Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Surfing x 3

On Saturday the 12th I made it to the coast by 10, which was good because it really filled up and got crazy. It was a gorgeous day - warm air and blue sky. Jules went out for some personal surf time before my lesson, so I suited up alone and went down to meet her on the rocks by the water.

We had a good beach talk covering a few intense topics, including my comfort level going out alone (described at the end of this entry.) Her partner was there for part of our talk, laying on his back, spread-eagle, huffing and puffing, after a particularly intense session. He wanted to get up but couldn't. :) At one point he contributed a brief but very poignant comment to our discussion on a topic he knows well. Even though the beach talks are Super Secret Private Girl Talks, I really appreciated his contribution that morning.

We had a great time in the water, just a lot of fun - damn, Jules and I have a lot of fun in the water! - and I was doing really pretty good. My move was flowing and I was catching and standing up on pretty much every wave. I'd stand up, pivot, ride it in to the shore, fall off, and then walk back out to Jules with my board. We would kind of laugh and shake our heads together, just hanging out in the space of "Dude, I'm totally surfing" and enjoying it, wave after wave. Jules gave me small pointers, and I tried to listen, but I was just loving life and loving being able to catch waves so consistently. We even tried a green wave or two, if I remember correctly. All I know about those is that they feel real steep, like instead of riding horizontally, I'm more vertical. But that was just to play. We decided we'd wait for a real small day and paddle out to officially try green waves another time. For now I'm still practicing in whitewater (usually chest-deep.)

Jules knows I journal and blog about each session, although she doesn't read the blog, and encouraged me to title this entry, "The Sunglasses." She forgot her pair at one location and, because we were moving around the cove trying to find the best waves, had to leave me alone for a while to go back to a previous spot and retrieve them. While she was gone, I just did my thing I usually do - paddle, paddle, pop! . . . paddle, paddle, pop! . . . with pretty consistent success. At one point I looked down the beach and saw Jules quite far away, but walking back with her shades, and then I took another wave - paddle, paddle, pop! - and there it was, my best wave ever, my sandwich wave. Crazy, long, stable, feel that I'm a little too far back, scootch my feet a few steps forward, there - that's better, look up at the parking lot, and over at the trees, am I still riding this thing? What do I do now? Why does it keep going? I could pump my legs a little to see what happens. Ah, that makes it keep going. Wow, how long have I been on this thing?

Remember how surfing wasn't for me? I think it just might be.

When I finished the ride, I fell backwards into the water, got up, pumped my arms and jumped around a little, and looked around for Jules. A little embarrassing that I was so demonstrative about my excitement, but that was literally my best ride to date. That was exactly the ride I had been waiting a year to take. When Jules got back, I was so stoked I didn't even know what to tell her, but before I had a chance to try, she said, "Hey, you had your best ride!" It meant a lot to me that she'd seen it. My best ride ever. That was a great ride.

Near the end of the session, Jules administered some tough love about my signature dismount. She said, "You're doing your move, you're standing on every ride, you're letting go and rising up; you have it down. Now, for the love of god, stop falling off the back of your board to end the ride!" (Yeah, I don't know. I tried just jumping off and landing on my feet during my next solo session and jammed my knee a little. That's some shallow water I'm ending in. I know I need to figure something out, but I'm not sure what yet.)

Jules left after our session, but for the first time since last fall, I stayed for more. It was too beautiful of a day with waves too perfect to leave. I got out of the water for about 45 minutes, had a granola bar, and fell asleep laying on the rocks with my wetsuit down to my waist and one hand on my board. After my nap, I got back in for about an hour until I couldn't physically push myself up anymore and there was absolutely nothing left to ride! There were three of us sitting on our boards floating around looking at the horizon with not a wave in sight.

The day after that session, I had a great run at the local track. I'm usually on a bit of a high the day after a good session, and if it's a day I run, it usually means that I'll make good time on my first mile or something. This time I ran 5 miles without stopping and I maintained my pace pretty much the whole time. I've never run 5 miles before, so that's a really big deal for me. In the middle of that night I got up to go to the bathroom and my knees no longer worked, so I don't think I'll make a habit of it, but I was proud of myself.


Friday, June 18th, was my best day yet. I read the shop owner's surf report the night before and it basically said that it would be 5-6', and because of a noon minus low tide, the surf was going to be better either real early or late in the afternoon. I wasn't sure what to do, so I dropped Jules an e-mail because I really wanted to go out, but I usually think of 5' as my max, and minus low tides are tricky. Jules responded telling me that I'd be fine in 6' as long as I stuck with whitewater, and that I should definitely mind the tide, meaning to go early or late.

Jules' confidence in me boosted my own, and I ended up getting out of bed at 6:45 and leaving the house at 7:30. (That's like 4:00 AM for normal people.) I had a beautiful drive out to the coast - Jack Johnson kept me company and got me ready for a great sesh in the way only he can - and arrived to find just a handful of people at the cove. I was intimidated while suiting up. I started to play mind games with myself - thinking about how only the really good surfers are out in the mornings, and how at least during the day, I'm not the only person playing in the whitewater. At 9:00 AM I would stick out like a sore thumb.

I pushed through it and went out to find my spot. The sun was shining and the waves were truly gorgeous. They were definitely 5-6', and a tiny bit rough at times, but I didn't mind, as that helps propel me; my paddle muscles can only do so much! I stayed mostly at the north end of the cove (no rip that day), and just enjoyed wave after perfect wave with complete glass in between. I can't remember ever experiencing anything like it.

That day was magic. With one exception, I stood up on every single wave I took, and I took zillions of waves. I practiced scootching up and down the board quite a bit, which is a big improvement for me. I even took a couple of green waves. And most exciting, I noticed a real snap in my pop up. It was quicker, but not sloppy. Very controlled, and quite precise. Over and over. Push up with my arms, snap my body to my feet. Rise up with my heart. Stand tall and relax.

Every wave was perfect; it broke my heart I couldn't last ten hours. As I took wave after wave after wave, I started to realize, "This isn't a fluke. I'm doing it. This is happening." I thought of this session (makes me emotional to read that) when I finally let go and found my way. Jules had cried a little when I took my hands off the rails and rode on my feet for the first time, but I just shook my head in wonder and couldn't believe I'd done it. Well, that solo day, that Friday the 18th, was the day it hit me the way it hit Jules during the earlier session. After riding wave after wave consistently and feeling so peaceful, so totally peaceful and at home on my board in the water, it hit me and I got a little choked up. I thought of how I've been trying so hard for a year to do one thing, ride on my feet, and there I was doing it. I was emotional not just over my progress, but because I recognized that I had gone through some kind of letting go, of shedding the unwanted and the unnecessary. I still can't totally explain what happened, but that Friday was a good day for me. Surfing is so good for me.

I came home and wrote Jules an e-mail filled with exclamation points, run-on sentences, and the phrase, "I don't know how to describe it, but . . . " sharing the stoke with my favorite surf partner.


This past Sunday, the 20th, the report was for 4-5' with light winds, and I was anxious to have another great session, so I headed out. But I didn't exactly get what I was hoping for. From an e-mail to a buddy afterwards:
I was ex-haus-ted emotionally but I slept the night before, so I thought I would be ok. It was really rainy and shitty out, and the waves were really choppy; it was just hard to find a consistent wave. Some were great and maybe 10 seconds, and then they'd be like one second apart, wave after wave. Nothing you could ride. I got some good rides in eventually, but mostly felt like I was getting tossed around, and I got tired fast. I only stayed in a little over an hour and finally admitted defeat and got out. As soon as I did, of course, it stopped raining, the sun started to come out, the waves started to break in a straight line, and lots of folks started to show up. It was almost eerie, like the exact opposite of good timing. I kept thinking about how after an early lesson, Jules told me that surfers believe that the ocean gives you exactly what you need every time you go out. I'm still trying to figure out wtf it was I needed that I got yesterday.
And then, of course, we have the craptastic session of yesterday, the 22nd. Glad I didn't know what was coming during my two great sessions before these! I think I'm figuring out that surfing is, like many things, two steps forward, one step back.

I will say that during these two recent bad surfs, I spent a lot of time moving around in the cove - noticing the strength of the rip on the north and the undercurrents and responding appropriately. I think this is an improvement over the past, when I would get in the water, feel the strong tug of an undercurrent, remember the sensation of the board hitting my head when I lost control of it that day last year, and turn around and get back out. These last few days I felt the pull, wanted to turn around and run, took a deep breath, and decided to try out a few spots in the cove before deciding what to do. This is much better, as both days there was a small current, and the rip came and went, but neither was very strong or unsafe. I think that taught me a little more about the cove and also helped me to continue to face my fears.


  1. Rad, rad, surfer-girl. I'm willing to bet you're improving so much (at least partly) because you're willing to take the bad with the good. Love reading your stories.

  2. Will you PLEASE write a book about this already?


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