Learning to Surf


Writing about happy things is suppose to be good for you so here's one.

In 2017 I started learning to surf ๐Ÿ„โ€โ™‚๏ธ

It's kind of sad that I hadn't really surfed before. I grew up in Orange County California which is somewhat famous for surfing. As a kid my mom took me and my sister to the beach like 3 or 4 times a week at least one summer. As an adult one of my great uncles gave me an old longboard. I told myself I'd use it someday but never did. None of my friends were surfers. I also lived in both Corona Del Mar and Huntington Beach just a few blocks from the beach at different times in my life but never got into surfing. Maybe one reason is I didn't feel like a whatever my stereo type of "surfer dude" is. Bad on me to have that stereotype.

I did take a lesson once in Kauai with my nephew. The thing I remember most about that lesson was then instructor telling us if we have to wear a wetsuit it's not surfing. ๐Ÿ˜‚ Of course one lesson is not enough.

I also took a short lesson in Thailand once even though Thailand has pretty horrible waves ๐Ÿ˜›

Anyway, the summer of 2017 I stumbled on a meetup called "Surfing for Beginners" and thought "I should check that out!". It turned out to be pretty awesome. It's probably almost a business but the guy that runs it is a surf instructor and he rents a beach house in Onjuku, Chiba. He picks us up in Shibuya at 6am and by around 9am we're at the beach house. Surf for 3 hours or so then get lunch and head back. Usually back by around 6pm.

Some days he might do double surf as in 9am to 12pm, then lunch, then more surfing 3pm to 6pm or so. He even has trips to Shizuoka but those start at 1am and he drives down getting to the beach in Shizuoka at around 4:30am. Getting prepped to surf you get in the water about 5am just as it's getting light out.

The number one thing that's stuck out so far is just how hard it is to surf. I guess I thought it would be like Point Break where Johnny Utah from the midwest shows in Malibu California and after about 3 days out he's surfing like a pro or at least actually surfing.

Me, I think I've been 25 times now including a week long course I took in the Shonan/Enoshima area and I still can't actually surf.

What I mean by can't surf is that real surfing, my impression is, you're on a "green wave" (a wave that hasn't broken yet). You basically slide down the wave just like skiing or snowboarding on snow except you're on water. You turn away from the break to keep yourself on the unbroken part of wave and you're basically sliding down the hill the wave is making.

Getting to that is supposed to be where the real thrill is. It's the part where you "get surfing" and you fall in love with that feeling of riding the wave.

Well, I have never had that experience yet. Instead so far I've only been able to ride broken waves. In those cases instead of sliding down the wave the wave is basically pushing you. It's still fun and you learn to balance but it's not the goal.

I'm actually suprised it's so hard. How did anyone stick it out long enough to figure out the good way ๐Ÿ˜…. I'm going to guess some people are more naturals. Also maybe people that are really fit. Of course Johnny Utah from Point Break is fiction but he was also supposed to be a college football star player so he was clearly fit and surfing probably takes some serious core muscles to keep your balance well.

Still, looking at my fellow meetup friends many of them have been just as many times and are also still at the "pushed by the wave" stage instead of the "ride down the wave" stage. So maybe it just is hard. Luckily, even though it's hard it still just fun to be at the beach and in the water, at least in the summer.

Last month, December 2018, they organized surfing trip to Bali, Indonesia.

One thing I hoped for is better waves. The waves in Onjuku are not the smooth perfectly curling waves you see in surfing videos. They aren't horrible as our instructor can get good rides from them but they are also probably harder to learn on vs some place with smoother waves.

I've thought about trying to take a 2-4 week vacation somewhere with good waves so I could hopefully get to the riding stage instead of the pushed stage.

The Bali trip turned out to be pretty crazy. The first day our guides took us to a place with waves that looked like those perfect curling waves. We separated into 2 groups. The pros and the noobs. Us noobs got in the water in one place and within a set or 2 the waves seemed way way bigger than we were prepared for.

Like I mentioned above I spent a lot of time at the beach as a kid so I'm used to diving under waves but I'm not used to doing with a surfboard so they waves picked me up and tumbled for a good long while. I felt pretty panicced honestly. They come in sets and recovering from one was not giving me time to prepare for the next and I was running out of strength.

I managed to make it out of the wave area and back to the shore and decided I was done for now with that location. Beyond my skill level. That's when I found out the other 3 noobs had gotten washed into some rocks by the big waves. Not big rocks but still more waves keep coming in making it hard to get away from the rocks. But that wasn't the worst part. There were sea urchins and all 3 of them had stepped on them once they got pushed into the rocks.

The next hour or so was spent pulling out sea urchin needles from their feet. Having the needles in their feet didn't look nearly as painful as pulling them out. ๐Ÿ˜ฑ

It couldn't have been that bad because 2 of them went surfing at our next location the same day. That ended up also being a little scary for me.

At the second location we surfed out on some reef probably a mile or 2km from the shore. A boat took us out there and basically they told the noob group, "get out here and surf this break, we'll be back in 3hours" and my gut reaction was "WTF?! You want me to tread water for 3hrs? If I get tired I'll die!!!" Normally surfing near the shoreline if you get tired you just go to the beach and rest but here being a 2km out there was going to be no resting. Having felt like I nearly died in the morning from not enough strength I was kind of scared but the other noobs jumped right off the boat like it was nothing so YOLO! I jumped in too.

To be fair you have your board. The water in the area was calm, no waves, and then in a certain area of the reef there was a break to ride. Outside that area was calm so you can just hold on to your board. You're not really treading water for 3hrs. Still, balancing on a board, even not standing is not zero work. I mananged but later that night around 11pm my muscles told me how out of shape I was. I could barely lift my arms. I had to stay in bed the second day to recover ๐Ÿ˜

Fortunately I was okay to go again the 3rd day. There was great area with waves just the right size. Got some good practice. Still not "riding" but getting closer.

Unfortunately I burnt my legs so sat it out the 4th day.

Still, even if I can't really surf yet being a the beach in the water is great.

Hopefully this year I figure out how to really ride a wave! ๐Ÿ˜Ž

Update: Here's a great video about how hard surfing is for some people.

Life Goals 2018
Ex Machina