Thursday, September 9, 2010

Surf City LA

When the ladies of the Inn at Playa del Rey received an invitation to attend a free group surf lesson with Learn to Surf LA, I was immediately interested. I had been saying that I wanted to take a surf lesson for the past year and decided that this invitation was a sign that could not be ignored. I definitely had a number of reservations about surfing, namely, that I am not the most athletic person in the world. Nonetheless, I was determined to try, so I enlisted my friend, Wendy, as moral support and we showed up early on a Wednesday morning at the Learn to Surf LA location in Santa Monica. It was foggy and quite chilly out when we showed up on the beach, but our instructor, Lane, said that the wave conditions were actually really good for beginner surfers.

We started out the lesson by going over water safety and learning some terminology for the board and the waves. Lane showed us the basics of how to stand up on a surf board, and we practiced “popping up” on the beach for a few minutes before heading off into the water to test out what we had learned. We stayed in the area known as “whitewater” or “the soup”, which is where the wave has already broken and is pushing white, foamy water into the shore. Lane stood next to us in the water while we laid down on our boards facing the shore, occasionally looking over our shoulders to watch for incoming waves. Once the wave was on its way in, Lane instructed us to start paddling. As the wave approached, he gave me a push off so that I could catch the momentum of the wave and I rode the first one in on my stomach to get a feel for the way the wave carried the board. As I approached the sand, I rolled off my board, waded back out, and hopped on my board to try it again. On the second time, Lane told me to try to stand up the same way I had practiced on the shore. He pushed me off again, and as I felt the wave catch my board, I pushed my upper body up into a push up position, jumped my legs through my arms and, to my surprise, I found myself standing upright on the board. Although it only lasted a few seconds before I fell off into the water, the excitement propelled me to quickly gather up my board and turn around toward the horizon to try it again. Over the course of the next hour, I repeated this process countless times, while Lane alternated between helping me and Wendy, both in the water and also from the shoreline.

The highlight of the lesson came for me about fifteen minutes before the lesson was over. I had been practicing on my own for a bit, and had stood up several times for a few seconds at a time, while Lane watched me from the shore and called out pointers. I was positioned on the board, waiting for the next wave, and when I saw it coming in, I started paddling as hard as I could. The wave caught my board and started pushing me toward the shoreline. I pushed up into standing position as I had before, but this time, I stayed up! I cruised along the surface of the water and the feeling was incredible! Just before I reached the shoreline, I looked up to where Lane had been standing and I saw him jumping up and down, cheering me on. At that point, I knew there was only one thing to do- go back out and do it again.

I stood up several more times before the end of the lesson, and even though I didn’t have another long ride, it didn’t matter. That amazing feeling stayed with me for the rest of the day and there was no question that I was hooked.
-- Ashley