I tried sleeping in, but it seems the longest I can make it before the sun is beating through my closed eyelids is about 10am after cat napping from 7 or 8 in the morning. This may seem like a problem, but I LOVE waking up to the sun. If “sleeping in” would consist of waking up at 8 or 9am every day to a flooding of sunlight, I would probably be the most laid back and relaxed person in the world. The only thing I could possibly suffer from is too many daily adventures such as our Surfin’ U.S.A. adventure yesterday.
Neither of us thought we would be able to wake up by 9:00 to get ready for our 10:00am surf lesson after spending the previous night at Disney. We were so exhausted. Stark set what seemed to be half a dozen alarm clocks to be sure we’d wake up. To my surprise, we were wide awake and ready. In fact, we made it to Seal Beach proper with time to spare. We spent the morning at a little beach shack cafe with a quick sip of coffee and a Squirt (that was my selection). Now we were ready to go!
We walked out and met our instructor who drove up in a 12 passenger van packed with surf bum goodness. Not only had he been camping recently and still had a van full of pillows, sleeping bags, and water jugs; he had a custom rack with three surf boards that appeared far too big to carry.
Lesson 1: How to put on your wet suit. You may think this is a trivial part of surfing, but holy cow it might just be the hardest part of surfing. Getting on a wet suit is like trying to take off wet jeans and then shimmy back into them. The suits were cold and already wet. I was not convinced that these suits would keep us warm in 50-something degree water. If anything, it was surely better than running out there in just a swim suit. So I put it on as quickly as I possibly could.
Once we had our suits on, he handed one surf board at a time to Stark and I who carried the 8 and 9 footers together, under each arm, as if we were doing a surfing conga dance first thing in the morning. On the way to the beach our instructor explained the inner-workings of the ocean like a Scholastic News issue which I figured was all for Stark. He had asked us a number of personal questions from our height and size to our athletic ability and learning style. Starks learning style is all about knowing all he can about how something works. Just as predicted by our instructor, it was hard for me to stay in tune with the blah blah blah’s of wave inertia. I was all about getting the feeling of the board underneath me and figuring it out for myself.
Next lesson, get acquainted with the ocean. “Hi Pacific my name is Caz. I like long walks on the beach and I bet you do too. Shall we?” Wet suit or not, the first meet and greet with early Spring Pacific waves was met with an absolute terror for coldness. The instructor yelled for me to FIGHT the wave, “Lean into it! Don’t let it own you.” FML, I thought. I’m not afraid if this stupid wave. I’m afraid of it’s temperature! Give me a minute!!!! I’ve spent years of my life splashing around the ocean, I know how to lean into a wave and OWN it!
By the time we were wet up to our ears, he had us quickly turn back around and head for the beach. It was time to meet our boards. After giving each one of us a push test, much like discovering your front foot when snowboarding, he thought for sure he knew everything about us. On the contrary, after learning to lay on the board and do a “pop up” he had me pop several times before determining that I was just like my snowboard – right foot forward. He had insisted over and over that surfing is nothing like skateboarding or snowboarding. Something about understanding balance made me doubt that he had any experience in comparing the three. I’ve always been right foot forward and naturally, that’s just how I like to pop-lock-and-drop it into the waves. I started to zone out again during instruction, coming to only when he would brag about his ability to yell at us if he needs our attention. I was starring at a dagger he had just used to draw in the sand and then conveniently strapped to his inner calf. Are you kidding me? Is that to stab us if we try to run with the board or does he really have enough encounters with the Pacific Great White to have to bring a stabby-stabber along with him? Rather than meeting the idea with fear, my only thought was that of a twelve year old boy… “Awwwesome!”
I knew if anyone was bound to be shark bait, it was going to be me. I am prone to accidents which I blame entirely on being born Friday the 13th. It couldn’t possibly be my flitting attention span, nope.
It was time to get reacquainted with the ocean, WITH our boards. I was told that I got the longest board because I had the most ambition. I said something about not being happy until I am able to do a headstand on my board. I was joking, obviously. My ambitions were strictly in succeeding each level – ride a wave, ride a wave on my knees, ride a wave on my feet, etc. Getting to my feet would be nothing short of a total celebration. “Hi again Mr. Ocean… or Mrs. or Ms., I don’t really know. This is me and this is my board. It’s like a million feet longer than me and supposedly it’s able to rip off my arm, knock out my teeth, and break my nose if I don’t OWN you with it. So if you could be so kind as to let me through just for a few hours, I’d really appreciate it.”
Carrying the board around was not so bad. The further we got out, the easier it seemed to be. Then again, our instructor says the ocean changes every 15 to 20 minutes.
We practiced our ability to mount the board and stand up while our instructors held the boards, free of any wave activity. I think the farthest I made it was bent knees and butt high in the air. My head seemed to always meet the ocean first with a face full of salty grossness. The salt seemed to have an instant cleansing effect – causing me to spit, drool, and snot myself everywhere. So attractive! I wondered if my unladylike sloppiness was bothering my instructor?
I tried getting up over and over again before it was time to ride a wave, on my stomach. I was met with an instant push off that threw me into the momentum of the wave. Weeeee! I learned instantly to keep balance and not get too overly excited that I was riding a wave. As soon as I lost balance, yelling “Wahooo!” I found myself rolling ass over keester underwater while my board flipped through the waves, always on top of me. Somehow I knew to ground myself in the sand and wait a moment before coming up out of the water in Zen-mode rather than panic. The board would pass over me and I would come up for air, sopped with salty greatness. But… I felt warm! Warm is good.
I ventured out to try again – over and over. I successfully road a wave all the way to the shore while in a sort of upward dog pose. So many aspects of surfing are exactly like yoga which is probably why I am having the same problems with surfing that I do in a standard yoga class right now. I am not yet able to go into a lunge in one giant leap. I have to move my foot forward about three times before it’s at a perfect 90-degree angle. The harder I tried, the more I seemed to be launching myself into the undertow. Finally, I came to terms with wanting to ride the wave on my knees. Rushing the board back out to the ocean was tearing through my feet. Now I was at the point where I couldn’t stand if I wanted to. I could barely beat the waves back to the placid area we met in to take more instruction and get going again.
I successfully road a wave on my knees, taking most of the rolling tide to get even that far before the instructor overheard me telling Stark that I had “torn my foot up.”
“You tore what? Ok! We need to get out.” Someone seemed a little shark crazy.
“No, no. I had a blister and now it’s torn up. Sand is getting in it and it’s super sensitive.”
Stark joined me in the interrogation, “Umm walking, bad shoes…”
“Disneyland,” I said.
“Let me see!” I lifted my leg to the top of my board and outlined the damaged area.
“Ewwww!” seemed to be the mutual response from any on-lookers.
At least we weren’t going to shore yet. I wasn’t even sore yet. I expected to be unable to walk possibly ever again because of working so hard on my ocean-style chaturanga to warrior II poses. I was all about this OWNING the ocean thing.
Our instructor decided to switch it up, giving us credit for being his “enigmas” and having “a feeling” that switching boards would be better for us. Stark had been successful right at the start, standing most of the way up before diving butt-side into the ocean (which looked far more fun than going head first). I had a feeling despite giving us credit for being high IQ individuals, that he says this sort of thing to everyone and he probably tries out multiple boards on everyone too. If he doesn’t, he should.
Stark’s board was only an 8-footer and it wasn’t made of cork like mine. It seemed more buoyant and at the same time, much harder to control. I felt confident that I could lunge into the warrior II pose that worked best for this board. The lunge wasn’t nearly as deep and seemed more doable for me. I popped up on the board as our instructor complimented my “insane balance.” The board moved with the ebs and flows of the ocean, never tipping, and never throwing me off balance. My first try, I fell off the side of the board almost instantly while missing the wave entirely. Despite raw feet, I ran back out to where the instructors stood. They were teaching Stark to catch his own waves without assistance. I was in my own place, on my own level. I flipped the board, mounted, and waited for the next ride. My instructor helped cue me on when to start paddling and when to stop as he launched me into the next wave. I spent the entire ride getting up slowly, keeping balance at each interval. By the end of the wave I was perfectly squared off – right foot forward, left foot back and hands in the air. “WaaaaHOOOOOOO!” Everyone looked my way as my board began to slow and I was standing up as balanced as if I were standing on the ground (arguably even more balanced).
“Holy crap! WHAT was that?” the instructor yelled. Everyone clapped and yelled for me. I was up!
I ran the board back out for one more run. I attempted to get up the same as before, perhaps a little faster, before BAM – my back hit the ocean floor. At least it wasn’t my head this time. I nearly knocked the wind from myself which seems impossible to do when under water. I stood up and walked the board back out without complaining. Our instructor took our boards from us, wrapping the ankle chord and letting the board wash itself in the ocean before picking it up – avoiding any more sand. Part of me felt like despite the “as long as it takes” advertisement for the surf school, that simply because one of us had made it all the way up to our feet and balanced, the show was suddenly over. Then again, my feet were killing me and Stark had practically thrown his back out with the number of dives he mastered off the back of his board. He was up so many freakin times! I could only imagine how his body was punishing him in his attempt to surf-party-awesomeness.
We spent the next little bit hanging at the surf shop – learning how to rent suits and boards for practicing throughout the week. We considered buying our own wet suits. Knowing Stark, he wanted to go home and research everything about the best suits first. So we left the shop empty handed. Instead, we spent our money on Mountain Dews and donuts from the shop next door.
Here we are, the next morning. We aren’t exactly noodles with a total lack of composure due to overworked muscles. We’re relaxing at the breakfast nook both with our MacBook Airs and bottles of Mountain Dew. We each had a donut for breakfast and are feeling good despite our dieting choices. Just to complete the ensemble, I have the Beach Boys playing on Spotify while we watch our neighbors catching waves next door. They seem far more experienced than we are with their abilities to swim under waves while holding onto their boards and their uncanny eye for oncoming rip-tides. Yet, it’s nice to realize that even they fall head first over and over again in their attempts to ride the waves. We will have to go out and attempt to show them up once we decide what the perfect wet suit is.