Lesson Two – July 9, 2010

All I’ve been thinking about since my first lesson is getting back out on a board.  Let’s face it, I’m hooked.

Luckily, the winds have kicked up a little surf, so this morning before work, I had Lesson Two.  It was fun loading up the board just after sunrise and driving down to a quiet beach while most people were still sleeping.  This is what surfers do – they hit the waves before the rest of the world hits their snooze button.

There was an energy in the air as we rounded the corner to the first gap between beach houses where we could see the waves.  I couldn’t wait to see what they were shaping up like and I was hoping for a repeat of Lesson One.

Oh.  The waves are actually much bigger today.  Now, by “much,” I mean double the size, so 2-4 feet instead of 1-2.  It certainly wasn’t huge, but it was enough to get tossed around in.

Two things about bigger waves: 1) They make it much harder to paddle out to the lineup and 2) they are scary when you get pounded by them and all of their force.

When we went out the first day, the surf was so small and gentle that we didn’t really cover any paddle-out tactics.  So it wasn’t until this next lesson when I started paddling, that I realized I had no real plan for what to do when a wave came and broke on top of me. 

The first time this happened, I just held onto the rails of the board and closed my eyes.  Come to find out, this isn’t the “recommended way” to get to the outside (I know, weird).  Instead of charging through the waves, the waves charged through me.  Each time a wave would come, it would push me back toward the shore and I’d lose most of the ground I had just gained.

For those of you who haven’t experienced this plight of a beginner surfer, it’s maddening.  Paddling with everything you’ve got, only to get smacked in the face with a wall of water and pushed back, then knowing you have to do it all over again – it’s not the most gentle way to wake up. 

In spite of this flawed plan, I somehow got out and started looking for waves that seemed promising.  However, each time I tried for a wave, I pearled the nose under because I was too far forward on the board.  This is the part where I learned lesson #2:  It can be scary when you get tossed about in these waves.

The tumbling around part is half-way fun in relatively small surf, but it’s the uncertainty of where your board is in relation to your head, and when you’re going to take your next breath, that worries a person.

After a little while, the thought occurred to me that maybe these were too big for my second lesson, so I came in closer to the beach to surf the white water.  That too proved to be chaotic because I got knocked around in the turbulent water, but most importantly, I was exhausted.  I just didn’t have any gas left in the tank and the sun was getting higher, which meant the work day was closer.

So I grabbed the surf bag from the sand and chalked it up to a learning experience about gauging wave size in relation to surf skill.  As I walked up the stairs over the dunes, I took one last glance back and saw the sun, now much higher over the horizon, taking its stance above the gulf for another beautiful day.

Still, this isn’t a bad way to start the morning.