Every once in a while you are afforded an opportunity to do something pretty amazing completely by, well, not accident exactly, but unexpectedly. When I started this trip, I knew that California had endless possibilities, but did I really think I would take surf lessons? Let’s be honest, I lived in Wilmington for four years and there were plenty of opportunities for me to learn how to surf (albeit East coast surfing, but still I could have learned easily! Lots of people surf in Wilmington!) and I never did it. So, why on earth did I think I would actually do this when I came to California?
Because it is California.
I find that when you travel to new places, you want to have a wide variety of new experiences that capture the essence of the culture you are living in. Surfing in California, therefore, just makes sense.
So I went.
And it was amazing.
I’m not a surfer. I did okay, much better than one would expect (considering that on this trip alone I have fallen flat on my face 2 times just walking and fallen upstairs once…I’d say I did quite well surfing). However, the experience was thrilling. We went out at 8am. If you didn’t already know this, the Pacific Ocean is FREEZING so I was a little worried about this timing for this lesson; however, wetsuits did their job quite nicely. I was surprised at how warm they were. I wasn’t cold at all in the water, which is really saying something to everyone who knows me. After a 10 minute lesson on the beach, we headed for the water.
In the stillness of the morning, the waves were crashing on the shore. I could feel my anxiety building up inside of me as I followed the instructor, Jodi and Whitney (both of whom have no fear) out into the water. Megan, Jodi’s sister, was close behind me, and we were ready to face this beast. We made it to the crashing point of the wave and climbed aboard the boards. Arching our backs, the boards sliced through the water over top of the waves just as they were peaking and we smoothly paddled into the calmer waters of Beercan Beach (no, I’m not making that name up). And then we saw them. Little tiny brown and speckled heads began popping up only a few feet from where we were floating on our boards.
“Oh my gosh,” Whitney exclaimed, pointing to where a head had popped up and then disappeared again. “Did you see that seal?”
I wasn’t quite as excited as our resident Disney Princess (and I mean that in a good way—I have never seen someone charm animals as much as Whitney—she has fed baby squirrels from her hand, poured water over baby calves heads and they try to escape the afternoon heat, the fawns and does practically flock to her. It’s is incredible). I mean, it was cool that they were swimming near us, but my thoughts were in a slightly different direction.
“That’s really neat and all,” I said scanning the murkey water. “But where the hell did he go? I mean are they going to come and nibble on our toes or something thinking they’re fish. I’m really not down with that.”
Jodi and Whitney laughed but I saw Megan nodding her agreement with me too as another little head popped up even closer to us.
“Look at Kristin!” I pointed over at the other group where Kristin was already up and riding a wave, standing like she had done this her whole life.
“Hashtag natural,” Whitney smiled as she shook her head in amazement.
“Alright, who is first?” Johan asked as he situated his board close to us, but nearer to the breaking point. Whitney was nearest, so she flopped down on her belly and paddled forward showing no fear.
“You got this Whitney,” I cheered her on, not at all jealous of her. My butterflies were moving their way from my stomach to my throat now.
“Oh my gosh! Look at that!” I turned my head back to where Jodi was now pointing out at the ocean and about twenty feet from us two dolphins leapt in the air and then back in the water again. My jaw dropped.
“You have got to be kidding me,” I muttered, staring in awe as they jumped again and then another seal popped his head up and back down. “It’s surreal.”
“Worth every penny I paid.”
I nodded not able to take my eyes off the ocean.
“Do you guys mind if I go next?” Megan asked. I could tell she was eager to get this show on the road and I didn’t blame her. I knew how she felt. I shrugged. I was content just floating for now as long as no seals nibbled on my toes. We watched Whitney’s attempt and then Megan was up. Johan did an excellent job explaining what we were supposed to do to be the most successful with our surfing, but as he was speaking to Megan I saw him pointing to the distance and then raise his voice. I looked out at sea.
“See that whale?” he asked nonchalantly. My eyes widened and I really had no words. Not only did we see it, we could hear the whale as it expelled air and water from it’s blowhole.
Then it was Jodi’s turn. I heard Johan yell ‘up’ for Jodi, who made her attempt and then it was my turn.
I paddled over to our instructor and tried to listen to his advice, but the perfect wave came before he was able to impart much.
“Okay, paddle now!”
So I did and then I heard, “UP!” and I just didn’t think about it. I mechanically tried getting to my knees and suddenly I was squatting on the surfboard, but I didn’t feel the wave behind me. I wondered where it was, so I looked back… and then I was underwater. But for a few glorious seconds I was nearly standing on a surfboard, on my first try. And it was exhilarating.
Popping up out of the ocean, I was no longer nervous. I knew I would feel the consequences of that fall in the morning (and BOY did I!), but for now I was ready to try that again. And paddling out into the ocean I went out to join the rest of the sea creatures that surrounded us for the most amazing two hours $90 could buy from the Richard Schmidt Surf School (http://richardschmidt.com/).