Sorry about posting this about 10 hours later than I expected to, I was working solidly ’til 4. Then I went out to the beach with my family, came home to cook dinner and meditated afterwards. By the time I had written this post offline and attempted to access the internet to post it, I could not log on at all. I had another two posts lined up for this evening but they’ll have to wait until tomorrow morning when the internet is a little more reliable!
So yesterday the waves were good enough to go ahead with my lesson. They called me at 10am to say the swell was going to die down about 4pm, when I had booked in for, and would be better at 1pm if I wanted to join the earlier group lesson. I was tied up with work (yes, stuck in a library looking longingly out the window to the distractingly sunny streets outside) so I had to go with 4pm. The waves were breaking closer to the beach by late afternoon but I still managed to catch them at about waist depth which was fine by me and I was the only one in the lesson (the two others booked in took the 1pm slot) so I got extra tuition!
After wrestling into a wetsuit which was tiring enough on its own, my instructor took me out with my board on to the wet sand. We discussed safety for myself and other people in the sea with me, showed me how to hold the board in the ocean so I didn’t get knocked off my feet and how to get on the board without falling off the other side. He then took me into the sea and got me to practise getting on the board and get used to laying properly on the board without falling off. I managed to stay on until I panicked about a big wave and didn’t have my hands in the right positioning so when he let go, I wiped out and swallowed a lot of water. I laughed, spat out the water trying to enter my stomach and went to walk back out to my instructor stood waist-high in the sea. As I was too busy laughing, I let go of the board and the wave hitting it caused my leash (attached to the board and my ankle) to pull, knocking me underwater again. I wish I could say this was the last time I got pulled underwater by letting go of the board, but I actually got dragged under a wave more times by letting go of the board – or not lifting it up at the front when a wave came – than I did falling off the damn board! As you can imagine, the majority of the two hours was spent laughing at my mistakes and catching my breath than catching waves.
Once I got the staying on the board part down-pat, he took us back onto the beach to teach me the correct form for standing up. He asked me how confident I felt about the all-in-one ‘pop’ (going from laid down to crouched sideways in one fast step) and I asked him if there was a reason why I shouldn’t be confident. He replied that it takes a lot of body strength and asked me what kind of exercise I do at home. When I told him running and weightlifting, he laughed and said, “should be a breeze then!” before showing me the technique.
I tried 20 times to quickly pop up and, though I didn’t struggle getting from being horizontal to stood up in a swift movement, no matter how many times I tried I just couldn’t stop myself from landing too far back on the board. If he took me in the water and I did that, the velocity and weight landing too far back would cause the bottom to sink and I would fall off every single time, so he said we’d go with the step-by-step movement for the first few lessons. He said it with a sparkle in his eyes so I said to him, “I bet you decided we’d do that by my fifth attempt!” which he confirmed and said he just wanted to see how serious I was about my upper body strength and was rather impressed, hahaha.
Back out in the water, the first attempt I tried I put too much of my weight on my right hand as I was stood up, unbalancing the board and landing me in the water as the wave broke. The second time, I stood up!
As you can see from these stills of a video my mum took of me (I’d love to upload the video but won’t have good enough internet reception until after my vacation back home!), I was stood up and looking fine, but within seconds of standing up I thought to myself “Oh shit, I’m standing up on a surf board!” and next thing I knew, I fell off. Every time this scenario happened, my instructor informed me that I was never falling off because I lost my balance, I was stepping off the board – what a bizarre thing to do! Imagine if you were learning to drive and you hit a higher speed and thought “Oh my god!” and then jumped out the door. I didn’t even catch myself thinking “time to get off now”, it was so sudden more like a muscle reflex like I touched a hot stove rather than a pre-empted action. I was crying with laughter each time I stood up and then stepped off. He said my technique was once again great but it was simply a lack of confidence and I let my fear convince me I wasn’t safe when I was.
I was feeling absolutely shattered and with 15 minutes left to go, I said to my instructor that I’d be happy with one last wave and then calling it a day because I didn’t want to overcook the lesson. I tried to steady my mind seeing the wave telling myself I was safe and knew I could do this (which is pretty hard to do when you’re laid on an unstable foam board with a choppy wave five metres away from your feet) and started paddling like mad. Next thing I knew, I had caught a wave completely on my own, stood up, stayed on and didn’t step off until the wave was ankle height. Grinning ear to ear, with arms and legs like jelly, we carried my board back to the shop and called it a day.
I was incredibly proud of myself for not losing my cool; I laughed when I felt silly and didn’t snap at my instructor for correcting me because I knew he was helping, not criticising. Once upon a time, I would have felt so scared of being out of my comfort zone, I would have lost my temper and taken it out on the sea, the board, the instructor and lastly, myself. Naturally, I’d apologise afterwards, but would be very embarrassed if I had snapped at someone who was trying to help me out. So I’m glad there was no moody comments dished out and no bashful “sorry for being an idiot” afterwards.
I can see why people love surfing so much, just from my first lesson I could see how much fun it’d be once you got the hang of it and can’t wait for my next lesson this week.