You'd be hard-pressed to find a girl from Southern California who hasn't spent a significant amount of time at the beach. You'd have an even harder time finding a Santa Monica-born girl who isn't one with the ocean.
Well, hi. It's me. Santa Monica born and raised Rebecca, nervous in the water. Never even Boogie boarded, I'm basically Buster Bluth.
Which is exactly why, in my long quest to become a stronger person, I wanted to try a new adventure and take a surf lesson. Everything about it sounded intimidating: the water temperature, the waves, the idea that I'd have to push a heavy board against a forceful current. But two Summers ago, I had the opportunity to do it anyway. Here's what I learned.
Going with friends made a difference
I took a surf lesson at Ditch Plains Beach in Montauk, New York, with two other friends. While they weren't nearly as scared as I was — either internally or externally — having them there on the shore while I was getting smacked around by the brutal ocean was calming. They'd be there to perform CPR on me if I needed it.
My instructor was also a certified swimming coach and it came in handy
I'm not sure whether all surf coaches are also killer swimmers, but after checking out the wave report (four to five feet of steadily rolling surf on the bluffs), my instructor decided that he'd just hang off the back of my board rather than use his own. This became very important during one key moment. I was lying on my stomach, on top of my 8 1/2-foot soft-top board, when I spotted a huge wave. I knew I didn't have the skills to take my board and roll under the wave, which is what my instructor told me to do if I saw a wave that was going to crash into me. The wave was coming right for me. I was certain I was going to get thrown. I saw it happening. I saw the wave pushing me backward, I saw myself smacking down hard on my back, then I saw the board catching air and punishing me, pulling me in some awful direction. I looked for my instructor. He was five feet away from me treading water. Friend-assisted CPR was imminent! But then, my instructor swam to me like a fish. He grabbed the back of my board and pushed right over the wave, avoiding catastrophe. I don't want to know what would have happened had he been a slow swimmer.
I just needed to get up once
My goals were realistic. I'm an athletic person — on land — so I set my goals within reach. I was going to go do something I'd never done in a place I normally don't go. I didn't think I was going to shred the gnar (sorry, is that, like, the most basic thing to say?), but I did really want to stand up. And if I couldn't stand up, I'd settle for a half stand. After about 40 minutes in the water, I finally stood. I didn't stay up long but long enough for my instructor to scream to me that I'd done the deed.
Feeling cocky? The waves will make you pay for it
After I stood up, I was ready to head to shore. My instructor stayed out in the water while I paddled my way back. Feeling confident and proud of my achievement, I came up with a great idea. "Why don't I try to stand here, now, closer to shore?" So I hoisted myself up but forgot to look back behind me to see if any waves were coming. Rookie move. I wiped out, the board yanked me hard, and as my body jerked I pulled my calf muscle.
Feel free to own the part
Once the pain in my calf dissipated and my friends all finished with their lessons, I had no problems getting into the surfer headspace. On went the sunnies, my friends flipped their hats backwards, and we just soaked in the sun still in our wetsuits. Challenge completed.
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