Gulps of ocean are filling my mouth and getting trapped in my throat; my body is being thrashed continuously by the white water; sun screen is seeping into my burning, squinted eyes; masses of jelly fish float about and taunt me… My second lesson out on the sea to make a valiant effort to capture this peacefulness and oneness with nature that surfing seems to bring to people. For me, it’s work. Hard work, determination, and thinking, thinking, thinking.
My Aussi instructor is shouting to me in frustration of my inability to follow certain seemingly simple tasks and the other girls appear to be dancing on the boards, no problem. My arms ache from relentless paddling to only be flipped over by a wave I’m on the wrong side of and all I can think about is heading for dry land. Finally, as I reach the green water beyond the break, I take a minute to compose and rest my throbbing limbs. I see the next wave coming over my shoulder and our nearby trainer hollers at me to take position. Like a drill sergeant, I begin to repeat the mantra in my mind: watch the wave; paddle, paddle, paddle; toe on the board; 1, 2 down, 3, 4 come up! And finally, like an invisible hand lifting me up, I pushed my body off the board, planted my feet, and at last feel the wave pulling me and the board all the way to shore.
This is a silly story to an actual surfer who shimmies and swerves for days in a heavy pile of rolling waves. But to a beginner it is no walk in the park. It’s a humbling experience to be tossed and toppled, choking on water going down your windpipe, getting tangled in the sea weed along the shoreline, and spending 90% of the time using your upper body strength to reach the idea spot. And once the opportunity finally arrives to take on a wave and attempt a ride, it’s another set of instructions to tell your body to do as the mind says. The sport of surfing is not for the faint of heart and as I muster through my next day of tackling the sea, I feel a great deal of respect to those skilled individuals that make it look so damn easy.