Short Story- The Surf Lesson- APR 01, 2017
Your Lead Paragrpah goes here
I hear her voice above the roar of the surf at high tide. I obediently comply. Lying flat on my belly, I make a couple of splashy strokes before planting my palms next to my chest as instructed and hoisting my body up onto my toes. From there I see myself deftly jumping into position with my left foot between my palms and my right foot the desired couple of feet behind the left one, both feet perfectly balanced across the middle of the board. I then immediately stand up and enjoy the ride to shore.
At least, that’s how it happens in my head.
In truth, yeah I get my hands planted where they belong, and yeah I manage to push myself up onto my toes. That’s when things stopped going right.
My left knee somehow got in the way then I tried to stand up on my right foot anyway and just ended up face first in the water next to my board. The wave was breaking so I got rolled under it and had to hang out under there for a sec and hope my board didn’t change my hairline with either a fin or a wicked rail that somehow had suddenly become a 9-foot-long sword and mallet at the same time. I surface, coughing only a little, with my long hair barely blocking my airways.
“Come on! Hop on that board and paddle back out here! Like a surfer!” hollers Maria, my surf instructor del día.
I nod, only slightly out of breath, wipe my nose and mouth, then push the board toward the open sea and hop belly-down on top of it, focusing on making long, strong arm strokes.
“You almost had that one!”
Bullshit, I say to myself, though I appreciate her encouragement. “Thanks!”
“Come on! Here comes another one. Get ready!” She helps me spin around to face shore. “Ok PADDLE! UP!”
Five or so splashy strokes later I feel elevated at the foot and I know it’s time. I plant my palms and push myself to my toes. I jump to plant my feet near my hands on the board. I stand up and just as I’m becoming vertical I see that my feet are both left of center. I try to compensate by pushing my weight on my toes as I rise. The taller I stand, the more I push my weight to the right. And… in I go, face first. The wave breaks just above where I’ve just fallen, pushing me more deeply under water and corkscrewing me, rolling me on all axes at once like an Olympic diver or gymnast. (Yeah — just like that). Water gushes into my nose and somehow down my throat, though I swore I kept my mouth closed.
I’m not exactly sure which way is up and I have no idea where my board is, but I know I have to just be patient and keep holding my breath, letting the surf toss me around as it likes, until the wave’s energy passes. I become vaguely aware that my bikini bottoms are somewhere near my knees, and my top somehow got twisted showing both girls the full light of day. Damn it!
Maria is looking at me as I surface tugging at my clothes. She’s smiling and giving me two thumbs up. Bless her soul right now I swear. There isn’t an idiom that applies to clumsiness when surfing. “Two left feet” works great for not being able to dance worth a darn; “all thumbs” works for not being able to use your fingers agilely; but for surfing? Maybe “all hands” would work here, since on your hands is where you do not want to be. Or maybe “all faces”. Well whatever that idiom would be, to express clumsiness in surfing, that’s how I’m feeling right about now. All that.
“Hey that one was a lot better! You got both feet almost into position! Great work!”
I could kiss her. I know that I’m paying her to tell me good things and be supportive, and at the same time as that registers in one part of my brain, in my heart she’s made me smile. “Thanks!” I said, and I meant it.
The painful-to-watch process repeats itself several more times with various outcomes, none of which has me landing both of my feet in the exact right position to enable me to easily balance on the board and ride it to shore, and most of which bring me to the surface coughing and snotty, with stinging eyes and water in my sinuses. Not today.
Maria doesn’t realize how my aging womanly muscles don’t behave like most people’s. She persists, and I love the warm ocean pushing me around out there, but I can’t take it anymore. My muscles are tired and up against an opponent that refuses to meet you at your level, such as merciless Neptune, you need to know when to stop. Scores of trips around the sun may take their toll on your muscle strength, but what you lose in brawn, you gain in your head. I’ve had enough for today.
I catch a wave into shore on my belly, feeling thoroughly spent and stoked, grinning ear-to-ear. At my age, I’m super happy to be out in the water instead of on the shore watching, and I’m thrilled that I have at least the agility to get out in those wicked waves and give it a halfway decent shot. Maybe I didn’t stand up on the board today, which I understand to be the entire point in surfing, but I sure had fun trying to harness the waves. And if I don’t stand up next time that’s okay too. I’m in no rush–I got nothin’ but time to fill. And if learning is this fun, I’m all in.