We head back in time today to the east coast of Australia for a flashback to my questionably successful attempts to learn how to surf. Now, this post is not intended to startle and confuse my loyal readers, but at the time I skipped over a few places along the way when the blog got too behind real time.
So, we rewind the clock and land back on the sunny and incredibly touristy east coast of Australia to the surfing town of Byron Bay. I am game for just about any new sport or activity and surfing sounded amazingly fun and challenging. Other travelers warned me that, as a complete newbie, I only needed two days of exhausting lessons before I would be begging for a break so I signed up with Mojo Surf to give me a nice little taste of surfing but not the full five-seven day courses that were also on offer.
Byron Bay is a completely hippity-dippity coastal town that really revolves around the alternative lifestyle – the eccentric nudist community of Nimbin is just a short ride out of town and it seems that every third backpacker you see is sporting a wetsuit sunburn and sun-bleached dreads.
The vibe was kind of fun though and the perfect backdrop to my painstaking hours of surf lessons. The Mojo Surf van pulled up in front of my hostel and within minutes the ten of us in the van were cruising down a coastal road paralleling the rolling waters of the ocean.
The company provided shirts to use and since I have a pretty intense fear of sunburns I also religiously apply sunscreen to every single visible piece of skin…and even few seemingly invisible places just for safety. My instructor, Dave, was an absolutely cliché surfer dude – long sun-bleached hair, darkly tanned skin and the groovy, far-out personality designed to perfectly accompany the look. I do think he hammed it up a bit for us though, but there was no denying that this guy truly lives for the surf.
My first lesson – long boards are heavy! But not wanting to look like a pansy this early in the day I hoisted it onto my head and trotted off toward the beach before ungracefully plunking the board down into the sand in a semi-circle while the rest of the group assembled. We went through some of the basics and my instructor was really thorough about explaining the tides, rip currents and safety precautions.
Then we did a dry-run and practiced the moves on the sand – long, deep scooping motions with the arms and then jump up as quick as lightening. Before I could blink an eye, Instructor Dave was shooing us all down the beach and telling us the best way to learn was actually on the waves…my first thought was, “holy crap I’m not ready yet!” But that doesn’t cut it in surf school and our three instructors fanned out into the water to help us practice our technique.
Surfing is hard work! I bit it over and over again, eating water, sand, shells and even some stringy seaweed. And just when I would start to feel accomplished because I would get half-way up before tipping over, I looked back to see the instructor holding onto the back of the board for me!
My main issue was jumping up from the paddle position into knees-bent surf position quickly and with my weight centered. By the end of day one I had board burn scouring both of my knees but I could successfully make it up onto the board as long as the instructor was holding on tight.
Day two was both better and worse. Because it was our second day the training wheels were off and the teachers were less eager to hold down the back of our boards for us. Crap. That meant I had to not only pick my own waves, but paddle and then jump up all by myself!
It did not go well throughout the morning.
By lunch time I was freaked out from a scary fall where I picked a wave that was far too large, I fell off and went tumbling into the water. By this point I had fallen before but this wave was huge and I was tossed around like in a rag-doll in a washing machine for what felt like minutes (really only seconds).
The seconds dragged on though and I had my arms bent and braced over my head to protect my neck if I hit the bottom and I was just praying and praying that my board wouldn’t hit me in the face through all of this tumbling.
I came up coughing up liters of water, dragged on the board cord tied to my ankle and slugged my way back onto the beach to take a break. My teacher’s response “woah, narley fall dude…but wait, what are you doing up here, get back in the water there’s still ten minutes before lunch!”
With an exasperated sigh I went back into the surf and gave a half-hearted attempt before we were all called up to the shore.After lunch though I am proud to say that I made it up! And on my own too. I won’t go so far as to lie and say that I can get up on the board consistently, but I was at least standing up each time…not necessarily coasting very far each time.
There is just something hugely exhilarating about actually standing up on the board as it coasts toward the shoreline. I’m kind of hooked. I’m not likely to ever be the best surfer in the world. But! It’s a whole lot of fun, bloody knees, sore muscles and all…and I do kind of wish I had another day or two of camp :-)
You can bet that the next surfing opportunity I get, I am there for more lessons without a second thought! There are lots more pictures of me eating it and the others in the group!