Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Days Three and Four

I rented a board the day following my first time out so I wouldn't chicken out and scrub the whole idea. The good news is that I didn't shake while renting it; the bad news is that the guy didn't offer wax and I was too nervous to ask. Bummer. So it was a slippery situation out there. 

This was only my second time screwing around on the board alone, so it was very rookie-tastic. I paddled out, falling off every twenty feet or so. It's so humiliating/humbling to fall off a surfboard in front of a long line up of bored surfers awaiting a wave. They're hanging out, looking around, and I provided a great focal point. Sometimes you have to really swallow your pride to learn something new.

When I'm running at the local high school track, it never fails - there are always a group of 18 year old girls in their booty shorts (with the waistband rolled down several times, because the shorts aren't small enough?) and sports bras on the track with me. They're running faster than I am and maintaining conversations while circling the track in a cluster. Their bodies are a study in elasticity. I imagine them looking and me and thinking, "I am never going to get old." So when I run, I look at the track in front of me and block everything out, pretend no one is there, and just focus on the run. Most of the time I'm successful at it, and when I can block everyone out, I notice I run faster, better. That's what I tried to do at Waikiki - block everyone out and just focus on my experience. I wasn't always able to do it, but I tried. 

One super fun thing is that when you're paddling out to the surf, you face waves that are coming in your direction. One way to get through the waves without getting pushed off your board or losing too much ground is to do a small half push up right when they reach your board. You raise your upper body so the waves go in between your body and the board, which kind of disperses the impact. This guy is kind of doing it below.

In Oregon, I do those little push ups and the water goes between me and the board and I keep going. In Hawaii, the waves are different (bigger? I don't know) and when the wave would come and I would push up, the force of it kicked my legs up and I caught air every time! It was awesome! That was my favorite part. 

So I just paddled out past the surfers, gave them some entertainment, and tried to get used to my board. When I got out to a spot that looked safe from surfers and waves, I just did little drills for a couple of hours. I'd slide off the board, hop back on (that's a sight to see), lay down on my belly, sit up, lay back down, and slide off. Over and over. Moving around is tougher than it sounds. Also, when I go from laying down to sitting, I'm always in the wrong spot on the board, so I have to do this crazy scootch dance to try to get where I need to be. It's a delicate situation because the board is extra big (because I'm new) and I'm straddling it, and I already learned on my first day that I can't really use my legs to grip it. Also, when you're sitting on the board and waves come up behind you that aren't big enough to surf but are big enough to give you a little impact, you have lean back into the wave to stay balanced. To do that, you have to be at the right spot on the board, or it's going to shoot out in front of you like a rocket. Thus, the scootching. In that time I'd also practice bringing my left foot up and gripping the rails to do a little half pop-up to try to get my body to remember what to do when I'm actually ready to try to catch a wave.

After all the drills, by the fourth day I was feeling a little better about the board. I only fell off the board once, and while I was out in the water there was a huge rainbow stretching from one side of Diamond Head to the other - amazing. Everyone out in the water turned their boards to watch it. It felt amazing to be out there and to be part of the group experiencing that together.

I was in Hawaii for a total of 7 days, and I skipped renting a board on two of the days. I'd like to say it was because I was tired or had other things to do, but it was really the humiliation of the whole thing, and the negative messages I was giving myself. I know this happens to everyone, but I really got into a loop of thinking: What am I doing? I'll never ride a wave. I'm not athletic. This is ridiculous. What was I thinking? This was such a stupid idea. Most days I have the energy to combat that and I don't let those messages get very far. But a couple of times it was just too much to paddle out and slip off the board in front of all those experienced surfers, and I let myself skip it and lay by the pool and read. ( . . . books about surfing.) It's hard to be strong all the time.

So I did some great practicing, and had a lot of time on the board to get the feel of it. I'd stretched myself and overcome the fear of just renting the damn thing and practicing without Jules. In a way, I was proud of myself. Pretty soon it was my last day in Hawaii and I had one more opportunity to hang out in the water.


  1. Excellent! I'm super stoked you stuck it out!

    I'm serious here--no need to rent. With your funemployment situation, you can hit the beach more often than I can. And if you go to PC or Lincoln City, you'll have to drive through Newberg. Just gimme a shout and borrow my board on the way through. For reals. I've got a 10' noserider you'd love. :-)

  2. You should totally be proud of yourself - I'd be shaking in my boots if I was learning to surf! You're awesome and totally inspiring me to get off my ass and do something new.

  3. I went through much of the same things when I was learning to climb. Oh the humiliation. It's humbling. Just remember that all of those people you think are experienced were newbies just like you and I bet they even occasionally still fall off their boards.

    I'm really happy to read about your perserverance.

  4. I think it's awesome that you're challenging yourself to try new things, and definitely shouldn't try to measure your success through someone else's eyes. I know exactly what you mean about the temptation to toss it all when you see teenagers and twenty-somethings imagining what they think when they look at you, but chances are they can't hold a candle to you in wisdom, experience or life education, and yet you're still doing all the stuff they can do and more. I think you're just getting out there on the board is amazing and way more than most of us could or would do!!!

  5. Don't beat yourself up for not renting a board a couple of days. It's OK to step back and re-focus. You did so much more then most people ever do. Thank you for being so inspiring!