* DRINKING IT IN: One of the problems with going off on a mini-surfari in New England amid the doldrums of June is contending with the vagaries of weak winds and the lack of offshore storms, which often add up to no surf at all. So it was earlier this week at Hampton Beach in New Hampshire.

The honky-tonk beach-strip, a popular spot for video arcades and rock-and-roll relics (Steve Winwood was scheduled to play), for years has been known for its white-cresting rollers -- my 62-year-old father bodysurfed there as a kid and vividly recalls the power of those waves -- but on Monday the water sliding onto that crescent of sand offered next to nothing. Wetsuited beginners attached by ankle safety cords to longboards stood on sandbars or unsteadily floated while trying to line up their next rides on wavelets that looked about 10 inches tall. The last time there, in early April, shoulder-high waves produced takeoffs with speed and force equal to what you might find in Central America. But this day best could be described with one word: skunked.

You could walk to the surf shop across the street to flip through the guides to the waves in Africa, Indonesia and Hawaii, wishing you were elsewhere, or you could do what surfers always have done when the water is calm: Go for a swim. It's not by chance that some of the best-known surfers (Peter Cole, Ricky Grigg, etc.) were competitive swimmers, for intimacy with water is essential and always needs to be deepened. The next day, while thrashing in still-frigid Thompson Lake in Maine, it didn't take long to know the lengths I had to go to achieve it.

Some of the coolest places to build your water skills are in the numerous swimming holes, rivers and springs found in the mid-Atlantic states. Many have been listed and written about at www.swimmingholes.org/, which also highlights areas scattered across the United States and parts of Canada. But if you go, be sure to bring a sense of caution and common sense. You very likely will have to rely on your rescue skills if anything goes wrong, an experience integral to water-based sports outside of lifeguard-monitored pools.

Moreover, if you are a surfer and want to keep in touch with others of your kind when not at the beach, the Washington DC Capitol Chapter of the Surfrider Foundation will gather on Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. to watch surf flicks at Dr. Dremo's Taphouse at 2001 Clarendon Blvd. in Arlington. Non-members are welcome. For more, visit www.dcsurfrider.org.

* PEDAL PARTY: The Tour de France will get rolling Saturday, so it's not too soon to hop on the bandwagon for Lance Armstrong's pursuit of a seventh consecutive title. On Thursday at 6:30 p.m. at the Arlington Cinema 'N' Drafthouse, filmmaker Scott Coady and the Route 1 Velo bike club will join forces in a fundraiser and tour kickoff party that benefits the Lance Armstrong Foundation and its efforts against cancer. The event will include a screening of Coady's "The Tour Baby!" and a clip of his upcoming film, a talk by cancer survivor Kristen Adelman, who rode in the 2004 Tour of Hope, a silent auction and much else. For tickets, directions and more information, visit www.route1velo.com.

-- John Mullen

mullenj@washpost.com