about this Toxoplasma gondii, and how “up to a quarter of people have a lifelong Toxoplasma infection and may suffer psychological effects, including increased recklessness”.

“Calculated madness” is how Twiggy explains charging.

So I started to wonder, is this a reason why there are so many adventure seeking thrill takers in the world today? People are willing to take on Mavericks at a crazy young age like Jay Moriarty, or take on Nazare when it’s over 100 foot; Garrett McNamara. So surely the average surfer can take on waves when it’s more than a bit overhead? Well, I think it depends on their knowledge about the ocean, their surfing abilities, and their confidence. With all three mastered you can take on whatever you want and live to tell the tale, but if you don’t have the skills to pay the bills, you’re in for a spanking. Most likely you will just get thrown about a bit and pop back up, but not always. Mark Foo didn’t make it back up from a hold down at Mavericks, and he was one of the best from Hawaii, the ultimate proving grounds for any aspiring surfer.

When I got into surfing, someone told me a saying that goes; “The best surfer out there is the one having the most amount of fun”.  To me that sounded like a good deal, the more you improve, the more fun you’ll have!

Surfing is fun. Full stop.

To start with, I had always felt comfortable in the water and my parents encouraged us to swim on a competitive level when we were young. My brother and I swam two or three times every week, competing in gala’s, time trials and tournaments for our local region. I was never much into team sports like football and rugby, as I didn’t like the idea of winning or losing being dependent on a bunch of other people. Then there was all the rules that were involved, some so complex that only a select few can understand (like the offside rule in football, wtf is that about..!?)

So I got into the “extreme” sports, where there are no rules, and the only restrictions are your own abilities, along with the balls it takes to try new tricks! Tried skateboarding and BMX for a while, but got fed up with the broken and bloody shins. Then I discovered snowboarding and surfing through the internet. To me they looked like the sports with the most amount of freedom, and the least amount of damage to yourself. I taught snowboarding for a couple of seasons in California, and then went to University in Plymouth. It was there I got immersed in the surfer lifestyle, and was showed how cheaply and healthily you can have fun.


Snowboarding is awesome, don’t get me wrong. Riding powder feels just like surfing a wave, but faster, and for a lot longer than most waves are. But it isn’t as green as surfing. If you have a surfboard (wetsuit if necessary), and you live near a decent wave, you can get free fun from Mother Nature, while you stay fit and healthy. You don’t have to ride up a chair lift or hike up a mountain, you just have to paddle out back and wait for your wave. If it’s busy, or just rubbish waves that day, then you’ll have to wait longer, maybe another day, or a week, or even a month. Maybe you have to save some money to go somewhere else to surf, like Indonesia, Australia, or Morocco in the winter time.

But patience is a virtue, and with enough of it, you can reach that magical “perfect wave” that every surfer is looking for. Whether it’s Kelly Slater’s perfect 10 at Rio this year, or one of Clay Marzo’s ridiculous aerials, everyone is hunting for the perfect wave.


I shall finish with a quote from Wikipedia about Crazy Cat Lady Syndrome:

“Crazy cat lady syndrome” is a term coined by news organizations to describe scientific findings that link the parasite Toxoplasma gondii to several mental disorders and behavioral problems. However, later research has found that cat ownership does not strongly increase the risk of T.gondii infection, and in fact eating unwashed vegetables and undercooked meat is a stronger risk factor.”

So if you know a ‘Crazy Cat Lady’ yourself, (most people do!). I say maybe they aren’t crazy, and that they just love cats more than people. Just like how surfers who wake up at 4:00am in the morning to get in for pumping waves at first light aren’t crazy either, they just love surfing more than sleep!

Views expressed in these articles do not necessarily represent those of Zigzag.
Click here to check out all the entries so far >>


Send your stories to calvin@zigzag.co.za. One submission will be selected every six weeks to appear in Zigzag magazine. The selected submission will also receive a hamper from Billabong. Zigzag retains the right to use any work submitted for the Zag Surf Journo competition on www.zigzag.co.za as outlined in the rules and terms of the competition. Zigzag reserves the right not to award a published winner in the magazine every six weeks, depending on the quality of entries. Zigzag is not obligated to run any and all entries submitted, either online or in print. Zigzag retains the right to edit all work submitted for brevity and / or clarity.

For the next three issues the Billabong prize hamper includes: 1 x Billabong Wetsuit; 1 x Billabong Boardies; 1 x Billabong Cap; 1 x Von Zipper Sunnies; 1 x Set of Kinetic Racing (KR) fins. After which the hamper will get a shake-up with new product of equal value for the following three issues.


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