Learning to surf is one of those activities that many people out there have always dreamed of crossing off the bucket list. It’s something that we’ve watched other people doing down at the beach, or in movies, and thought, how cool would it be to paddle onto waves with effortless style, jump to your feet in one fluid motion and glide down a wave with perfect balance?
Let’s face it, surfers definitely make it look easy and it certainly looks like a lot of fun. And in a moment of daydream, we imagine ourselves suited up and riding a wave, perfect stance, knees bent, your board carving through the wave, moving our bodies gracefully as we zigzag across the face of the wave, we imagine the wave breaking over us and being in the barrel, we try to imagine the sound and the peep hole vision at the end of the wave when we get spat out the other side make a smooth turn and land perfectly on our board.
All this in mind, we decide to take the plunge, get out there, put a dent in the bucket list and learn to surf. We Google where we can learn to surf locally and the screen spits out a bunch of local surf schools. We’re spoilt for choice, there are a good few and we embark on a journey of finding the right person for the job. We look at web sites and eventually settle on the one that has the best reviews from previous customers.
We call them and book a surf lesson, we can only hope that the person on the other end of the phone understands the huge step outside of the comfort zone that we are about to take and we get something in the diary as soon as the conditions are perfect for a complete beginner.
Arriving for your first lesson is packed with mixed emotions, nervous, excited, doubtful, positive, you arrive the required 15 minutes early to sign indemnities and suit up. When you ask why the indemnity form, the general response from all in ear shot is “just in case you get eaten by sharks… hahaha”…”thanks peanut gallery, you do know this is my first time surfing, right??”
You and your surfing coach walk down the promenade and you have butterflies. Surf board under arm, you feel pretty cool, except for the fact that the soft top surf board is about 5 times bigger than a normal surf board and you look like a clutz tripping over the leash and battling to get your arm around the entire board, you remain composed and remember that you will probably never see any of these people ever again. The mind keeps telling you, “you’ve got this! This will be fun!!” You doubt yourself a million times before you get to the shore and the 15 minutes of beach work begins.
Your coach gives you a few safety tips for when in the water, explains the equipment to you and draws a line in the sand. You’re instructed to lie down in the sand, hands to your side, in the push up position with the line down the centre of your body. You watch and listen intently and can’t seem to take it all in, nerves have got a hold of you so bad and you’re freaking out, just a little. You do a few practice ‘pop-ups’ and already your body feels like you’ve been surfing for an hour, it definitely isn’t as smooth as you’ve seen, you feel all jerky and unstable, you try to concentrate and persevere and once the coach thinks you’re ready, you attach the leash firmly to your ankle, you head for the water hoping for the best.
It’s initially cold and wakes you up considerably. The walk down the promenade in a wet suit, along with the nerves, has made you sweat like a pig, you feel a little dizzy actually, the water is a welcome relief. You’re instructed to position yourself on the board and paddle, which you do, not sure if you’re doing it right, but the general idea is to get to just beyond the waves. You soon realise that you should have paid more attention on the shore.
You get to the mid break and try and keep yourself from continuously falling off the board. It’s really not as easy as it looks. The constant movement of the ocean makes it difficult to balance but after a few minutes you have a sudden memory spurt and remember what you were told on the shore, and your sea legs kick in.
Your coach is patient and reassuring, he scouts for the next perfect wave, he pushes you firmly onto the small swell, you’re lying face down on the board, and he shouts from behind you ‘STAND UP!’ You focus with all you’ve got and as you glide down the wave on this huge board, you bring your back leg up and try to get to your feet, facing forwards at all times, it’s a lot to remember at a time like this. You immediately fall sideways, board kicked out to one side and you to the other, feeling like a drowned rat, you surface, get your bearings, and climb back on the board. The next wave comes crashing down and you land up getting washed all the way back to the shore, surely there must be a more glamorous way of doing this!! You fumble until you feel sand under your feet, stand up shakily, pick up your board and choose to carry it over the next wave, job done.
Back out there and after a few more failed attempts, you get pushed onto a wave, this time, to your utter surprise, you get to your knees, steady yourself, and take the step up. You’re up, you’re standing, you’re riding the wave, you’re actually doing this, you fall off, but don’t care, you’ve done it, you actually stood on a surf board.
The rest of the hour goes quite quickly out there, when you regain composure, you’re being told this is your last wave, you have mixed emotions, your body says YES!! Your spirit says nooooo, that was super fun and really pushed you outside of your boundaries, you feel elated and tired all at the same time.
Walking down the promenade along Durban’s Golden Mile, back to the surf school, deeply appreciating your surroundings, head held high, a feeling of complete elation has taken over your body. You’ve just done something that you never in a million years thought was possible and you’re completely puffed up with pride and confidence. You immediately book your next lesson as soon as you get your breath back and promise yourself and the coach that you’ll do impromptu push ups on the lounge floor every opportunity you get! You’ve got to your feet on a body of moving water in one fluid motion, it’s a lifelong mission at this point in time.
You may not be all professional and stuff, but you certainly learnt a few things in just one surf lesson. Always believe in yourself, always push yourself and don’t tell yourself that you can’t do something before you’ve even tried. Life is good, learning to surf is within your reach and you’re never too late or too old to discover the stoke.