I’ve long maintained that visiting friends in another town/country is the best way to “see” a place, and I’ve been proved right once again (being right is a frequent occurrence in my life – just ask me). So naturally, when friends mentioned a vacant mother-in-law suite in the garage, a ride to/from the San Diego airport AND unlimited use of a dozen surf boards, I was all in. I just had to learn how to surf.
While I have flirted with surfing in the past, massive frustration led to me tossing that fiberglass plank aside for a more manageable boogie board, which wasn’t a bad thing. My previous attempts were made at a beach in the Santa Teresa/Mal Pais area of Costa Rica. The waves weren’t particularly friendly for a beginner and the boogie board enabled me to get out in the surf easier (I could actually duck dive under the breaking waves) and figure out how to read the ocean waves a bit. Despite my extreme comfort in water from a childhood in the Great Lakes and a summer as a white-water rafting guide, the ocean was a relatively new experience. Feeling the rip tides, watching the wave sets and even tasting the saltwater made this body of water a foreign entity, and I had to a lot to learn.
Ironically, learning surfing often involves as much contact with sand as water. The majority of the time I spend with sand involved a nose dive off a wave and straight down to the point of your body slamming into the sandy bottom (a major reason to not attempt to learn on a rocky bottom) only to be swept up by the chaos of water above you (this is aptly named “the washing machine”). After this process, one later finds sand in places where no sand should rightly go. This effect can also be achieved by staring blindly at a breaking wave while wishing one’s board was small enough to duck dive under the wave. Alas, such a board would be near impossible to learn on, so I was stuck taking the brunt of the wave or pushing the nose of the board down while trying to swim under the wave. Results were mixed and sand ensued.
Then, on the last day, a glorious miracle occurred. Instead of riding the waves on my tummy or awkwardly standing up for approximately 2.1 seconds before falling, I was paddling into the whitewash (I didn’t quite make it into blue water waves) and standing up on the board with little effort and feeling fairly stable. That’s right – stable standing on a surf board. When I shared my “but it’s my last day!” frustration with our generous hosts, they laughed and said that was the classic surfer syndrom and how they ended up shoreside in the first place. “I just need a few more days” turns into “a few more weeks” and then “maybe a month or two” and before you know it, there’s sand in your sheets. And that’s not always a bad thing.