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.