To give a bit of history I have never liked open water. Or lakes. Because lake-monsters. I believe the last time I was fully submerged in a lake was when a friend taught me how to wakeboard ten years ago. It was fun but I couldn’t get over the creepiness I felt about being in water where I couldn’t see beneath me. Did I mention lake-monsters? This is uncommon for people where I am from. Most of my friends have or share a cottage that they are so excited to go to in the summer. These cottages can be anything from a Walden-esque shack with no hot water or electricity to a palatial mansion with all the amenities. All of them however have one thing in common, access to a lake. I’m from a big city and never really got it. I never felt the draw of being in a dark, slimy lake in the middle of a forest not unlike the set of Deliverance. As for the ocean I was a part of the Jaws generation (and a lesser-known film, Orca, also scared the shit out of me) which kept me pretty far from the ocean my entire life. Fast forward to the present. I am in Honolulu for a month and I have been curious about surfing so I decided to book a lesson. I figured it would be a fun experience to try, that I would enjoy the novelty, hate the work and cold, and then leave it at that. I was wrong.
I booked my first lesson the second day I arrived in case I would need or want more and I’m certainly happy I did. I arrived at Big Wave Dave’s Surf Company in Waikiki (highly recommend!) on the morning of my first lesson on a Thursday. Alika was my instructor and I had one classmate from Germany. After about five minutes of simple instruction at the store that involved how to paddle and stand up we headed for the water. A felt a wave (pun intended) of fear wash over me as I entered the ocean. Not only was I going to be in open water I was going in where sharks have been and helicopters patrolled to make sure none were near. There was a low tide so it didn’t get much deeper than ten feet with crystal clear water so if a shark were to appear she would be easy to spot then all there was left to do was to panic and be eaten. Perfect.
The waves were two to three feet high which sounds small but for beginners are substantial. Luckily the boards we were given were so big and light standing up on them was pretty easy. Staying up on them while a wave thrust you forward was a different story. I’m sure I could’ve gotten much more instruction on shore but there would be no way to communicate how it would work. When you’re about to stand the ocean talks to you. It pushes you forward either leaning you in so you can stand up and slide or if you miss it it will leave you behind. When you’re surfing you are a part of the ocean’s wave. You can step forward to speed up, step back when you hear it breaking behind you, you can bend over to feel the water as you slide. For a few seconds, you are on top of the world. You are connected. In short, I was instantly addicted. I have been every second day since.
I didn’t once think about sharks. The weather was perfect even if it’s their winter. Paddling was work but after catching a wave all I wanted to do was to get back and catch another. Alika had some sage advice, “catch the wave, relax take it all in, and take your time getting back. It’s a marathon, not a sprint. You’ll last much longer this way.” I followed these instructions and he was right. I savoured every wave.
I cut my toe on a piece of coral the first day, the board hit my head the second day, it hit my shin the third and one wave delivered my board into my rib leaving it bruised and very sore.
I don’t care. I want to get back out there. Sharks, shmarks!
This post was previously published on Medium.com.
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