Thursday, August 20, 2009

Surf Lesson #4

My surfing lesson today was SO GOOD that I can't help but stay up past my bedtime sharing about it.

It was cloudy and grey at the coast, but I was so, so happy to be back in the water and I'd slept well the night before (for once); there was just a combination of factors that helped it be a pile of total awesomeness with awesomesauce on top.

Since my last lesson (it kind of sucked) I've been trying to practice my pop up three times a day on my bed. I struggle with this because it makes the sheets messy and that rocks my world a little bit. But I stripped the guest bed and have been using that. I also struggle with it because I'm not good at it, so it's not very fun to practice. I know. Durr. But I've been doing it a few times a week and I have to say, it's actually helped. Man, practice helps you learn stuff. You heard it here first.

(One minute vid of a pop up here.)

I've also been spending some time in the pool at my apartment complex, just swimming laps and playing around, and I think it's helped just feel even more comfortable in the water. (Although - no giant crabs in the pool like in the ocean. During my last lesson Jules stumbled over the biggest, freakiest crab I have ever seen. She told me today she thought that would be the last she ever saw of me.)

So Jules and I started by doing our beach talk where I catch her up on what's been going on for me, and she magically relates events in my life to surfing and zen. That's all I can tell you. The rest is completely top secret. But it's very cool and gets me totally focused and in the zone. I love our talks.

Jules had me take a belly ride to start out the lesson (no pressure, right?) and I swear, the wave felt so right and long that I just had to try my move. It half-way worked out, and it was such a rad way to start the day. After that I got in lots of waves and every one felt good for a different reason.

Jules and I say a few words about each ride when I'm done so that I can hear what it looked like from her perspective and learn what I can improve. Sometimes the few words are just me saying swear words that would curl your hair, but usually it's Jules asking me how the wave felt, and telling me if she's noticed anything I should be aware of. Every once in a while it's her saying, "I'm on to you" and busting me about some lame or lazy thing that I'm doing. For a while when I was wiping out, I was doing this crazy footsie grab thing that she said she's never seen, where I could end up crashing without losing my board (sans leash at that point.) It's lame because before I even start falling I decide that I'm probably going to (based on historical data), and I position myself to catch my board between my feet so I don't have to chase it. I say: creative and resourceful. She says cut it out.

After one particularly fun ride, Jules and I were reviewing how I did and I was trying to explain that I noticed I was kind of dragging my left foot off the board and it was slowing me down. As I walked up to her I said, "Jules, I think I'm . . . " and she said, "Kicking ass?" I love it when she says stuff like that. Although I always say, no, that's not what I was going to say.

I did a lot of surfing on my knees today. It's not really what I want to be doing, but it's something. I continue to be completely amazed at how stable the board feels. And now when I end up on my knees I'm totally up and my arms are relaxed and I'm looking around. Very different from before. Another cool thing about riding on my knees today is that I took a lot of waves where I didn't wipe out. I'd say at least half. I actually rode it in and either sat back down on my board or made a decision to slide off. Controlling my dismount is revolutionary, folks. A little different than being shot out of a cannon.

Jules graduated me to riding a little further up on the board, which felt very different. I guess she starts folks out a little further back and inches them forward when they're ready. I need more time to practice this, but I can see how it would give me more of the "rolling floor" experience that I need to feel confident enough to stand up for the whole wave. When you ride too far back on the board, your weight makes the nose come up a bit and it's not very stable. When you ride too far forward on the board, well, you pearl.

I pearled today for the first time. It was nuts! One minute I was on the board paddling, (strangely enough with the feeling that I was too far forward), and the next minute I was having a true washing machine experience. I had enough time to think, god, I really don't know what's happening or what direction is up. That is a crazy experience. I was quite confused and when I was able to stand, I put my hands in the air and yelled to Jules, "What happened?!" And then I learned the word pearl. The bummer is that when I went underwater and was thrashed around, I slammed into the ocean floor pretty hard on my left shoulder. I felt it immediately and by the time I'd returned my rented gear and was driving home, I was getting quite stiff. So I shouldn't have, but I've already scheduled a massage for tomorrow. It's still killing me to move it around and I like that shoulder and want it to work. So I'm going to enjoy the massage and try to figure out a way to roll a little better when I face plant.

Other injuries include a good-sized goose egg on my right knee. This is a problem because at no point should my right knee come in contact with the board. It's quite the dead giveaway that I'm doing something weird with my pop up, which I guess we already knew. I slammed that knee onto my board so many times today and I have no idea how.

But you know what? I'm letting go enough to have injuries, which I think is awesome. There is honestly something very intimidating about surfing - the whole out of control thing. Coming to the ocean is like surrendering your body and mind to someone you don't know (someone very moody) and it's easy to be tense and calculating the whole time. But that doesn't really work, and I'm happy that I'm putting it out there and trusting Jules' instruction and taking some small risks.

I asked Jules about the hood on her wetsuit today and she talked about how vital it is in the autumn and winter. I told her that I'm not sure I can do it - I get claustrophobic with things around my face and head. She said, "I think it's hard to feel claustrophobic in an ocean" and we both just kind of stared at each other. It struck me as really funny. (But don't make me wear the hood.)

My last wave of the day was my best. Jules told me to just charge forward and really manhandle the board, and I did and got up with my right (forward) foot in a great position for the first time ever. It felt killer!!! Bummer that it only lasted about three seconds and I came down hard on my left thigh/hip on the side of the board when wiping out. How, I'll never know. That's new for me. I generally wipe out in pretty much the same way each time, but I guess as I try new things I'll wipe out in new ways. Wipe out or no, it still felt good to go a little further in the process than I have before.

Last night when I was getting my clothes out and preparing for my lesson I thought, how long should I keep doing this before I decide it's too hard and quit? I thought, well, if I'm having fun, maybe the answer is never quit. I don't know. I'm so glad to have had a good lesson and to not just improve a little, but to have such a total freaking good time.

Summary: I love surfing!


  1. I just love your surfing stories. They make the control freak in me listen (and then promptly ignore) but it's good for me to hear.

    Also, you're hilarious.

  2. I am ridiculously behind on reading your blog. But I LOVE this! You're my hero. :)