Learning to Surf (Again): Returning to the High Seas in My 30s
Leaping forward with the boogie board in hand, I banged my knees against the padded curved rim, skipped across the wave, inhaled the pounding water, and then flung against the back wall. My first attempt to boogie board thirteen decks over the middle of the Atlantic Ocean ended with a wedgie, bruised ego, and a sense of determination to show the kids that a thirty-something, overweight female could do more than eat water.
I was many years removed from my surfing heyday in Cocoa Beach, Florida. But there was a time when the last school bell rang and, with nothing but freedom for the next three months, I would load up my bike with my surfboard and head out to the Cocoa Beach Pier. A young, not yet pro, Kelly Slater taught me when I was first learning to surf, “When you head out, go towards the wave so it doesn’t knock you over.” When the horn blew announcing our departure from Fort Lauderdale, my two weeks of real freedom began. No cellphone. No email. Nothing, but vacation and fun on the high seas.
Now, it took me three days to try the surf simulator. Fast approaching Europe with my sea legs under me, it was now or never. Shortly after a stroll around the sport deck, I returned to my room and put on my one-piece swimsuit.
Feeling confident, I remembered my years of surfing as I gazed across the endless miles of the Atlantic Ocean. I stripped off my lounge-wear, placed my towel over them, and joined the line of twelve year-old kids.
When the horn blew announcing our departure from Fort Lauderdale, my two weeks of real freedom began. No cellphone. No email. Nothing, but vacation and fun on the high seas.
The first kid dropped onto the wave, and then turned over onto his back as he rode back and forth on the wave.
The second kid dove onto the wave landing with his knees on the board, drove a hand into the water spinning himself, a full 360 degrees around as the board danced to the left, and then back to the right.
My turn! The instructor took the board from the girl and told me, “Hold the board like this with your hands a bit from the top and your elbows in.” Arrogantly, I took the board. I’ve done boogie boarding before. I placed my hands at the top of the board, walked close to the curved rim, and leapt right in across the face of the wave.
As I attempted to stand after meeting the padding at the back of the surf simulator, I could hear Kelly Slater echoing in my head, “Go towards the wave!” No one laughed as I walked over to my pile of belongings. Grabbing my lounge pants, I put them back on, and got right back in line.
This time, I listened to the instructor’s warnings. Holding the board on its sides, I walked closer to the curved rim, bent my knees and slid straight into the wave. Holding my head up high, avoiding the splash of the wave around the board, I leaned to the left and glided across the face of the wave. The crowd cheered! I leaned a little harder to the right, water rushed over the top of the board, and I whipped it out from under me, and I rolled up the wave.
I got this! I thought, I am a rockstar!
A little bruised, but feeling exuberant, I left for lunch, plotting the next day’s return to the great blue.
Rushing to the surf simulator to get in a few rides before my afternoon trivia session, I was ready to conquer and do some tricks!
Bending my knees, and sliding into the wave, I easily navigated left to right and right to left. The kids and instructors egged me on to try to get on my knees. My first attempt kept me on the wave for about 0.0001 seconds. But, on my second attempt, I did it! I was on my knees riding a wave, something I hadn’t ever done. I went left. I went right. I got back on my stomach. I got this! I thought, I am a rockstar! Remembering the kid that rode on his back, I tried to roll over–and I wiped out!
The surf simulator was my fountain of youth. I hadn’t felt that young in years!
Learning to Surf (Again): Returning to the High Seas in My 30s top photo by Unsplash.