Ever since I was a child I was fascinated by the idea of learning how to surf. Imageries of breathtaking beaches with surfers effortlessly riding waves was how I grew up picturing the ocean. This portrayal along with my childhood fascination with Baywatch fed this delusion even further.
The Mississippi river does not offer much in the way of waves, nor does the lake behind the house I grew up in. The first time I saw the ocean was when I was about 5 years old in Southern New Hampshire. This experience to me is a compilation of things I think I remember and stories my parents have shared about the trip ie. the water was cold, we buried a family friend in the sand, and I took photos with the lifeguards (circling back to my love of Baywatch). Another 8 years passed and I experienced the ocean once again in Virginia Beach. This particular day I boogie boarded sun up to sundown, for a kid from Iowa this was as close to surfing as I was probably ever going to get. It was easy, it was fun, and I enjoyed my time with the sea. The ease of this experience along with how young I was may or may not have increased my ignorance for the “surfing is easy” mindset.
Fast forward 10 more years. I arrived in Sydney Australia with a few things on my itinerary including surf lessons at the famous Bondi Beach, this was by far the thing I was looking most forward to. My third day in Australia I woke up early and headed to the surf shop “Let’s Go Surfing” in North Bondi. I arrived rather early for my lesson so I stopped next door for a cup of coffee (and free wifi). The coffee shop Speedo’s served one of the best iced coffee’s I’ve ever had in my entire life. A few of the instructors helped me pick out a wet suit and board and explained what the plan was for the next few hours.
As we were heading to the beach it began to rain, but we were going to be in the water anyway, so our instructors insisted we carry on. We went through a brief lesson about the nature of the currents and practiced lying on the board properly. My confidence level remained very high as I practiced (on the beach) popping up on the board into standing position. Finally it was time to go in the water. As I practiced balancing on the board our instructors walked us through the paddling process and just riding the wave in to shore. This process was relatively easy for me. I noticed myself getting worn out as I fought the waves, board in hand to give it another go. Over and Over again I attempted to stand up and over and over again I tumbled down. Accompanying the rain storm that was overhead were much stronger waves than I was observing during my breakfast stop. Just staying afloat was absolutely exhausting. The amount of salt water I consumed during this two hour lesson probably contained more salt than a human should have in a lifetime. I was defeated, frustrated and so ready to be done with this God awful experience. People asked me afterwards how it was and I described it as “paying someone $150.00 to kick my ass for a few hours” which is honestly what it felt like to me. The glamourous image in my mind had diminished entirely and I had a new found respect for the sea and the sport as a whole. I also had more or less swore off surfing indefinitely due to how awful my entire body felt after the process.. It was a rude awakening that I am no longer 18 and invincible.
Jump ahead another 5 months to a day spent at Rockaway Beach, Queens. In my memories the waves in The Rockaways are barely strong enough to boogie board on much less surf. To our surprise we witnessed people trying to surf and even stumbled upon a board shop on our walk from the train. The wave to person ratio was very unbalanced and I kind of snickered to my boyfriend about it. Being a natural born Aussie he knows how to surf and found it rather entertaining as well. After a few hours watching people we discussed the idea of coming out super early some weekend and renting a board. Surprisingly enough there were plenty of places to rent beach equipment around the beach.
This past Sunday was the day, we set our alarms and headed out as many Manhattanites were just heading home from the night before. Arriving at the beach around 10:00 am or so, we headed to Breakwater Surf Co by the 67th street subway stop with hopes of renting a board. They were completely sold out of rentals for the day so we walked toward the beach and thought we would try another weekend. To our surprise we stumbled upon a small shipping container and a few girls renting out boards and other beach gear. They were super friendly and just as reasonable as the surf shop; they even held our bags while we spent a few hours in the water! We rented the largest size they had which was an 8’ 4’’ foam board, perfect for beginners. At first my balance on the board was rather shaky, just staying still was a challenge in itself. After about 15 minutes I became comfortable enough to paddle around myself and “become one with the water”. I spent 3 hours practicing and running through the motions with the small waves and I can honestly say my opinion of surfing has changed once again. It is a beautiful sport that depends solely on the tide and puts Mother Nature in complete control.
What began as one of the most miserable things I had ever done has turned in to something that I intend on doing again very soon. Reflecting on this experience has been a little eye opening to me. Patience has never been my strong suit. Many times if something doesn’t work after giving it my all I write it off as a total loss. This experience has also made me take in to consideration the timing and mindset of everything I do. Whether it is going in to a conversation with a stubborn approach or retrying something that I completely failed, I really hope to continue bringing this lesson to action throughout my weekly activities.
Thanks for coming along on my journey,