Friday, January 29, 2010

Salt in my Hair

(I shouldn't have, but I ended up going surfing yesterday. It was a good day out, but my excitement is somewhat tempered by the fact that I've been studying tonight and I just failed my teaching pretests in math and writing. Suck. I'm going to try to put that behind me, remember that I have two more full days to study before the real thing, and record some thoughts about my session yesterday.)

Man, it was so good to see Jules. It was good to just be in the surf shop and see everyone and know I would be getting wet. I told Jules I was nervous about how long it had been since I'd been in the water (seven weeks! The longest since I started), and she said that surfing is different than most sports because sometimes you can get better in between sessions in the time you're not practicing. I knew what she meant. She talked about how surfing involves both skill and resistance: you have to have a level of skill, but you also have to be ready to let go. And all the skill in the world won't move you forward if you're not ready to give up some resistance.

The water was nuts yesterday. Totally crazy. Maybe 8'? Bigger? I don't know. But it was building the whole time we were in (to 15' today) and we got some monster waves I never would have felt ok about had I been alone. They were super fun, but the conditions meant that I got way tired way fast, and it meant fewer rides. But the rides I did get packed a punch, and those kinds are great.

I caught about ten waves, and almost half of those died out right after they picked me up. It's something about winter or something - you think a wave is going to pummel you and it barely smacks you and then dies out immediately. (Half the time. The other half it does pummel you.) Of the waves that were strong enough to ride in, I only took one on my knees. It was a nice ride, but (don't tell Jules) kind of boring. I'm surprised to admit that it doesn't pack the thrill it once did . . . I think I just want a little more. But it was ok. For all the other rides, probably just five, my feet were on the board. They weren't on it exactly the right way (can't get my front foot to turn), and they didn't stay there for very long, but they got on for every decent ride. That's really something. One hilarious ride I popped up (always the "right" way now, almost never with my knees), stood on my feet, flung my arms up and kept going backwards right off the back of the board. A perfect 180*. Very spastic. One pretty good ride I lasted a couple seconds crouched down on my feet before falling off. That wasn't bad. My first ride was my specialty - the downward dog - where my feet get on the deck but I'm too afraid to let go of the rails and I can't seem to bend my knees so I ride with my butt in the air. Not pretty. But, you know, progress. Tiny, microscopic progress.

It was fun to play around, and I just love being in the water and laughing with Jules, but - maybe it was the tough conditions or maybe it was just me having a tough week - the whole time I was getting bummed about having another session without a major "click" or tangible improvement. Even with my little rides with my feet on the deck, I just kept thinking - how long do you do something you're not very good at?

After about an hour the waves were getting ridiculous, so we finally got out and stood on the beach for a while to see if anything surfable was coming so I could get another few rides in. While we watched the sets mash around, I told Jules that I was truly sick of being shitty. I hated to be such a downer, but I wanted to be honest and I couldn't avoid what I was feeling. Well. Jules is so good. I don't know if it's her voodoo magic or what, but even when I'm at my most discouraged, she makes me want to keep going. She started talking about how far I've come, and how much I enjoy surfing. She talked about how comfortable I am in the water and how it's hard for anyone to make progress when you only get surfable conditions once every month or two. She talked about how I've been so determined and said, "Do you see anybody else out here in this water?" It was true. There wasn't a soul to be found.

As she was speaking she started slowly wiggling to one side and then kind of pushing her whole body slightly back and forth. You never know with Jules, so I just listened and waited to see what direction we were going in. Then I noticed she was writing something in the sand in big letters as she continued to list the reasons I was basically born to be right there, right then. When she finished foot-writing it said, "LOVE SURFING." She looked at me and said, "But you love surfing." I wanted to lay my body on the sand across those big letters and absorb her belief in me.

I think the summary is that I didn't make any huge strides in my skill level yesterday but I did decrease my resistance. That probably makes it an important session and a good day.

(Later Jules was telling me about her own experience of doing something she isn't great at: she takes guitar lessons every week and has for the past two years. She isn't satisfied with her progress, but she keeps at it. She said to me, "What am I doing? I don't know. I guess I want to be Fergie of the Chili Peppers." I opened my mouth to correct her and then stopped. As if you needed a reason to love her more.)


  1. You do it until it doesn't feel good anymore. Most of us aren't all that good at anything, you know.

  2. If you, a former banker and skillful blogger, failed math and writing, then it is the test which failed, and not you.

  3. you were in the water. we were in the snow. ok?

  4. You will be fine. Just breathe and don't race through the answers.

    You're awesome. You'll pass.

  5. Jules sounds so rad. I want to hang out with her (and you, of course).

    I like this reminder to keep at something even if we're not naturally good at it. I need that!

  6. I've been thinking of getting re-certified to teach and start work on my Masters, but now I'm all weirded out - I suck at math.

    I'm on a loooong term thought here, I won't go back to teaching until my kids are much older (if ever), but I think I'd like to have the option always open.

    I think you would make a fantastic teacher, you seem to have the right type of personality (from what I can read, that is). Perhaps someday I can make a personal observation when I make it to the PNW!! Break a leg on the real test, I'm sure you will do great!

  7. It never ceases to amaze me where we get "messages" from. Or the messenger from whom we receive them.

    Never underestimate the power of the Universe.

    Was that too woo-woo? :>)