Mardi Gras and surfing: It’s about what we’re preparing for

High school marching bands practice for weeks ahead of Mardi Gras. (Photo credit: Mary Rickard)

I lived in a surfing commune outside Tamarindo, Costa Rica in my late 20s. Howler monkeys jumped on the tin roofs of the huts, ants island attacked any food left unmonitored, and there wasn’t a question of whether the morning would be sunny and hot; it was a question of how sunny and hot it would be. The surfers I communed with would work a few hours here and there — enough to cover their very low cost of living (my rent was $200/month) and a little bit higher cost of habit. Their full dedication, however, was to the ocean, and in exchange that ocean gave them gorgeous swells that had them sewing themselves into the horizon and feeling like Mt. Olympus was in their eye sight.

Then a tsunami came.

The radio announcers said, “Whatever you do, don’t go to the ocean. Repeat. Do not go to the ocean.” So what did we do? We all went to the ocean.

With my awe-rounded and surfing-novice eyes I watched these surfers paddle out and disappear while waves swelled and crashed with sounds I’d never heard, didn’t have the words to describe, and, yet, would never forget. Sitting on a jagged piece of driftwood, I turned to the guy next to me and asked, “How in the world are they going to surf these waves? This is so dangerous.” 

“You gotta understand,” he said, slightly smiling through the answer he already knew, “everyday that they’re out here, this is what they’re waiting for. They practice for this.” 

So, when people who live anywhere but New Orleans ask me, “How in the world can you stay out all night long on Lundi Gras and then go out for Fat Tuesday?” or “What do you mean Mardi Gras goes one for weeks? Don’t you get exhausted?” I think of those surfers and every person dedicating their bodies, their time, and their energy to the parades worthy of Gods and Goddesses. 

Cause guess what? We practice for this. And, damn, is it a swell! 


Krewe du Vieux Parade 2022 (photos by: Brandon Robert)

‘tit Rex (photos by: Brandon Robert)


Festival goers wearing masks at the Society of Saint Anne parade during Mardi Gras on February 25, 2020 (Photo by: Barry Lewis)

Funeral of Collins “Coach” Lewis, a renowned designer of Mardi Gras Indian costumes on August 20th, 2011. (Photo by GB)

Mardi Gras beads hanging from a tree at Tulane University.

Cree McCree at Mardi Gras. (Photo from Wikipedia)

This is an image of a Mardi Gras Indian highlighting the theme behind Nelson’s work as a visual filmmaker.

This is a photograph taken by Brandon Robert of Mardi Gras celebrations in the Marigny

Mardi Gras Day 2020 (photos by: Brandon Robert)

Mardi Gras Day 2020 (photos by: Brandon Robert)

Mardi Gras Day 2020 (photos by: Brandon Robert)

You know it’s Mardi Gras when … king cake is also just another way to have your latte. #orleanscoffeeespresso (Photo: Renee Peck)

MidSummer Mardi Gras 2019 (photos by: Brandon Robert)

Mardi Gras Indian: Bo Dollis (Photo by Nora Daniels)

You know it’s Mardi Gras when …. you see this on the counter at Mojo’s. #mojocoffee #freretstreet (Photo: Renee Peck)

Mardi Gras Day 2020 (photos by: Brandon Robert)

Photo of Mardi Gras parade (photo by Morgan Markenson)

Mardi Gras 2019 (Photo by: Danielle Klausner)

Marigny Mardi Gras (photos by: Brandon Robert)

Mardi Gras 2019 (Photo by: Jacob Wasserman)

Marigny Mardi Gras (photos by: Brandon Robert)

Marigny Mardi Gras (photos by: Brandon Robert)

Marigny Mardi Gras (photos by: Brandon Robert)

Marigny Mardi Gras (photos by: Brandon Robert)

Marigny Mardi Gras (photos by: Brandon Robert)

Mardi Gras Masks

Crowd at Mardi Gras 2012 (Photo by Nora Daniels)

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Mardi Gras in New Orleans (photos by: Michelle Friedstadt)



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