This last weekend, I went surfing for my second time ever.
The trip started by driving to Portland on Friday and staying the night there before moving on to Newport. The drive from Portland to Newport was so beautiful. The evergreen trees mixed in with those just starting to change color. Traffic was moving along pretty well. It made for a very nice drive with Mia, Liz and Magick.
We rolled into the surf shop, got fitted into an O'Neil wetsuit with boots and a good. Was told which board outside would be mine (#29 for those who want that amount of detail) and then met my instructor, Ron. We talked a bit. Found out that he's been surfing for 40(ish) years now.
When I went outside to grab my board, I was a bit surprised (but not too much) at the size of the board they had me on. The thing was about 3 1/2 to 4 feet wide and about 9 feet long. It was awe inspiring. I picked the thing up and we all waked down to the beach from the shop (which included crossing a very busy highway - and this is where we learn our first surf lesson - patience).
Ron's wife came with us and on the way down to the beach, Ron shares that his wife didn't start surfing until she turned 55. It was something that, while I didn't need to hear to be encouraged to do this thing, really helped in my mind. We stopped down on the beach briefly to talk about a couple safety things (when you fall, come up out of the water with hands waving around to protect your head, etc.) and then headed right into the water.
The weather (to me) was absolutely beautiful. It was about 56 degrees and cloudy. The water temperature was 50 degrees. I felt the cold when I first got in, but warmed up quickly -- thank you wet suit technology. I didn't need to worry about sunscreen, and the water, once I got adjusted, felt wonderful!
Ron showed me some tricks on how to handle the board in the water to keep control of it while working through the waves and waiting to catch one. These are things that I used out there and also tucked away for later use as well.
They way things would go, we'd see a good wave coming in, I'd lay down on the board and start paddling and Ron would give me a push - I'd go, try to stand (or at least get to a comfortable position on the board), Ron would be yelling encouragement all the time I'm trying to get to my feet, I'd fall off, and then work my way back to where Ron was to do it again. The first few times were all about finding balance - feeling how the board moved in the water, etc. It felt like I was getting to my left foot before the wave petered out or I caught the edge and fell or put the nose in the water and lost momentum.
After a bit, Ron would push a little less and let me paddle to catch the waves a bit more. And then I caught my first wave all by myself. It was all, paddle-paddle-paddle-paddle and then feel the wave start pushing me along. That was my first real success / improvement over the first time I went surfing. Improvement. It was such a big thing to me. While I didn't stand on that particular ride, I was still super stoked to have gotten that far.
A few more rides like that and I was starting to get more comfortable on the board. It was feeling better and finally I was able to stand for my first time. I was only up for a second or two that time, and I fell over backwards because my feet were not center on the board, but a win is a win. I stood up for my first time.
I tried a few more times, but was getting winded, so we went to shore, took a break and talked about technique, about how I was feeling, what I was getting from the board and such, and got some great advice. It was really great, being able to pick Ron's brain about technique and Ron was just so damn encouraging, I couldn't help but feel like I really COULD do this.
We headed back out for more of the same, all the while my arms are starting to get tired. Tried several more times, with varrying levels of success. One time I managed to get up on my knees with my arms straight out and I rode for quite a bit on that! That was an epic feeling that just fueled me more. A few more times of falling, catching a couple of my own waves without a push, and then... I got a wave, it felt right, I got my left foot up, put my right hand flat on the board for balance, got my right foot behind me and then... I stood up. I didn't fall off right away. While it felt to me like I was up FOREVER, it was probably only about 10 seconds or so, but I STOOD for my second time, this time with balance. It was AWESOME!
A few more tries didn't yeild any more success, but I am not disappointed about that in the slightest. My arms were rubber noodles. Finally, I caught the last wave by myself, and just laid on the board and let it take me almost all the way to shore (which was something I almost got on my first surfing trip back in August but not quite). On shore, and heading back to the surf shop to turn in my gear, Ron told me that he thinks I'm ready to do this thing without lessons, just get out and keep working at it. I was (and still am) super encouraged by this.
Through our talking, I told him what Mia had told me about me learning to surf. And for those who haven't heard me talk about this point, she's promised that if I actually learn to surf, where I'm going "outside" catching my waves and able to ride them with sufficient profficiency, she'd buy me a custom board. Ron tells me he knows a guy there in Newport that shapes custom long boards for guys like me and gave me the contact information. He also gave me his own phone number and said that if I'm ever in town and want to catch some waves to give him a call and we'd go out.
Two days out from the surf lessons, I'm still a bit stiff and sore, but I would not trade this feeling right now for anything in the world. At this point, I don't know when I'm going to be going surfing again, but I hope it's soon.
Now I'm off to shop for wet suits, because I don't need to rent those things forever...