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  • Calista Ocean

Surf lessons

"The best surfer out there is the one having the most fun."

~ Phil Edwards

"Now! Paddle! Paddle!"

I start paddling, despite the fact that my body is leaned toward the left side of the board. The wave picks me up, but I'm too far forward. The nose of the board is dropping into the white water, taking me with it. Flipped over. Underwater. Again.

I get to my feet quickly, pulling the eight-foot surfboard toward me by the leash. My hair is heavy with salt water. I push it out of my face, tucking it behind my ear. The board is light which makes it easy to lift when I turn to head out again.

Hopefully, my surf instructor will get tired of watching me almost-drown, and try to help someone else "stin up" and ride a wave. This is my second day of surf class, and he seems incredibly frustrated that I haven't managed to leap gracefully to my feet, bend my knees, hold my arms in a cool surfer pose, and do something that resembles surfing.

On day one, he talked to us about how to lay on the board, when to paddle, and how to "poop up" (pop up - lift our torso up and ride the wave on our stomach). We spent about half hour practicing the "poop up", and then we were back on the beach learning how to "stin up" (stand up) and surf.

I enjoy "pooping up"! It's a fun way to ride the wave and seems like a good way to find my balance on the board. I'd like to spend more time getting a feel for catching the waves, but my instructor tells me that he cannot give me good lessons if I don't at least try to "stin up." So I wear a sense of humor like a wetsuit, and keep trying.

When he's not around, I relax on the board. I adjust my body until I feel balanced, and wait for the right wave. I use my hands to push my torso out of the water, or I sometimes get to my knees, and let the water carry me toward the shore. Once or twice, I even manage to get one foot in front of the other knee. I'm not standing, but I'm finding my way there.

I didn't become an epic surfer during my weeklong surf camp in Morocco, but I did learn a few important lessons when I tried to catch the waves:

  1. Don't let others choose my wave. Although I know he had the best intentions, my instructor didn't help by insisting that I paddle before I was ready. Honestly, I would've enjoyed myself a lot more if I'd had the courage to thank him for his instruction and ask him to let me surf on my own. I spent a lot of time swallowing salt water because I was trying to please him instead of trusting myself to learn at my own pace.

  2. Balance is about being patient. It's about feeling your body, sensing the movement of the water, and making small adjustments on the board. Then everything shifts again - around you and within you. So it's ongoing. Find your balance. Lose your balance. Find your balance again.

  3. I'm stronger than I think I am. Yep - I got knocked down and tumbled around in the washing machine of the waves, but I'm okay. It happens. Sometimes it hurt and I had a couple of bruises at the end of the day, but I didn't drown. It felt good to stand up and shake it off. It felt good to turn around and head out again. Honestly, it's the most bad-ass I've felt in months.

  4. Keep listening to my body. Its wisdom has never failed me. In the afternoons, the waves often became bigger and more chaotic. My body was also tired from two hours of morning surfing. So each day, there came a time to turn toward the shore instead of back out into the waves. It was time to rest. My relationship with my body is key to my well-being, and it's a relationship built on trust. Listening to my body kept me from being injured and strengthened my connection to my body.

  5. I don’t have to be good at everything. Who really wants to? I barely have enough time to do the things that I LIKE doing and AM good at - yoga, dancing, hiking, writing. So, it's probably good that I didn't pick up another hobby or passion on this trip. That being said, I also understand that it takes practice to be good at anything. Given a few more days, it's quite possible that I would have been standing on my board and riding a few waves.

I've rinsed off my surfboard and peeled off my wetsuit. I'm headed back to the mountains where I can feel my feet on the earth below me. It's time to turn back to my writing, to face the waves of self-doubt and distraction that try to knock me down. I'm still learning to balance, to listen, and to trust the process. I'm making time to practice every day. I can feel the surge of creativity within me, and I'm ready to catch the wave!


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