Not long ago, my daughter persuaded me to try surfing. I don’t mean internet surfing (on that I am a pro thanks to my highly evolved procrastination skills), I mean the real shaka bra water sport surfing (on which I am most definitely not a pro). Not that it mattered to my daughter, but Mai Tai and I were perfectly happy enjoying my first visit to the Hawaiian Islands without this sharp turn outside my comfort wake. Nevertheless she begged for an exciting and inimitable mother-daughter day – and 12 year olds are good beggars (until they turn 16 and can then drive themselves). “What the heck?”I thought, “When in Hawaii …” Well, I can now tell you the correct answer here is, ‘drink a Mai Tai’.
Despite a profound lack of experience and misguided sense of athleticism, I relented. I was counting on my strong Canadian running legs to carry me over these waves, forgetting that my strong Canadian running legs were old and not at all that strong. I then carefully chose a surfing company that specialized in Beginners and Cowards because I am both (I kid you not; it’s right there on their website), and guaranteed their students to be surfing by the end of the lesson (though no reference was made to exactly how and the word ‘gracefully’ was omitted from their pledge). I was relieved to be paired with a father-son duo who, like me, had no previous surfing experience.
First wave. Paddle. Kneel. Stand. Surf. After this unsuccessful first attempt at shredding the nar the other youngster in our grouping asked me excitedly, “Hey Lady, was that you who did that amazing face plant out there?” Three words I do not ever wish to see, hear or experience together again: amazing and face and plant. After making sure my bathing suit still covered the significant – I mean appropriate – parts of my body, I quickly wiped the salt water out of my eyes (sea water not tears, thank you) and made my way back to the waves’ breaking point for round two.
Next wave, please. “You’re lovin’ it, right Mama?” Our native Hawaiian instructor, Kihe, had taken to calling me Mama during our land lesson and I carried this nickname into the water. “Oooooohhh Mama,” he continued, “Here comes a 40-footer!” I don’t think Kihe was aware that I firmly believe that ‘here comes a 40-footer’ is only good news when referring to yachts, not waves. Noting the panic in my eye, he assured me with a twinkle in his, that he meant the next wave was 40 feet wide not 40 feet high. Funny guy. I smiled nervously and paddled furiously as Kihe instructed me to do.
Paddle. Kneel. Stand. Surf. “Get out of my way!” shouted another novice surfer who erroneously assumed I actually knew how to get out of his way. “Addictive my eye” I muttered to myself, as we collided. “Deadly is more like it.” There was water in parts of my body where water should not be. My instructor, Kihe, reminded me at my next turn that I need to keep my eye on where I want to go. “If you look at other people, you’re bound to hit them. It’s the same in skiing right Mama? You look at a tree; you’re going to hit the tree!” Oh my God, how did he know about me and the tree?
Paddle. Kneel. Stand. Surf. Contrary to my wildest dreams but true to the surfing company’s guarantee, I managed to catch a ride on the next wave. There is no doubt in my mind that those 60 seconds of adrenaline were definitely worth the ensuing two hours of work trying to recreate that experience. For the love of Job, surfers are the most patient people on the planet. And strong. In case you’re ever wondering why there are so few printed manuals on surfing out there it’s because video would make the following instructions come to life much more effortlessly: Paddle, paddle, paddle, paddle, paddle, paddle, paddle, paddle, paddle, paddle, paddle, paddle, paddle, paddle, paddle, paddle, paddle, paddle, paddle, paddle, kneel, stand, surf, kneel, paddle, paddle, paddle, paddle, paddle, paddle, paddle, paddle, paddle, paddle, paddle, paddle, paddle, paddle, paddle,. Repeat. So where was the part where you just lay down on your surf board and just … well … lay there? That would be a good part; definitely part of my comfort zone.
My daughter stayed behind for a few more rides as I let my surf board and the tide carry me to shore. So endeth the surfing lesson and my retreat to my comfort zone.
Soon thereafter, my son suggested we visit Black Rock for some ‘totally sick cliff jumping’.
‘Yeah.’ I thought, as I mixed another Mai Tai. ‘Send me a post card.’