Today was the day, Sarah and I packed Logan up, left the house and drove to Wrightsville Beach. Sarah has been longing for a beach day for weeks, and I had wanted to go surfing. (For a brief history of my surf experience check out The Water Beneath Me)
Surfberry, the surf shop —at which I rented a board— was also a smoothie stand that smelled like a bushel of green bananas, a day before they ripen. The desk for surf rentals is across from the smoothie counter, and looks as though any beach-going need you may have could be met there.
After a couple minutes of discussing my surfing needs, and where to find spots, the guy at the counter went around back to get me a longboard and help me tie it to the car.
It took about forty minutes of driving around before we found parking and left a line of cars behind us to search for theirs.
There was a ton to carry; Sarah put Logan in a baby carrier—Yoda style on her back— and grabbed the rolling cooler, and giant beach umbrella. I carried the surfboard, a beach chair, and the bag of towels/toys/etc. we would need for her and Logan. Here is something that you may never have thought about if you’ve never carried a surfboard very far, but they act like a giant sail, and can make walking fairly difficult, especially when your other arm is fully occupied.
We got to a spot where the signage said it was ok to surf, and there were several people doing so. We had never used this umbrella before, and while attempting to set it up found out it is about as wind resistant as every other umbrella, and it turned inside out, and the cloth part flew off of the metal rods. So, instead of relying on the umbrella to shade Sarah, and Logan, we used a healthy amount of baby sunscreen, and I was off on my own to attempt surfing again.
What I found as I progressed into the water, that I was much more able to keep my balance and control of the board during paddling out, and waiting. Four years ago, when I first attempted to surf, I had almost no upper body strength, but due to carrying a baby around, and mowing lawns, and moving, that has changed a significant amount.
When it came time to pop up, I found that I hadn’t improved that much. I was able to get up to my knees twice, but couldn’t maintain balance at that point, and I was never able to get to my feet.
This has nothing to do with surfing, but Logan and I have watched Moana together approximately fifty times in the last month, and the entire day, I have had the lyrics to “How Far I’ll Go” stuck in my head. As I pushed myself back out into the water every time, I thought to myself “But I come back to the water, no matter how hard I try…” There is almost no way, that I wasn’t audibly humming, and I can only imagine that the people I got close enough to, probably could hear me. So, as you continue to read about me surfing, imagine me humming that song, especially in the defiant self-confident manner of the reprises.
As I lay face first on the board, I watched others. I saw a couple of people doing surf lessons, and it seemed like a very helpful process—I had taken a lesson the first time, but instructor hadn’t really wanted to do anything, and as soon as we hit the water I was on my own. I also saw a man, probably in his fifties, who definitely knew what he was doing, so I watched him, and tried to copy as much as I could. This was when I was able to get to my knees.
After struggling for more than an hour, my arms and legs became tired, and it became more and more difficult to control the board. The waves were choppy and they would throw me and the board around. At one point, I was underwater, curled up with my hand protecting my head, because I had no idea where my board was, after a couple of seconds that felt much longer, I felt a tug on the strap around my ankle and realized my board was further inland than I was, which meant I was safe, but I needed to check to make sure everyone else was. Luckily, I had left enough room around me so that any mistakes I made wouldn’t hurt anyone else, and so no one even seemed to notice.
(Sarah managed to capture this picture of my board flying)
A few minutes after that incident, I was pushed off the board, and wasn’t so lucky to be on the right side of it and the board slammed into my chest. I didn’t notice at first, but afterwards all of the skin where it hit was tender, less bruising and more road rash (ocean rash?) feeling. Knowing that I was too tired, and that it would be getting dangerous I decided I was done for the day.
(Sore but not defeated.)
Obviously, from an ‘actually surfing’ point of view, today was a failure, but from a ‘learning to surf point’ of view I think it was pretty successful. I had fun for a good portion of the time, definitely improved over last time, and I think I learned that if I take a lesson down here it will be more helpful than it had been last time.
Right now, I’m just enjoying the lingering feeling of the day. The sun has gone down, but I can still feel it, and I’m now two hours from the ocean, but I can still feel it also. I still have the salt sticking to my skin, and I can feel the dry smoothness that I like about being in salt water. It’s a paradoxical combination of clean and dirty.