Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Surf's up!

I surfed today.

I decided I would surf for my birthday.  Ok, it was a day after my birthday, but who's counting?

It had been a year since I had been on a surf board and even more years before that.  I surfed while I was in college at UF on these tiny little boards which are next to impossible to control.  I used to surf with a neighbor who used to go to St. Augustine to fish every other Friday.  I didn't like fishing, so I got him to bring his surf board along.

I've never been a very good surfer.  I wasn't very good then, either. I fell a lot. I got hit with the board. I inhaled an incredible about of sea water. I hit the bottom and scraped along leaving layers of my skin on the sand.  But there is something about surfing that draws me...maybe it's because I was born in southern California? Who knows.  I love to watch surfers.  I like the way they seemingly magically slide up and down the rolling wave, truly poetry in motion.  But not me, I'm more like a car wreck that falls off a bridge.

Well, this year things were going to be different.  This year I was going to do it right.  I had a free day waiting for the shuttle launch and I thought, what a perfect day to go surfing.  But, I knew, I needed some instruction to help me be a better surfer. So, I called Ron Jon Surf Shop.  Ron Jon is like the center of the surfing universe in Florida, maybe the east coast.  You see their billboards which say "Ron Jon's Surf Shop only 356 miles." Really, who else advertises that far away?  But, I just drove to Cocoa Beach and walked into the shop and asked if I could get a surf instructor.  Sure enough, Jonathan was available.

(A little aside on Jonathan.  Jonathan is over six feet tall, not a gram of fat on his tanned tattooed body, and looks like he walked out of a magazine ad.  Oh, and he's a professional surfer from Hawaii.  Aloha.  Ladies, you would be powerless to resist him. A real contrast to a now-forty-five-year-old, overweight, uncoordinated dude from Alabama.)

So, Jonathan, me, and a dude from New York who has never touched a surfboard gather up our 12-foot surfboards, following Jonathan to the beach.  He gives us the basic run down of how to jump up and stand on the surfboard on the sand.  At this point, confidence is high.  I learned a few things and I thought, well, now nothing can stop me from entering the Billabong Surf Tournament.  I confidently strode into the water with my giant surfboard.

Paddle, paddle, paddle, hands by your chest, look up, not down, jump up, one foot forward, spread your arms, bend your knees, lean back, lean forward, look forward, and you're surfing.


Paddle, paddle, paddle....face plant into the board.  Paddle, paddle, paddle...fall into the water and get dragged along the bottom.  Paddle, paddle, paddle...face plant into the water.  Paddle, paddle, paddle...fall to the side and get rolled for 25 yards like a pair of underwear in the washer. Paddle, paddle, paddle...fall, feel the pull of the leash on my leg, and the surfboard crashes into my head.  Paddle, paddle, paddle...get the look of despair from good-looking-surf-instructor-who-wishes-he-was-back-in-Hawaii-Jonathan.  Paddle, paddle, paddle...fall, get clobbered by surfboard I foolishly put between me and the giant wave.  Paddle, paddle, paddle...fall, hit the surfboard, spin underwater and surface just in time to see the wave coming and delivering my surfboard to the top of my head.  Paddle, paddle, paddle...until my arms were on fire.  This was not going as well as I had planned.  To make matters worse, Mister-I-have-never-touched-a-surfboard was riding waves like he was born on a surfboard. I tried not to watch him.

Then - paddle, paddle, paddle...and I got up. I felt the wave underneath me, lifting and pushing me faster and faster.  Balance, balance, balance as the wave breaks pushing me faster.  Surf, surf, surf, I was surfing again.   The wind is blowing as I moved with the wave to the shore and I feel like I am moving 50 mph through the water.  The ride only lasts a few seconds...less than a minute. But it is the coolest feeling in the world - I felt connected to the board and to the wave and everything was in motion and I was part of this motion.  The ride only lasts a few seconds...less than a minute. But it is the coolest feeling in the world.

Then, the nose of the board went under and I face-planted into the sand.

It was still the coolest feeling in the world.  I remember why I was drawn to it. Even the good-looking-surf-instructor-who-wishes-he-was-back-in-Hawaii-Jonathan gave me a fist bump.  A shark could have eaten me right then and I would have died happy.

Now, I hurt. Everything hurts. My chest feels like someone jumped up and down on it for an hour. My legs hurt.  My toes hurt. My arms?  I can barely type.  My ass hurts for reasons I can only speculate.  I can't get off the couch because my body is refusing the commands my brains sends it as punishment.  I'm feeling every day of 45.

But, you know, the shuttle was delayed another day.  I have another day to kill. Maybe I'll go to Ron Jon's and see if they have any surfboards I could rent?

Surf's up!

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