I spend a good deal of time railing on fast food companies over health and nutrition aspects. Occasionally though credit must be given where it is due. One doesn’t often think of a fast food chain as being a leader in a sporting field, but Taco Bell is. There is little doubt that without their support the sport of Womping would be relatively unknown.

Obviously Womping has not yet made it to the Olympics as an event, and there may even be a few people that have not heard of the sport.

I have to admit that when I first heard the term it caused me unease, what is it, did we need it, and is it a danger to the environment? Should we be asking for some form of legislation? Would the next trip to the polling station involve Prop X, California For A Womping Free Zone? Or maybe Prop Y, Legalize Womping?

Obviously there will be some of you that are not familiar with Womping, indeed I was not. I discovered the sport a number of years ago. Being married with two children my life seemed as if I was living inside a gigantic Cuisinart Food Processor, round and round I went, from soccer game, to hockey game, to baseball, all was just a blur.

I was hoping for a little respite, after all it was Fathers day. By 8:30 it was apparent that I was not going to be served breakfast in bed, and the muffled voices from the rest is the house sounded suspiciously like a cunning plot to find things for me to do. Could it be build bigger cages for the children, maybe some yard work, or my absolute nemesis, lets replace the roof!

It transpired that it was none of the above, we are going out for a BBQ with some friends in San Marcos (20 miles north). This in itself doesn’t sound too bad, There will be cold beer, and a hot tub. A great combination. There are few things in life that can beat sitting in a hot tub and drinking a frosty beer in Southern California. Maybe this Fathers day was going to work out great!

I watch with interest as the car is packed, are we moving in, or are we just going for a afternoon, goes through my mind. I am particularly intrigued when Paul (my 16 year old son) puts a small plastic tray, (obviously ‘on loan’ from one of the local fast food places) in the trunk. Odd I think, but opt not to pursue the issue, I am sure there is a perfectly rational explanation.

A couple of hours later I am sat poolside enjoying the conversation and cold beer when out of the corner of my eye I spot, or at least think I spot Paul diving into the pool holding the plastic tray that I had spotted him put in the trunk of the car.

I watch with interest as he repeats the process over and over. It continued for the next 15 to 20 mins, repeatedly diving in holding this damn tray.

I decide to make a mental note to ask him about this odd habit at a later time.

On the journey home I can contain my curiosity no more, “so Paul, whats the story with the tray, new fashion statement is it, this is what the well heeled high school kid has in his wardrobe?”

Paul proceeds to tell the story. Paul is a body boarder or as it is known in the in crowd ‘a sponger’. Surfboards are long and narrow, Body Boards on the other hand are short and wide, made of foam and can be bought at a reasonable price.

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One on the favorite places for spongers to go is the ‘Marine Street Beach’. This beach has great waves that ‘shore break’. The surfers do not like ‘shore breaks’ so the spongers pretty much have this place to themselves. A shore break means that literally the wave breaks on the shoreline, you go from 6 feet of surf to dirt in no time flat. Spongers boards are light and incredibly buoyant, coming off a 6 foot wave onto 6 inches of water is no big deal, in fact its a real rush.
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There is one other group of people that inhabit Marine Street, the ‘Body Wompers’. To quote Paul “Wompers get worked”. A body womper is a strange critter, they have minimal protection, no wet suit, no sponge to cushion the inevitable fall, and armed only with a Taco Bell bell plastic tray goes out to ride the waves. Yup the womper rides the wave, the wave breaks, and 9 times out of 10 the womper, melon first, crashes off the 6 foot wave into the dirt. Wompers do get worked. But even within the Wompers there are subcultures, there are amateur Wompers, these can be identified easily, new trays, they tend to only do it a couple of times, and then leave before any serious brain damage is suffered. On the other hand there are the professional Wompers, their trays are pretty battered, and are often adorned with surfing bumper stickers. Another feature of the professional womper is his IQ (usually under 40), this is likely due to the repeated smacks on the melon from falling off the 6 foot wave.

One of the highlights in a Wompers career is to crash in such a spectacular fashion that the Taco Bell tray breaks. This is always appreciated by the crowd. Most surfers, and spongers live in fear of breaking their equipment, a decent sponge is going to run you $150 and a surf board is worth way more. Wompers on the other hand have it easy, you walk the 200 yards to the Taco Bell order a 59 cent bean burrito (to eat in….) and you have replaced your equipment. On weekends during the summer the beach is literally littered with broken Taco Bell trays.

Obviously the Womper does not command the same respect as a long board surfer riding a 30 foot barrel wave in Hawaii and so I feel compelled to ask Paul . If the Womper is the the lowest form of beach life, why do you have a tray? The answer was interesting, in paraphrase, “Womping is like riding a moped, its fun to do, but you don’t want your friends to see you doing it”

There is another episode on the subject of Womping. Stay tuned for part two. Will Simon steal a tray from Taco Bell? Will he get undressed in the middle of La Jolla and put a wet suit on? Is it even possible to get sand there? You will have to wait for part 2.

Simon Barrett

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