When I was a kid, I used to have these recurring dreams where I’d go surfing under cloudless blue skies. I have never gone surfing as a child, nor was I particularly keen about learning how to, but in my dreams I’d feel as though I were one with the waves carrying me gently to the beach. Some ten odd years later, I found myself marveling at the sport’s deceptive simplicity as I alternated between paddling out to sea and clutching at the sides of a surfboard, the sea churning underneath my belly like a hyperacidic stomach.
Last weekend was spent catching some early summer sun at La Union with the boyfriend, Helga, Peter, Jen, and three of Jen’s friends. In between sips of pina colada, naps under the sun, and the kind of kilig moments only beaches can induce, I toyed with the idea of trying out surfing for the first time. There’s no arguing that it looks like a lot of fun, but I know myself well and my self cannot stand very long on a moving object. I also had doubts about my learning curve and the ability of my smoker’s lungs to carry me against the current. Helga claims to have gone surfing on the first morning, but because she has no picture proof I’m inclined to take her story with a grain of salt. She did swear that it was incredibly easy, even for total noobs, and that I’d probably learn how to ride a wave less than an hour.
Being the corporate rebels we are, Marco and I skipped work and stayed at the beach until Monday. A couple of hours before we left, I finally worked up the nerve to sign up for a one-hour surf lesson (400 pesos/hour at the San Juan Surf Resort). Before going into the water, my surf instructor (I feel silly for forgetting his name) taught me all the right ways to lie on the board, paddle out, stand up, etc. Theoretically speaking, I learned how to surf in ten minutes tops, but knowing is half the battle. And the battle involved far greater difficulties than just learning to conquer the waves.
After using my gym top as a makeshift rash guard, the surf instructor led me to the ocean and told me to get on the board so we could start fighting the current and find a nice spot to catch a wave. I did so, trying to keep my eyes focused on the horizon ahead so I wouldn’t get dizzy. What I saw was enough to make me want to start paddling toward the opposite direction: wave after wave of water that looked big enough to carry me off to the sea. To experienced surfers, I’m sure the waves that day were absolutely nothing, but I’ve never had to swim against waves like that in my life. True, I was relatively safe because my surfboard kept me afloat, but that didn’t keep me from growing increasingly terrified with every wave that hit me. I was having difficulty catching my breath, and I was so scared I’d fall off my board and get dragged out by the undertow.
We were getting too far from the shore for my comfort, so I asked my instructor if it was really that necessary to keep swimming out. My heart sank when he said yes, but he quickly added that the closer we are to the shore, the more dangerous it is because the waves happen too closely to each other. After what seemed like an eternity, we finally stopped battling the waves and stayed at spot where surfable waves came less frequently. I started getting ready to catch one for me to ride – but not after I adjusted my top after the surf instructor sheepishly pointed out that one of my boobs slipped out. Makeshift rash guard fail.
I soon discovered that my survival instincts got in the way of learning to surf. And by “survival instincts” I mean I was just plain old too scared to let go of my board. The instructor would give the surfboard a little push when a wave came by, then yelled at me to stand up. But I held on stubbornly to my board, and if I weren’t too terrified to speak I would have probably yelled back with, “ARE YOU A CRAZY PERSON THERE IS NO WAY I’M STANDING UP AND LETTING GO OF THIS SAFE SAFE BOARD.” It was then that he must have realized that I was his worst student ever. It certainly took a lot of effort going back to the same spot after the waves carried me closer to the shore. Which meant I had to go paddle against the current again. This time my arms were too tired to paddle back properly, and I was too scared to do anything but hold on for dear life. I clung onto that board even as the waves threatened to take my bikini bottom as a present for trinket-collecting mermaids under the sea.
I did make several attempts to stand up and surf, but I’d either be daydreaming and hear the instructor shout “TAYO!” too late, or I’d be debating with myself as to whether or not I should stand up. After half an hour I finally got sick of being the only noob in the area who hadn’t quite learned how to surf. The next time a wave comes, I told myself, I will stop daydreaming, stop asking questions, and just stand the fuck up like I’m supposed to.
And I did it! I eventually did it! I finally got up and rode a wave! Sure, I must have looked like a total ass, especially since my entire ride was punctuated by a very loud “WHOAAAAAAAAAAAA!” But as soon as I found the nerve to get up, it occurred to me that surfing itself is actually pretty easy. The wave just picks you up and takes you for a ride, and you don’t have to do anything but stand there and try not to fall. The whole thing must have lasted maybe five seconds, and it was right when I thought, “Oh shit I’m going to fall I’m going to fall” that I lost my balance and landed rather ungracefully into the water.
I wanted so badly to try that again, but I had gone back to daydreaming and missed the last good wave. By the time I realized what was going on, the wave had already pushed me ten feet away from the beach. It was then that the surf instructor swam over to dutifully informed me that the hour was up, not without a note of relief in his voice.
March marks the end of the surfing season, which will start again around September or October. While I think the waves in October might be too strong for me to attempt to surf again, I definitely want to come back to La Union at some point this year and be less wimpy about riding a wave.
And now, I shall end this entry with an almost-sexy gratuitous bikini photo and a gag-inducing cheesy couple photo. Because I couldn’t figure out a way to include these pictures into my narrative. Please excuse the beer belly.
Thanks Marco for the awesome surfing action shots. :DGoogle+