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Surfing USA

Sunday, April 10th, 2011

The Days of Yore

I grew up in the water. Seriously, my Dad was an Olympic-class swimmer and he dunked me in the Atlantic before I was three. By the age of five I was body surfing. Our family moved to California and, naturally, I wanted a surfboard so I could really ride the waves like the cool kids. For some unknown reason, my parents obliged and I spend all day every day during each summer on one surfboard or another (begging proved a very effective way to coerce a new board out of my parents).

Fast forward an undisclosed number of years and a number of desk jobs. I somehow forgot about my surfing passion when I went to college, being more interested in deep philosophical thinking and other things that absorb college students. My work took me out of Southern California and surfing didn’t make the short list of things I felt I had to do. Wrong.

Finally, because of ready Internet connections, I am now able to spend a good deal of time in California again, so I employed my most successful tactic: I begged my wife for a surfboard. After she stopped laughing, she started to get into the whole idea and I bought a board. And humiliated myself whenever I paddled out.

Whatever I knew, I had forgotten. Whatever arm strength I had then migrated to my belly. I thank the person or people who attached leashes to surfboards for saving me a lot so swimming.

Getting Serious

Friends and family were starting to get wind of this new obsession of mine, so my Holiday gifts (quite by coincidence) from several of them were gift-certificates for a local surf shop. When I added up how much I had, it looked like close to enough for another board. Not that my previous board wasn’t good enough — I just wasn’t good enough for it.

I found a nice 9′ board and plunked down my gift certificates. All waxed up and ready, I paddled out into the winter surf and was amazed at how much easier it was to get into the surf lineup on a 9′ board than a 7′ one. I began to enjoy some success. Still taking ungainly dives off the board, but much better results.

Gathering Momentum

Having spent about a year with my 9′ board, which my wife has dubbed the “banana board,” largely because of its color, I felt I could use some help getting to the next level. For some reason, golf lessons and tennis lessons are considered de rigeur, but who actually thinks about surf lessons? I mean, isn’t it more fun to bang your head against the wall while you figure it all out?

I thought not. One evening, my wife suggested a local surf school. I spent nearly three hours with an instructor, and followed it up with another three-hour session. The things I couldn’t see about my surfing were subtle, but so significant that they were holding me back. Once pointed out, I began to incorporate them into my surfing. And now I get a special critique (and I mean this in a good way) from my wife each time I finish a session.