Monday, October 04, 2010

Surf Camp: Day 2

On my second day at the surf camp, I got acquainted with surfing's not-so-fun friend: paddling. If surfing and paddling went out clubbing and someone wanted to hook up with surfing, paddling would be the grenade that a guy's friend would have to throw himself on. They're a package deal. Except no one can take the grenade for me. I have to jump on it myself. (I'm sorry for putting you through that analogy. I've been watching a lot of Jersey Shore.)

Bright and early at 9am, I joined four other students for the morning surf session: dynamic Austrian duo Melli and Magda, and smooth Swiss surfers Noemi and Rolf. They had been at the camp for a few days now, with Noemi and Rolf on the last leg of a European surf trip. I was clearly the runt of the pack. But since there was only one teacher, I didn't have a choice. I had to join them outside—farther into the ocean and past the white water to catch the waves when they actually break. I got thrown into the deep end.

The good news: I was doing pretty well at surfing. I stood up on every wave I was pushed out on and got the prize of riding the waves for a longer time now that we were out farther. It was brilliant. It was exhilarating.

The bad news: I was clueless at navigating the water and pretty shite at paddling. I hadn't figured out that waves come in sets, so after falling off the board, I would try to paddle back out right away even though there were still waves breaking. So I alternated between getting thrown around like a rag doll and paddling in place like a hamster on a wheel. Thankfully Eduardo spotted me most times and rescued me from ... well, myself.

"Can't someone just make a machine that paddles for me? Or maybe tows me back outside?" I said to  Eduardo as I huff, puff and paddle.

He laughed and said, "You don't know how many times I've heard that."

Somehow though, every wave ridden magically erases the drudgery of paddling, so I finished the lesson in high spirits. "You're doing really well for just your second lesson," Eduardo tells me. The teacher's pet in me jumped up and down.

The afternoon session, however, was another story. It was the last Sunday before school began and the camp was crawling with local surf students. The water's littered with students as inexperienced as myself, and I find that the possibility of colliding with another student scares me more than the waves. 
My worry was misplaced (on this day, at least) because in the end it was the water that got me. I was chilling on the board waiting for my turn when the swell brought a massive wave. As it started to crest over my head, the only thought I could muster up was, "Uh-oh." Eduardo saw the wave coming at me and thought, "Bye bye Celine. See you on the beach." I felt like a sock in the spin cycle as this wave and those that followed flung me all the way to the shore. Exhausted, I called it a day and spent the rest of the session hanging out on the beach with Melli.

We capped off a full day of surfing with a couple of bottles of wine and some good conversation on top of a cliff overlooking the water—Noemi's "farewell party" before getting on a train back to Zurich the next day. As we watched the sun set over the surfers bobbing in the water and traded all our random stories, I couldn't believe what an amazing time I was having.
To go into an adventure alone and somehow end up having more good times with very cool people is one of the coolest rewards of taking a risk. If only for these great unexpected experiences, this little project of mine is definitely turning out to be worth every effort.

Pictures courtesy of Melli Geh and Magdalena Schwertl


  1. My first attempt at surfing wasn't in the Philippines either! It was so epically bad that I even got a story published in Reader's Digest, detailing how much I sucked. And I wrote about the paddling. Oh, the paddling. Nobody every mentions it! At some point, my instructor got so tired of waiting for me that just had me hold onto his leash as he did the paddling for both of us!

    And you were pushed out on waves? Why the hell was I left to fend for myself?

  2. Awww Tish! Can you post the link to the article? I wanna read it!
    I don't know if it's the same with every surf camp, but with this one, the instructors put on flippers and stay out in the deep water with the students during every lesson. They wait with you until a "good wave" comes, and then they position your board and push you out on it. When you're new I guess it's pretty hard to tell what a "good wave" is, so this way you don't expend energy going for waves that aren't worth it.

    The downside is, I don't know if I can actually catch a wave on my own. But the experience was so much fun that I'm definitely coming back and I'm gonna keep trying until I can!

  3. Sadly, the link doesn't exist anymore (it's a six- or seven-year-old story!). But the high/lowlight is of me finally getting on my feet and promptly slipping and hitting my chin on the board!

    I'm sure you could catch a wave on your own! My first instructor probly did help me somehow, but my ineptness just canceled it out. Oh well. I suppose waves are my husband's domain!

  4. Maybe I can ... my instructor did say that because I'm so tiny, he didn't have to push me very hard. Even small waves could carry me daw! Haha ...

    Aww too bad, I'm sure it would've been a fun read. Oh well. Leave the waves to your hubby. I'm sure you kick his ass in the tanning/looking hot in a bikini domain ;-)


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