Saturday, July 18, 2009

My Way

On my second day in Hawaii I went up to the North Shore to Haleiwa Town. It's one of my favorite places - super mellow, and I feel like I've really gotten away from the rest of the world when I'm there. There's something quiet and peaceful about it. Plus, it has Matsumoto shave ice. This time I went to visit the Surf Museum and Ehukai Beach, home of the world famous Banzai Pipeline.

At dinner time I went back to Waikiki to rent a board. Honestly, I was shaking from nerves when I rented it, and I shook the whole time I was on it. Super dorky, I know. I was convinced the guy managing the rentals was going to say, "Hey, are you LSL? You don't know how to surf. Get out of here. You have to leave Hawaii right this minute and you can't ever come back." I don't exactly know why I was so nervous. There's something about having a board under your arm or on top of your head that says, "I kind of, a little bit know what I'm doing" and I don't yet. I think the big deal was that there are great surfers in Hawaii, and I felt like a huge poser. I had to tell myself over and over I'm not trying to be anything that I'm not. I'm not an athlete, I'm not really a surfer. (Jules always says to me, "You're surfing!" And I say, "I am? I don't think I am.") I just love the ocean and have wanted to learn to surf for years. I'm just trying to have some fun. 

At home I use a soft top 10' board, but that day they gave me an 11' hard top. I just shut up and took what he gave me. He told me to wax it, which I'd never done, but it's easy to figure out and I'd read about waxing it in circles, so I was fine. It turns out - wax is awesome. That stuff is like glue in the water. It almost feels like cheating.

The long story short is that I paddled out on my board, flipping off the goddamn thing every fifteen feet or so, and went to the very end of the line up, quite a ways away from the surfers. (Jules made sure I knew a little surfing etiquette before going.) I was so unstable and still totally shaking, so I decided that I wasn't going to even try to catch any waves. I just wanted to mess around with the board and try to get a feel for it. In Oregon, I'd never spent any time paddling or just grooving on the board. Jules and I are both tall and luscious, and you can walk out a long ways into the water and have it still be only chest or neck-deep. So this was the first time I'd had to paddle out into deep water. It's exhausting! It is exhausting. (I continue to be completely amazed at how much surfing draws upon upper body strength that I don't have.) Also, in my lessons I only hop on the board when my wave is coming, and then I'm on it only until it shoots me off like a rocket, so I'm not used to sitting or laying and just hanging out on it. That was my goal for the day. I purposefully stayed away from the waves, not wanting to get in the way, and not wanting to break my neck. Several times I'd turned my board around so I was facing the shore, and I'd hear the unmistakable peeling sound of a gorgeous wave behind me. Crap. I'd paddle like hell to get away from it, and think, this must be the opposite of surfing. That happened several times.

So in the end, it wasn't all that great, but I did it. I rented a board. In Hawaii. I paddled out - way out, messed around, and paddled in. And I had scars to prove it: I'd sat too far back on my board at one point and tried to grip it with my calves as it slipped out in front of me, slicing the back of my left leg. But the best part was when I could finally get stable on the board for a few minutes: I was sitting out in the ocean and on my left was Diamond Head, and on my right was the setting sun. Yeah. And it was even better than you're thinking right now. 

When I finished I knew I wanted to rent a board again the next day to practice some more.

(Um, I should mention that I'm not purposefully trying to make these cliffhangers. There's no big finale at the end, so don't be waiting for me to say I surfed Pipeline on a fluke and got invited to the Masters. These experiences would be trivial to someone else, seriously. Didn't you just read that I paddled away from the waves? But I wanted to capture as much as possible from my vacation because I am having a TOTAL BLAST learning. And I'm doing it slower and weirder than just about any other person on earth, but I am loving it and I'm overcoming a lot of personal obstacles. I mean, yes there were times, I'm sure you knew, when I bit off more than I could chew. But through it all, when there was doubt, I ate it up and spit it out. I faced it all and I stood tall, and . . . jk.) 


  1. Excellent! Every surfer I know has paddled away from waves--no shame there. Good instincts to just hang out on the board, look around, and get comfy.

    I love floating out there and remembering that I'm at the edge of the continent (or island in your case), looking back at shore and just kind of soaking in the enormity of things. Sounds like you've been there.

  2. If I sliced my leg in the ocean Id be sure sharks would come looking for me and I'd leave the board, swim back in a panic, and find some hot fireman surfer to retreave my board.

  3. I think we all put too much emphasis on The Big Finish and I for one am just enjoying reading about your JOURNEY. :-)

  4. "tall and luscious" I love that!!! Excellent adventure, Friend! Excellent!