Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Surf Rider

It's not like I've never thought about taking a surfing lesson before because I have. I've thought about doing it in Mexico, I've thought about doing it in Sri Lanka, but like many things I've thought about doing (learning to play the ukulele, cleaning out my garage), it just hadn't happened yet. So when Gary mentioned long before we arrived in Hawaii that he planned on taking a surfing lesson, I was mostly game to join him. Except when I wavered to not being game. Because I'm not really an ocean-person (more of a pool-person), and I'm not a strong swimmer (more of a float on my back in the pool with my sunglasses on-kind of swimmer), and, I mean, the beach in general... there's all that sand getting into everything. Plus, I thought that maybe the heroic effort it has taken me to become a totally mediocre snowboarder might have sucked all the "extreme" (using that term loosely) sports drive right out of me. But I decided to take the surfing lesson anyway; I figured if I didn't like it, if it was too difficult, if I just couldn't get up on the board and kept getting pummelled into the waves, I'd just quit and sit on the beach and watch. Turns out I am an awesome surfer :-)

Full disclosure: 1) I didn't have to do much paddling since Tony, our surfing instructor, paddled out to the breakers with one of his feet resting on my surfboard, so all I had to do to get out to the surf was lie on the board and ride while he dragged me along behind him. 2) Falling off a surfboard into the warm water off Waikiki is NOTHING like falling onto the hard, cold, frozen ground while snowboarding. Not that I fell much. Frankly, I didn't fall at all except when the board reached such shallow water that I needed to flop off to stop it from reaching the shore. 3) The waves we were surfing were approximately two feet high.

Tony gave us about 15 minutes of instruction on the beach which consisted of teaching us the four steps to getting up: 1) Push up from flat on your stomach to hands and knees on board. 2) Left foot up and centered. 3) Right foot up, into a crouched position. 4) Stand. We practiced a few times on the beach and then into the surf we went.

According to Tony, the hardest part of surfing is learning how to read a wave so you know when to push into it and when to stand. And since he completely removed that from the equation, and because the waves were so small (and the water so warm), it was easy. We would lie on our surfboards while Tony kept looking behind us at the waves coming in, and when an appropriate one approached, we'd take turns with him pushing the back of our boards directly onto the top of the wave at precisely the right moment, and then he'd call out, "up!" at exactly the right second for us to start the steps to standing. Gary and I both stood up and rode on our very first tries which I attribute to Tony's perfect timing in shoving our boards forward at the right moment to catch the wave. The hardest part was paddling back to him when the ride was over.

Surfing feels like flying on water and I can't wait to try it again. If (and only if) I'm lucky enough to be back in the tropics, back in super-mild ocean waters, and totally and completely warm.

[We took our surfing lesson on May 13th. I was too busy relaxing to update the blog further while actually in Hawaii, so next couple posts were written and uploaded after returning home to Seattle.]