Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Small But Good

My brain is a little furry tonight and I think writing about my day will help. Thanks everyone for indulging me - I know you didn't sign up to read a surf blog.

I woke up early and immediately decided to go surfing today. I had a lot to do, and when I went to bed last night I was telling myself that the responsible thing would be to stay in town and get shit done. But today was supposed to be good conditions for the last time for at least a week, if not more. (At one point the waves were forecasted to be 32' starting tomorrow, although now the forecast is down to 26.5'.) Today was supposed to be 5'-ish, and after my lesson yesterday I was anxious to get some practice time on my own. There's just a feeling when you know you could get in the water . . . your toes start to tingle and you can imagine getting in the water and laying on your board . . . you know it would make you so happy . . . and suddenly it's a race to get out the door and to the beach.

The shop owner told me several times yesterday that I should go out with him early this morning. (I didn't. He surfs while I'm still sleeping.) Was he kidding? He also told me I need to start doing push ups every night, and then he grabbed my bicep to check out my muscle (and nearly crushed my arm in the process.) He was a tiny bit impressed, I could tell. My little 8-pound dumbbells have been paying off.

When I made it to the beach I immediately saw that today was smaller than forecasted. There were only maybe 3 or 4 other surfers out (they were on the outside - which always makes me glad because they're not going to take up space on the inside where I am.) The water was so nice today - green and gentle. It was really something to experience such great conditions. I noticed how much energy I maintained because I wasn't fighting against it or being pounded in the head with whitewater every five seconds. I got in some good rides on my knees - pretty long and steady. (Where is my one knee/one foot ride that I was doing so well? I thought I'd mastered that. Now I can't find it.) I tried my new pop up from yesterday and kind of sucked at it. I do the first part ok, but I still can't figure out how to get my right foot up there. (Or maybe I can figure it out, but I'm too afraid because there's no middle ground, no intermediate step where I can hang out on my knees if I get too scared. Popping up the normal way is much more of a commitment.) I took some shallow wipe outs yesterday and landed square on my back, and I could feel it this morning once I started to paddle. Even without wiping out, surfing uses weird muscles.

After about 45 minutes, the waves were getting smaller and I felt like I was floating around in a big bath tub. Nothing was happening out there. I've been out on small days when I have to really work to ride anything, but this was different - pretty soon there was nothing at all to ride. Also, I noticed that any waves that were there earlier were breaking really close to the shore. This was new. I don't know if it was the tides (coming into high tide) or what, but even the people on the outside were really close in.

I'm starting to really appreciate the chance to experience different conditions. I get frustrated because it's like learning a language that has an infinite number of words - I feel like I could surf every day for 20 years and never experience all the possible conditions - but I'm grateful to experience different days and just become more familiar with the water.

At one point I noticed the other surfers had gone in, so I went up on the shore and chilled out and actually read for a while. I was out for about 30 or 40 minutes, just waiting for any signs of life, and nothing was happening. If anything, it was getting even glassier and more mellow. I finally gave in and admitted to myself that my surfing was done for the day, but I could not bring myself to leave the beach. The sun was beautiful on the water and it was basically a deserted beach. And the water was so quiet - it was incredibly peaceful. So I zipped up, put my gloves back on, and went swimming! I swam for 30 or 40 minutes in the water - just loving life. It was awesome. Every once in a while there would be a wave, and I just played with swimming into and around them. It felt awesome. I practiced paddling (my shoulders hurt tonight!) and I just played. I felt very, very peaceful and happy.

I'll try to describe how it feels to catch something: I'm looking for a wave (standing on my feet, in water to my chest - remember, I'm just a baby) and when I see the right one coming (I usually say quietly to myself, "That's mine" like when Jules is there - she says, "This one's yours!") and I jump up and slide onto my board. I take one second to get balanced and then just lift my chest and eyes and start paddling like crazy. I always imagine it looks comical - like a cartoon where someones feet are moving but they're not going anywhere. I can't feel myself move when I'm paddling - I'm just waiting to feel the wave. And then . . . sometimes I hear it coming and sometimes I don't . . . sometimes when I hear it coming, it's a huge crashing noise and I have to work to not f-r-e-a-k . . . and suddenly the energy beneath me changes, and whereas I was paddling hard with little result before, now my arms can't keep up with the speed. I try to take a couple more paddles once I feel the wave, but I'm usually going so fast that I just start my move: I grip the rails as aggressively as I can (Jules says, "Manhandle that thing!") and I go! I slide my left foot up, peel my body off the board, chest first, and do my best.

Ahhhhh. It's so much fun. Today was a great, great day. I could have done with some more waves, but it was pretty perfect the way it was.


  1. I want someone to yell at me to manhandle something. Seriously. Will you do this to me when I see you this weekend?

  2. I lived in Redondo Beach for many years, and half of my neighbors were surfer dudes. It never occurred to me once to take up surfing myself, even though it seemed like a fun activity. It would have never guessed that you were a surfer. How cool! Don't the waves get rough up in your area by now?

  3. I just "surfed" on to your blog. Good writing.
    I am Mika crazy also.
    Best wishes from a fellow Portland blogger.