Friday, September 21, 2012

Surf's Up!

When I first got down to Florida, I wondered just what I was going to do with myself with the days I have until I head overseas. I couldn't fathom just laying on the beach, that's fun for a while, but only a while, and my albino skin has been through enough this summer. So instead, I took to the internets and started finding myself some activities. Activity Number One- surfing. I found a great company in Cocoa Beach (School of Surf,, and they were able to fit me in for a lesson on short notice.

Friday morning, I was up and at 'em and headed into downtown Cocoa Beach to meet up with my instructor. I didn't have a whole lot of optimism about my chances to truly become a surfer girl-- after all, I lack both youth and coordination. Some might say I'm a klutz. I like to say, however, that I am underdeveloped in the proprioception department. That sounds better, right?

I chose the School of Surf for lessons based on stellar reviews they received online, and I must say, I completely agree with all the five-star raves. This is a family-owned company that Lauren, my instructor, opened with her husband (both former professional surfers) about a year-and-a-half ago. You can just tell they truly love what they're doing and are busting ass to compete in a city that is dominated by some massive, established surf stores (ever seen the Ron Jon's Surf Shop t-shirts?). Lately, I've been really inspired by small business go off on your own requires a courageousness and work ethic that is really admirable. Now....if only I could find my own idea!!!
Small business, decorate your office however you want
But back to surfing. I showed up to meet Lauren, and she's exactly what you'd picture of a surfer girl. Tan with sun-bleached, blonde hair, super fit, super comfortable in her own skin. We started off with a quick intro to the hazards of the ocean ("if you see one of these big, blue jellyfish....those are bad."), and I practiced laying on the board, and then "popping up" into a standing position. After a few tries, it was off to the beach.

Here, Lauren prepares my board while I pose for the camera
First you gotta learn how to surf on the land
Once we got there, we practiced the pop-ups on a ground a couple more times, but it was quickly into the water. Not too much talk, not too much analysis, just go! Lauren had me get on the board, then turned me around, gave me a little push when the wave got close, and just said, "now pop up!" And the very first time I tried....I got up!! Barely, and I fell back down a few seconds later, but I was up and surfing!

Sorta getting it
It got a little harder after that. My success was short-lived. There were so many things to think through in just a few seconds every time I tried to catch a wave-- proper starting position of the hands, eyes up, wide stance, feet centered on a board, chest up, top arm out, back arm close to body, even distribution of weight between the legs, etc. etc. etc. Most of the times, I'd move from laying on my front to standing up, and then wipe out just a moment later. There were some spectacular belly flops and back flops, but truly, every time I wiped out, it cracked me up. I kept a smile the whole time.

This is a more accurate representation of how my day went
Lauren had only known me an hour, but her insights were, I dare say, right on and applicable outside of surfing. At one point, after I'd fully gotten up standing, but then lost my footing just two seconds later, she said, "you met your primary goal, and then you gave up a little instead of going for more." Uh, yeah. Welcome to my life. Or, "you may be just a little lacking in balance." Check (dual interpretations there, both of which seem accurate at times). And, "it's possible you're overthinking things." Yup. But she was incredibly patient, funny, and observant ("you've got some strange akimbo thing going on with your back arm") and I made far more progress in two hours than I ever thought I would.
This may have been the best one
In the end, repetition was what I needed, and after a couple hours I was moving a little more instinctually. I got up and rode a couple waves all the way in! I certainly didn't look like a pro, but I got some cheers from the little old lady snowbirds who'd been watching and a fist pump from a vacationing couple just walking by. It was probably my goofy old grin that tipped them off as to what I'd just done was remarkable for me. I finished up with a few bruises (courtesy of wipe outs into very shallow water), a slightly sunburnt nose, salt-encrusted hair, adrenaline pulsing through my veins, and feeling awfully proud of myself for trying something new and totally outside the comfort zone.

I'll be back, trying again, for sure. And hey, I'm headed to some pretty sweet surf locales, so come February or March, after some practice, I may be just like Lauren....tanned, relaxed, hair bleached by the sun, totally comfortable in my own skin, surfing every morning. I wouldn't put money on it, but that'd be pretty awesome!

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