I started learning to surf a year ago. I plan to schedule a trip after each significant trial. This trip was set after a trial, but it was continued to September. My goals were to have a quicker, smoother pop and to immediately turn onto the wave, riding the face down the line.
While traveling, I read Allan Weisbecker’s In Search of Captain Zero: A Surfer’s Road Trip Beyond the End of the Road and started William Finnegan’s Barbarian Days: A Surfing Life. These are both wonderful books for the surfer. I am looking for more. Weisbecker’s descriptions of his dog made me miss the pup I left at Pet Camp in Golden. How can I bring my pup?
When I arrived, I felt strong, albeit a little fat, from a few weeks of swimming laps and dirt biking. The first week, I enjoyed just being in the water and trying to get my timing. I felt great with no pain, but no improvement either, riding directly down the face and stalling before the wave caught me again. The second week, I took lessons at Witches Rock Surf Camp – my second visit. In the first lesson, I was so frustrated that I overcooked my arms. I woke with elbow tendonitis and shoulder pain. I did my best, remembering a famous football coach who told a player, you aren’t injured, that is just pain. Advil helped some.
If I could not ride as much as I wanted, I could still learn how to read the waves better, deciphering close outs, lefts and rights, and where it will break first. I watched others and tried to emulate them. Pain made me slow and weak and tentative. Baby steps. As each day passed, I got better, even if it was hard to see. On the Wednesday, I finally started quickly popping up and turning immediately, even if it was unbalanced and sometimes the wrong way. Confidence grew.
The following day, I worked on what I had started to feel. Feel is what they all say – you have to feel it. The words are just markers for the feel. You search the words for how, but until you feel, you do not know. I caught many waves early on, with a smooth turn away from the break. On one wave, I turned the wrong way, into the break, and immediately changed direction to the face. Confidence, excitement, progress. I got so confident that I stopped thinking and forgot to turn, regressing. Taking stock, I focused on my turn again. The rest of the day I did it right.
The last day. I woke ready to go. The teens from San Diego seemed sleepy on the bus. One of the group did not show at all. I paddled out with my tendonitis dulled by ibuprofen. Lots of waves, turning to the face, slight cut backs and then into it again. This is long boarding. I was not trying to ride the nose, just turning. I am sure I missed some, but I do not remember those. After a short water break, I went back out. The older SD teen, crushing a short board with cut backs, riding the crest and cool drops, had just rode a nice one. I took the next, catching it perfect, smooth, balanced. It was a left, about shoulder high. My best yet. As I move on the face, a little up and a little down, I see the teen ahead. He is paddling out. I am headed right for him. His face is excited, no fear. As much fun as I am having, I do not want to run him over. So, I do what feels natural. A hard cut to the left, rear foot planted, toe side rail deep into the wave, avoiding the kid, I go perpendicular to the wave, right over the top.
A good surfer would have turned right immediately after the cut, missing the teen, and continued down the line. I am not a good surfer. I hope the next time I do that. That cut was my best ever. It was hard and clean. I care not that the ride was over. Next time. It was fun. As my head bobbed above water, SD teen complimented my ride – his first real words to me in a week. Acceptance.
In the next 30 minutes, my group headed in, getting ready for the bus ride back. I did not. It was my last day and I did not know when I would get to go again. Despite being older than anyone by decades, I was the last out of the water. I do not remember any other good waves. My arms were screaming. I just did not want to get out of the leave.