Monday, July 21, 2014

Surf City

Wednesday I woke up early. I took the train back up to Old Town San Diego where I jumped over to a bus for Mission Beach (I'm really getting the hang of urban transit).  And there I had me a surf lesson. 

My instructor was PrestonPreston is like ninety feet tall and skinny as a long board.  Remember, I once was a climbing guide/instructor.  So I know what goes into meeting strangers, getting them to trust you, and crafting an amazing experience.  Preston did all that and more.

He was personable and positive.  He was no elitist looking down his nose.  All that nose down-looking was due to the disparity in our height.  He put me at ease and gave me some specific tasks to master before going in the water.

That's me on the left

I explained that I'd never been on a surfboard, but that I'd surfed some Appalachian whitewater in a creek boat.  Preston seemed to appreciate that.

It was hard to hate him even when he told me he'd lived in Costa Rica for the past twelve years mainly for the surfing.  It was hard, but I tried.

I was skeptical that I could make my body do the things it needed to do to clamber up on a surfboard or to outrun sharks if the need arose.  But with some drills for popping up and pushing up on the board to get over waves and a little paddling practice I was beginning to feel like my muscles might remember some of Preston's stellar instruction.  His instructional skill made it even harder to hate him for being such a cool guy.

My first wave he had me just ride the board on my belly.  It was a supersonic ride.  I felt like I was going to pencil into the beachfront wall.  Next go I caught the wave: popped up, rode a couple seconds, and wiped out.

My third wave I rode.  Oh, I rode!

In short order he said he was going to let me catch a wave by myself.  I struggled on the first couple, but then I made an amazing catch.  I was trying to get over a big wave but had only managed to get halfway sideways as the wave picked me up.  It knocked my nose beachward, and before I knew what was happening I had caught the wave.

Might as well stand up, I thought.  So I did.

As I rode that big whale of a wave toward the beach I could hear Preston whooping and hollering behind me.  I think he was more stoked than I was.

"That's how you catch a wave in a kayak!" He laughed.  I had to nod and laugh in agreement.  That's exactly what it felt like.  Twenty years have passed but the muscle memory was there.  Or maybe the proprioceptive memory anyway.

When we were moving up the beach I saw two leopard sharks and a stingray in the clear, shallow water.  And then when we got back into the water for the final round of wave catching a seal was fishing nearby.  As I paddled out into the bigger waves it swam so close I could almost play patty cake with it.  Or take a nibble of the fish it had in its mouth.

To say it was an incredible experience is a blatant understatement.  I was skeptical of hiring someone to give me surf lessons.  But I knew the likelihood of renting a board and figuring it out on my own while in town for a conference was as slim as a career surfer.  I'm glad I booked the lesson.  I stood up.  I surfed.  I had at least three pretty good rides of ten seconds or more, a half dozen more respectable pop ups, and well over a dozen nearly successful efforts.  I'd never have dreamed I could pull it off.

There was something sublime about the whole experience.  I rode the bus back to Old Town where I jumped back on the trolley (light rail) and rode back to the hotel.  I felt like I was some character in a movie about California.  It just felt right.  For the first time in my life I felt myself wishing I could live on the ocean.

I needed the trip.  It was for work.  Leading up to it the week long conference in San Diego was actually weighing heavy on my shoulders.  I was dreading the flights, being away from my family, and the chores of figuring out a new place.  On top of those minor things I've been dealing with some pretty heavy spiritual baggage lately.  I'm trying to figure out things I thought I had settled decades ago.

I'd intended to try and sort some things out while I was away from home and out of my normal routine.  But what I got instead was a week apart from wrestling my internal demons.  I think the breathing room was good.  I enjoyed a well needed respite.

Mission  Beach

Hopefully now I have the emotional endurance to charge back into the fray.  I'd not planned a mental vacation, nor even realized I needed one, but fortuitously...or rather providentially...I got exactly what I needed in the course of things.

I wrote some.  You could say I was somewhat inspired along the way to delve back into one of my stronger story ideas.  And I think I found a stronger storyline in the process.

I learned to surf.  That was one of my real bucket list items.  It was one of those items not likely to be easily crossed off the list.  It was one of those items that had the potential of never getting crossed off the list.  It was pretty cool.

Over the next few days I’ll write up the whole trip.  I had to share this one aspect of it first thing though.  Can you blame me?

1 comment:

  1. There is a reason surfers seem so mellow... surfing - being in the ocean really - is an amazing and relaxing activity. I think it's easy to start pondering life, questioning lots of things, and even coming to some (perhaps) new conclusions. Of course, I have a bit of bias here as the beach was always my reflection and "me" space.

    On a bit of a side note, I think you did better in one lesson than I did during an entire pre-adult life trying to surf. :O) Glad you enjoyed the trip (even if it wasn't an entirely planned one).