Friday, April 30, 2010


I had a great surf session two weeks ago and I guess I haven't written about it because of all that studying. Conditions have been terrible (big and stormy) here for months, so I hadn't been in the water since January. That session in January was good, but I'd been critical of my lack of progress and disappointed in myself in general. This time around I spent time thinking about my goals for the session and specifically wanted to make it through 1) having fun the whole time (no trashing myself), and 2) being really thankful for the waves. I figured I'd probably caused the lack of waves between then and now by my total ingratitude and spoiled-brat attitude. This time I wanted to maintain a better focus, so fun and gratitude were my only goals.

I got pulled over for speeding on the way to the coast. Sucks! The policeman was an older guy and he was so nice. He talked to me for-ev-er and told me all about his career and life and kids. I thought I was in like flynn until he slapped me with the ticket. One of his sons was even in the Nelscott tournament last year! I told him that I'd gone to that contest and how cool I thought it was that his son was that great of a surfer, how inspiring that is for a baby like me. (And how old is he and could I please have his number?) I still got the damn ticket.

Seeing Jules was soooo good. She had a lesson before mine, so she was already wet and salty by the time I arrived. She talked with me as I pulled my gear on (wow, strange to get into the wettie after so long; felt very unnatural) and then we sat on the curb above the cove and caught up. As usual, the topics of the beach talk are top secret, but I will say that one thing we covered is that frustration in life of knowing a behavior or mental pattern or whatever isn't good for you and feeling ready to stop, but not quite being able to. Just that inner conflict of: I don't need this old coping skill anymore, but here I go dragging it out again and using it. Damn, I hate that. It was a great talk and got us both opened up and ready to be in the water.

My session was good. As we wandered into the water at the beginning I did have the thought, "Is this fun?" The water was so damn cold, and keeping track of my board felt so foreign. (Luckily, Jules helps with the board when I'm tired or distracted. Such a luxury.) The waves were around 5' I think, but they had teeth. Jules took a slap on the side of the head at one point and we both got knocked around a bit. The waves in non-summer months are just different here. There was also a monster rip that made us really have to move around to find a spot where we could play without drifting north 15' each ride.

The jogging and my little 8 lb hand weights have kept me in fairly ok shape even with the dearth of surfing these months. (Exception: my paddle muscles. I know of no way to prepare myself for what happens during a lesson and the inevitable pain the following day when I'm barely able to use my arms.) From my first ride, I attempted a normal (no knees) pop up to try to get to my feet every ride. I had a good time messing around and it didn't take long before it all felt pretty normal again. And about four or five rides in, I was feeling the intense rush/total connection/never want to get out of the water feelings I've had every time before.

As I continued to try to stand, Jules watched my foot placement to coach me. I was having two problems - not charging forward hard enough during my pop, so I'd plant my feet on the back end of the board instead of the middle (and then fall), and not pivoting my front (right/goofy) foot so I was standing sideways on the board. She teased me saying that I could ride any way I wanted, but that she wasn't aware of anyone ever riding a surfboard facing forward before. I'd have to pivot my feet and face to the left if I want to balance my body over the middle (stringer) and sustain my balance for a whole ride.

On the very next ride I had one thing in my mind - CHARGE! - and of course I got up on my feet, facing forward, and rode the damn thing. It's so me! Ride it the hard way. Don't do it the easy way, don't do it like everyone else. Do it the impossible way. Jules was stoked and I could hear her cheering behind me as I thought (in slow motion), "I think I'm finally riding this damn thing."

After that, Jules said her rule for students who can ride on their feet is that they have to count to 20 before they can hop off. I laughed at that because I'm no more in control of how long I stay on it than I was of the process of getting on it to this point.

I had another good ride a few attempts later. I charged well (it's so hard to really throw yourself forward; I don't know why, and I can't tell if it's physically or mentally hard), planted my feet, and this time I pivoted and actually rode looking like the goofy that I am: body facing sideways/north, eyes looking toward the shore. I felt more stable this time (hmm, maybe there is something to that whole planting-my-feet-sideways thing) and it just felt good. Neither ride was all the way in to the shore, but they were both great fun and awesome progress. And Jules' partner who started the photog biz did get shots of both rides. Someday when I'm a much more secure person than I am now, I'll post those here.

The rest of the lesson was just me trying to do it all again, but it didn't happen. I had one epic wipeout that caused Jules to say she'd never quite seen a dismount like that before. And one nasty wipeout where I fell from my feet to my knees directly onto the board while we were both still moving. That hurt a lot. (And the picture is pretty cool.) I got a great goose egg below my right knee and it's been black and sore to touch ever since. A nice badge of honor.

As I struggled trying to stand again throughout the rest of the lesson, I complained to Jules that I was frustrated. She said that I was doing really well, and that I'll progress more when I'm ready. I told her, "I'm ready!" And she said, "But you're not quite. Don't worry; when you're ready for it, you will." I said, "But I feel ready! I want to change!" I think we both recognized at the same time the parallel with that morning's beach talk. Why do I drag out these old coping skills when I know better? I feel ready to leave them behind. And yet I keep on relying on the old behaviors and not the new.

More belly and knee rides, lots of laughter, and finally the long walk up to the lot carrying our boards. Awesome day. I accomplished my two goals: I had so much fun, and I felt so, so grateful for the waves. More than ever.

I always make very specific playlists for my drives to and from the coast on surfing days, and as I drove home listening to my surfing music, I kept trying to think of how to describe or sum up a day that great. Being able to get in the water and slip and slide around on the board means so much to me. All I could come up with is this, but I grabbed a note card in my car and scribbled it down: Surfing is so healing. I thought it over and over on the way home: Surfing is so healing. Surfing is so healing. Surfing is so healing.


  1. "I'm ready!"

    That's something I say all the time. I'm always in such a hurry. But Jules is right, it will happen when we're ready for it. I keep relying on old behaviors too even though I'm well aware they no longer serve me.

    This stuff takes practice and patience. May the force be with us.



  2. Dude, seriously? That guy talked your ear off and slapped you with a ticket anyway? That's just mean.

    I am so glad you finally got back in the water-and that you accomplished your goals. I gotta tell you, nothing inspires me more than reading these surf recaps. You are one of my life goals! To be so open and willing to leap-fear or no fear. LOVE!