When people go on vacation, they pay for relaxing experiences. I paid to waterboard myself.
There’s no sugar coating it here. My clumsiness in life (I recently sliced my finger open on a plastic yogurt lid, which punctuates this point nicely) means that I will never be a pro surfer. It means that I should likely refrain from going into the ocean, period. I’ve pushed the idea out of my head for years, instead opting to wistfully gaze at happy surfers in Hawaii, California, Australia and British Columbia.
I went to BC again last month, playing tour guide for my parents, and for some reason the nagging “You should do this for REAL” wouldn’t stop pestering me. And so, before I could change my mind, I marched into Surf Sister in Tofino and handed over my credit card.
And so there I was one crisp sunny morning, squeezing myself into a rather unforgiving wetsuit, a wetsuit filled with scratchy sand and still quite waterlogged from the previous occupant. It wasn’t a good sign when I was exhausted from just putting on the gear. Once my soggy exfoliation was over and I was zipped in, we hoisted our boards under each arm and overhead and convoyed down to Cox Bay Beach. After what felt like an eternity, we reached the beach and huddled to go over our lesson and practice pop-ups.
As a fairly regular yoga participant, I thought pop-ups would be a piece of cake. Wrong. I actually stumbled off the surfboard I had drawn into the sand. No waves or too much momentum could be blamed, just my clumsiness. This was going to be rough.
My group consisted of about 10 people – two men, two youngsters, a gal my age and one a bit older – and two lovely Aussie instructors. We trudged into waist-deep water and turned our backs against the waves. One by one, each of us clambered onto the boards as the instructors yelled “PADDLE PADDLE PADDLE! UP UP UP!”, and one by one, each of us popped up and rode a wave.
Each of us except for me, of course.
My first attempt was close. I think I got one leg straight before the other one kicked out, Broadway-style, and I toppled off. The subsequent tries got worse each time, and it looked like I was trying to summersault or barrel roll off the board rather than stand on it.
Near the end of the lesson, fatigue was really setting in. I’d spent more time under water, smacking my head off the hard board and tripping myself over the leash when I attempted to set myself up for a wave. The two guys and young girls were flying past on their boards, and one of the instructors saw the dejected look on my face. “Hey, it’s a lot easier for them,” she said smiling. “They don’t have boobs or a bum to worry about!” I laughed, and went for a few more attempts before it happened. It wasn’t the cleanest ride of the day, but I got both feet flat and arms out. I managed to stand just before beaching myself on the shore, but I SURFED, damnit.
Three hours after we started, we dragged ourselves out of the water and slowly walked back to the parking lot. As I wearily pulled off the heavy wetsuit and wrung out my hair, I felt so happy to have accomplished something I’d put off for so long.
Thank you for not drowning me, Pacific Ocean.