Learning to Surf: Humbling, Intimidating, and So Much Freaking Fun

My love of the water started at an early age —  my parents exposed me to the water when I was a baby and I grew up swimming like a fish. I also had dreams of becoming a marine biologist, and was enamored with sharks, whales, ocean landscapes…really all things ocean-related. And for as long as I can remember, I’ve dreamt of surfing. Actually, I’m pretty sure I can pinpoint watching the movie “Blue Crush” circa 2002 as the true beginning of my surf dreams, as cheesy as that may be. But having grown up in central Massachusetts, then going to school in central Maine, I never lived anywhere conducive to learning to surf.

During my time studying abroad in Ecuador and then Chile in 2007, I took two surfing lessons, both from instructors named Elvis (don’t ask, I don’t know). I vaguely remember being able to stand up on a few waves, but for whatever reason, it wasn’t enough for me to catch the bug. The dream remained, but was put on the back burner for a bit. Living in San Francisco after graduation, I surfed once in Santa Cruz, then promptly moved to the concrete jungle of New York City. All the while, a little voice in the back of my head was there, telling me that one day I’d be able to live somewhere I could surf anytime I wanted to. Enter our move to Santa Monica, complete with year-round perfect weather.

Just last week, about three months after moving to Southern California, I finally signed up for my first surf lesson. I was intimidated at first, since being a beginner at anything is really scary, and being a beginner surfer seemed extra scary because of the tight-knit community, the slang, the unwritten rules, the locations, etc. I took a lesson on Tuesday and had an absolute blast. Deciding to harness that energy and excitement, I bought a board on Thursday (thank you, Costco!), and went out Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. I’ve been reading and watching everything I can get my hands on about wave conditions, surf history, surf competitions, mobility exercises, and beginner tips. I’ve enlisted the help and advice from friends who surf, purchased a wet suit, learned to wax my board, and can’t stop thinking of surfing. I didn’t think much of this until Kristian mentioned the other day that he’s never seen me this excited about an activity in the almost seven years that he’s known me.

I’m not sure what is it about the sport that’s always appealed to me, and what now is almost all-consuming. Being out on the water is so calming and tranquil, and surfing is an incredible physical and mental workout. The connection to nature when you’re out there is palpable — the waves are always changing and evolving due to wind, tides, storms, and more. And you know the old saying, “The cure for anything is salt water: sweat, tears, or the sea.”

So as I near my 30th birthday on Saturday, I feel truly blessed to have finally taken the plunge (pun intended) and picked up a hobby that I’ve fantasized about for so many years. I’m still very much a beginner and have no illusions of becoming a world-class surfer anytime soon. I know the sport takes years and thousands of hours of practice to even reach an intermediate level, and that is time that I look forward to spending out on the water.


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