I'm amazed at how much I continue to learn from Jules. Early on, she really taught me the basics and about water/board safety and helped me know what and how to practice. Then there was the time when I wasn't able to stand up yet and our lessons were just drills of pop up attempts. I wanted her with me to help me feel safe as I experienced different waves and conditions, but there are only so many ways you can say, "Push up, charge, plant your foot, and pivot." That was a long stretch of me just having to get sick enough of knee rides to want to risk letting go. I definitely learned from Jules during that period, but the scope of what we were covering was pretty small. Now that I'm riding on my feet and feeling more comfortable taking some risks, I feel like I'm in another growth period where it's just incredibly helpful to surf with her again. One lesson with Jules is like 10 solo sessions in terms of comfort and progress.
Even though I wanted to focus on green waves, I decided it would be best to stay in the whitewater and have Jules help me learn more about choosing the right waves to ride so I can have more satisfying solo sessions. It ended up being very productive - although mostly she said I just need to paddle harder and then blame the rest on the conditions. I definitely paddled harder - I can feel it tonight - but it's frustrating how much depends on the conditions! We started at almost low tide and everything was pretty mushy, but as it came in the waves changed and they really packed a punch. I was getting some real speed, which I love, but why can't I figure out when the conditions are going to be good and only surf then? Jules always says it takes years to learn to read the waves. Years? Why must everything in surfing be so not on my terms?
Today was 4' with light winds, and the water was a toasty 51°. My wetsuit is pretty big on me right now, and I'm surprised how cold I get because of it. It doesn't really trap a thin layer of water that eventually warms up, which is the goal. Instead, I have a gallon or so of water moving in and out of the wetsuit the whole time. I just end up shivering the entire lesson. I really need to figure something else out - I planned on surfing longer today but ended up too damn cold to do it!
The best part of today's lesson was that Jules had me focus on just going for it, jumping on the board and taking waves whether I was "ready" or not. It's hard to describe, but it was a great experience. I usually wait and fidget and plan and calculate, and she wanted me to just take waves without thinking about them and just operate from my gut, letting my feelings guide me. What a change. My first few rides were kind of strange - I was popping up weird because I wasn't "ready," so I would scootch around on the board a bit once I was up. After a few of those Jules said, "You know, you're kind of hopping around or something." I said, '"I know." I was just working it out. Jules also mentioned that I'm chillin' like a villain on the board with my arms down at my sides, and she said it's good that I'm relaxed, but that she wanted to give my hands a job. (Don't you love Jules? Give my hands a job. Jesus.) She wants my hands up like I'm ready to do a karate chop while I ride. And I knew from the pictures her boyfriend took during my last session that I have serious issues looking up -- in almost every photo I'm riding with my eyes glued to my feet. So I was trying to let my feelings guide me to catch the wave, and then be more aware of my habits once I was up.
I got better at listening to my gut as the day went on and pretty soon I was pulling great rides out of rides I would have ditched before. Twice I started to pearl and figured I was done, but I made small adjustments and figured it out. And once I screwed up my pop and ended up on my knees, but the ride was long so I decided to not stay there -- I just popped up later and made it on my feet for the rest of the ride. I had several where I wasn't centered on the board so I was really wobbly, but instead of going into the world famous back flop, I leaned my body in whatever direction I needed to balance and continue the ride. Change, revise, shift mid-ride. It really felt great - not giving up because it wasn't perfect. Jesus, I'm such a case. But I'm learning and I absolutely love it. I can't tell you how much I love it. On all of my rides, once I got up and steady, I said to myself, "Give my hands a job . . . and look up." It helped a lot. On one ride, as soon as I said, " . . . and look up," I bit it hard because I wasn't centered on the board and didn't notice it until too late because I wasn't staring at my feet. Jules loved that one, of course, and said I should feel it in my belly; there's no need to look at my feet to see what they're doing on the board, because I should feel in my belly whether or not my feet are in the right place. Not yet, but soon, I hope.
I had a few very tasty rides that I can still feel. We were having a discussion about facing specific fears in our lives while waiting for a good set, and mid-sentence during an intense story, Jules tells me, "Take this one - and feel all your feelings while you do it!" So I immediately took this sweet, steady ride to the left, and it was so long and so peaceful. The beach was actually packed at that point, but everything went silent during that ride and all I could hear was my own breathing. I was so present - I could feel every sensation during every second of that ride. I got choked up on that one, and when I ended my ride, I just stood there for a minute trying to get ahold of myself; I was holding my board with one hand with my head down. Jules walked in to where I was standing, and without saying anything gave me a big hug, and then we walked back out together.
I had several more like that -- long and smooth. It's so overwhelming to pop and know that it's going to be a great ride. Humbling. Electric. But relaxing, too.
It's so different from anything I've ever experienced, and it's not based in knowledge, or really even performance, or even physical effort. At least, not entirely. It's this experience of all these crazy mental, emotional, even spiritual ingredients coming together, and you couldn't force it if you tried. It's almost like it picks you. Aw, hell. I can't describe it. It's really special.
So I'm going to go back out for some solo sessions and hope that these couple lessons with Jules helped me find my mojo. Judging from the crowds at the spot today, I'm going to have to get started early if I want to avoid the chaos. I'm excited - I loved being out there today. As I went and did a few errands after my session, hair still matted with surf wax and skin caked with salt, I looked at everyone around me and felt like I had the best secret in the world. I wanted to go up to folks and whisper, "I've been walking on water."
Probably best that I didn't.