This was my first time out (besides Hawaii) without Jules. It was an important barrier to cross because I've kind of been afraid of going out without her - not so much because of the waves or sharks or anything (although I did dream of shark attacks last night and kept one eyeball peeled for them all day), but more because of the lack of confidence factor. If I'm with an instructor, it's natural that I wouldn't know what I'm doing. If I flail and wipe out alone, I'm just a dork. Jules also kind of helps me assert my place in the water. I'm so afraid of angering experienced surfers that I kind of shift all day long to stay out of their way. I always want to be aware of other folks and show proper respect, but I do this probably more than I really need to.
So I just did it - checked the surf reports, drove to the beach and rented gear. The shop owner suggested I use a different board this time. I was skeptical and should have been a little more forthright about what I needed, but I took his advice and used a 10' fiberglass board (although I swear that thing was 9'!) With Jules I'm still using a soft-top, foam-core board, so this was a big difference. It ended up being mostly frustrating, and next time I'll just stick with that I know. I did enjoy experiencing something new, and of course the feel of a fiberglass board is much nicer, but I had the learning curve of just balancing on my belly again, never mind the waves. I never felt fully stable to the point I was able to concentrate on paddling and taking the wave. It was a mostly frustrating day. I only caught 15 or so rides and didn't get on both feet even once. But I was grateful to be in the water, and it was better than my best day working.
The weather and surf conditions were pretty much the best I've ever seen at the coast. Crazy. Gorgeous. 4' waves that grew to well over 6' by the time I left, maybe 10 seconds in between, basically no wind. Beautiful. Also, not a cloud in the sky and about 75°. Really nice day.
I missed Jules. She's not just my sensei, she's my Zen master, right? I definitely prefer surfing with her. Today I learned a lot about picking my waves, which is important. When I'm with Jules she says, "This one's yours" which I appreciate, as it allows me to not have to focus on everything just yet. But today I watched the waves break and peel and it was good for me to see how different waves feel.
When I was renting my gear, the owner dude gave me some wax (Stay Covered, cold for 58° and below) to use on the board, and that was kind of fun. (It's the little things.) I read a book about surfing for girls and in it the authors complained that guys usually get freebies from stores and girls don't. They called it the "Bro Deal." Last week the shop gave me a big discount off a couple of t-shirts I purchased, and today I get the free wax. Go me. Plus, I love the smell of this wax. (Which is good because it's stuck in my hair. That stuff gets everywhere.)
Today in the water I thought a lot about my process and my (sorry, I can't think of any other word but) journey. I notice that I'm frustrated with my progress lately, certain anyone else would be much further along, and I start to feel that I'm either hopeless, or that the time I spend in the water is specifically about some future skill level I hope to have. I surf now to be better later. I think it's fine to want to improve and I certainly hope that I can learn to ride consistently on my feet (!), but I want to appreciate what I have and what I can do right now. I'm in the water because I love it and because it's fun. It makes me feel closer to nature and closer to myself. I love taking a belly ride and feeling the energy change beneath me when the wave picks me up. And I love charging forward with my left knee and trying to get my right foot in place, even though it doesn't really work that well. I love smashing into the water when I've really pushed myself to pop, even if it doesn't end like I want it to. So I'm working on appreciating the now in the water. It feels good.