Sunday, December 13, 2009

Working It Out

I went out for a surfy surf on Friday, hoping to get one in before the big snow and ice storm that never came. I've been a little burnt out on the drive lately (1 hr. 15 min. each way) but I have to admit that after five minutes in the car, I'm stoked and so glad I'm on my way to the water. I feel like I'm the luckiest girl in the world - it's 38ยบ, I'm in Oregon, and I'm about to get wet! It was a gorgeous day, our last sunny one in a while most likely, and the surf was small but you could still find something to ride.

I had a tough session and I'm not exactly sure why. (Let's review: tough = 100 times better than my best day working.) I felt really insecure the whole time. It reminded me of when I started running this summer, and 18 year old girls in booty shorts and sports bras would lap me over and over, and I couldn't even run more than 1/4 mile without stopping to walk. (I admit a lot of embarrassing shit here, don't I?) When I ran I had to just block them out and tell myself - I'm here for me. It's just me and the track; nothing else matters. I also told myself that their boobs wouldn't be perky forever, and that their metabolism would come to a grinding halt in about 15 years, but that's another story.

It seemed I arrived at the cove at the exact moment everyone else did, and although it was a small crowd, I felt like it was that game of "Which one of these things doesn't belong?" There were about 7 or 8 other people, all guys, all tiny and in great shape. What is it about surfing that draws only men 5'8" and under? I have no problem with peanut-sized people, but my almost 5'11" self (I used to be almost 6'0" and god, I miss that extra inch) (that's what she said) tends to look extra-Amazonian in such company. Honestly, I never see tall guys surfing. Even the pros are all generally tiny widdle guys. The exception, of course, is Delicious Laird, but he's not human so he doesn't count.

Anyway, when I got in the water I just felt like I stuck out. I was the only person on the inside - there was exactly one and it was me - and that made me feel like I was on display. So weird. I usually am able to get in the zone better and really stay with the experience, but I struggled this time. Another thing that was frustrating was that I couldn't get many fast rides. This is a bit of a mystery to me. I don't know if I'm going out on days that are too small, or if I'm not paddling fast/strong enough . . . ? The tide was super out, so that might have had something to do with it. When I have a lesson with Jules, she gives me a push from behind when the wave comes. When she does that, I take off like a rocket and (after getting used to it) I love it! It feels like the ride is longer, and it also feels much easier to pop if I'm on a stronger wave. I really noticed it earlier this week during my lesson and told her she must push me quite hard. She said it's really quite small, it's just that she lines the nose of my board up exactly with the wave and that's where all that power is coming from. I don't know if I believe her, but I love it! There's so much more to practice on. And it's a rush to ride so fast on the wave! I really love it.

But for the most part on Friday I just got small waves that more often than not, died out as soon as they reached me. I did both my lazy (knee) pop up and my normal one, although my best rides were on my knees. Gosh, I had one strong wave that I rode on my knees and it felt like it went on forever. I sat up on my knees, sat down on my knees, sat up, looked around, controlled the board slightly right and left - it was a really fun ride. And I tried to ride everything no matter the size or force - I think I got at least 20 rides. So I had a good time in the water, but I was left with feeling some general frustration or disappointment about the pace of my progression.

I headed up to the parking lot to change and it seemed like everyone finished at the same time and headed up to the lot right after me. Great. Again, I felt so foolish and so out of place with the tiny crowd and their tiny boards. I don't know. I'm going to have to find a way to build my confidence and tune everyone out. It's so intensely pure and awesome when I'm able to. I'm looking out in the water on a perfect day and there are ten surfers there! You couldn't pay me to learn in California with dozens of entitled surfers everywhere you look. I feel so lucky to be in Oregon and be learning to surf! I just have a hard time staying focused sometimes. Friday challenged me big in that way. I don't know. I have a lot to learn about surfing and about life.


One thing I want to remember is that I turned around a few times to watch the kids on the outside and caught a guy on a left that Took. My. Breath. Away. There are rides that make your jaw drop, and not always because of huge waves. The sun behind him; it was just art or beauty in motion or something. He looked like he was gliding above the water, and somehow it looked like he was going extremely fast, and also riding in slow motion. I was glad to get in the water, but seeing that ride actually made my trip out there worth it.

Also, thinking through all this, I'm starting to wonder if I should take the idea of finding a surf school a little more seriously. I want to be in the water and I want to get a lot of practice in, and I just won't be able to do that here like I could if I found a good week-long school where I go out two or three times a day. It's super scary to think about - a baby like me - no Jules, no regular spot, probably in Costa Rica or something. And what if I couldn't find one for my skill level? What if they're all too advanced? I don't know. I want to think about it. I'm terrified that I'll find a job soon (and terrified I won't) and be relegated to surfing the occasional Saturday for the rest of my life. I'll never improve at that rate. And I'm eager to learn more so I can do more.

Last comment - I watched the Pipe Masters yesterday online for hours and was so totally taken with it. Not only did my fave, Mick Fanning, take the world title, but there was so much to learn and absorb from it. This article has a nice summary and describes a little of the Fanning/Parko story - Mick was up against his best friend from childhood for the title, and they were in overlapping heats, so near each other in the water, when Mick clinched it. Beside the gorgeous waves and a million little details that made watching the rides great, the sportsmanship that you often (not always) see in surfing is so completely rad - and unheard of in other sports. The humility (again, not always, but more often than not) is stunning. And very inspiring.


  1. I feel like that sometimes- like the one thing that sticks out in a situation. Most of the time it is either when exercising in some capacity (re: dance class, etc.) or something like karaoke. Weird but true.

  2. ooops, the post too long to read now! The picture is beautiful!
    Have a great day!

  3. Maybe you could get a job in the surf world? Surely there are gigs out there we don't even know about that are surf-friendly? Dream big!

    As the fattest person in virtually every given situation, I gotta say--screw it. Every flower can't be a freakin' tulip, yanno?

    For every moment you feel uncomfortable, take heart--there might be some tall, curvy gal out there who never gave herself the permission (or allowed the possibility) to surf. She's driving by, thinking her little limited thoughts, and there you are, out on the board and BAM! her world just opened up. Hey, maybe I can try that too? New possibilities flooding in, bravery coming from some unknown collective space--all because you ignored the funk and lived your fabulous life.

  4. And what if we made surfing your job?

    (Bear with me as I put together what it will take to make that statement a reality.)

  5. foolish and out of place??? OK I know nothing about surfing but here's the thing (IMO). Why are you out there? Are you there for them, or for you? matter what you do, or where you go, or what you attempt to do...there will ALWAYS be someone who is "better" at it than you, and someone who is "worse" at it than you. Stop judging yourself. Try to BE in the moment. I know, it's hard. But it's either that, or hang up your board and go watch Oprah.

    What I wouldn't give just to be able to walk on a beach and look at an ocean...let alone SURF!!!