When I was 14, I dreamed of moving to California and learning how to surf. When my parents actually moved when I was 17, I was none too happy about it. I stayed with my aunt in Minnesota to finish high school, went to California only for the summer before heading to college in Colorado. I did not learn to surf.
I spent the next eight years not near the ocean and didn’t really think about surfing again until I moved back to Southern California after veterinary school. I thought about it, but didn’t really know where to start, and so I didn’t learn to surf. Then I got pregnant, and again, and again. Although I still thought about surfing, I figured I was a mom to three now and my time had passed. It wasn’t meant to be. I was too old to start surfing.
Then last year around Mother’s Day I had the thought that maybe I wasn’t too old. Maybe surfing would be something I could do just for me. My husband said he’d get me surfing lessons for my Mother’s Day present. But, I had just started blogging and really wanted a professional design and web hosting, so I decided to do that instead. And again, surfing went to the back of my mind. It stayed there for a year. Every once in a while I’d get the itch, but there was always some reason to put it off.
As our trip to Hawaii approached, I started thinking about taking lessons there. The water in Hawaii is warm and pretty calm, probably a nice place for a beginner. The hotel we were staying at had surf lessons, so it was convenient. My parents were going too, so I wouldn’t be leaving Sean alone with the three girls.
When we got to the hotel, there were surf lesson signs everywhere. I saw the lessons going out, and everyone seemed to be having a good time. They were also mostly younger than me. So I hesitated. Should a 36 year old mother of 3 really be out surfing? Plus, there’s the whole shark thing. I might be a little afraid of sharks and sharks like to eat surfers.
But finally on Wednesday I decided to do it. I signed up for lessons. There were 3 instructors and six students. They showed us where we would be going, that we would be surfing over a reef, so no walking on it. They talked about staying in the channel where there was no reef for the 15 minute paddle out to the spot. No reef means no waves so it’s easier to paddle out. They taught us how to fall, flat like a starfish, so we didn’t hit the reef. They taught us how to get up on the board, up on the knees, one foot up, pivot to stand, and to stay low so we didn’t fall off. We practiced on the sand. Then it was time to paddle out.
I have a new found respect for surfers. Those guys you see paddling out really quickly are super strong. It is hard work to get a board out there. My shoulders, back, and neck were sore by the time I made it out. I started slowing down towards the end. One of the instructors passed me, put his foot on the front of my board, and towed me the rest of the way. Then he went back for more students.
There was a rope for us to hold on to while we waited our turn. I looked down into the water. With the reef, the water was only about three feet deep. There were no fish in the area we were. And much to my relief, no sharks.
One of the instructors motioned and I started paddling towards the waves. He planted his foot on my board and towed me out to the right spot. Then he turned my board, told me to start paddling, and as the wave approached, he pushed me forward.
The surf splashed around me and the board surged forward as the wave hit. I got on my knees, got my foot up, pivoted, and stood (well squatted) for a second before falling into the water. I needed to stay lower.
I paddled back to the rope and went out again. The instructor pushed my board and I got up and stayed up, albeit in a lowish squat. The wave pushed me toward shore. I planted myself as my board skimmed across the water. Then the wave was gone. I lowered myself back to the board and screamed excitedly as I paddled back to the rope. The instructors were yelling and congratulating me. It was AMAZING!
I caught about 7 waves that day and only fell twice. We paddled back to shore, sore and happy. I went out again on Friday and had the same luck. By the end of the lesson Friday I was even catching my own waves and not being pushed onto them.
My shoulders, upper back, and abs were pretty sore for a couple days. I was surprised my legs were not at all sore. It’s much more an upper body and core workout than lower body. I also had some lovely rashes on my thighs and stomach from scooting around on the board. My knees are still skinned. I raked the tops of my feet against the reef getting back onto the board once so I have nice scabs and am wearing flip flops because shoes hurt.
I plan to take a few more lessons here so I can learn surfing etiquette and maybe how to steer that thing. I can just go straight right now. Then I should be able to go out on my own.
So there you have it. This 36 year old mother of three learned to surf. Wonder what else I’m not too old to do?
Have you ever done something you had given up on ever being able to do? Is there something you’d always wanted to try?