Surfing is not easy. Learning to surf is hard work. Big wave surf videos featuring Pros like Kelly Slater and Stephanie Gilmore make it look so easy. Just carry your board to the waters edge, float out, paddle a bit, duck a wave or two, then wait, and stand up when the swell hits you. Simple right?
Brands like Roxy and Billabong have turned surfing into a lifestyle; glamorous and fun- beach fashion, sun kissed skin, beach hair, and flawless bikini function. Let me show and tell you from experience, what they’ve photoshopped out of the picture. Here are some shots from some of my time surfing in Costa Rica.
The Vision- the squinty sun blinded, salt water stung eyes. Just blink, wipe and carry on. Keep Paddling- you’re not there yet!
The Face- it says it all. Effort. It takes work to paddle out into the waves. You need upper body strength, that fast twitch sprinting muscle effort, and long distance- tenacity effort. All those “mountain climbers”, “burpies” and yoga “chatturangas” and “vinyasas” have been preparing you for this! Paddling out to the lineup is just the warm up.
And now let's talk about the fashion- what am I wearing?
The Rash Guard- it’s name says what it’s supposed to do; protects from belly rash. Board wax feels rough on the belly skin, and you need the wax to help your feet grip when you stand up. My “rashy” (as I affectionately call it) serves as a sunscreen shield too; It’s scorching hot out and the water temperature here in Costa Rica is like a bath tub. I am also part mermaid so it’s gonna be a awhile until I get back to the beach for a water break and to reapply my sunscreen. This rashy seems to ride up on my belly and feels stretched out and faded in the shoulders…might be time for a new one! As if I need another excuse to go shopping! Actually I did get a new one as you'll see in pictures below.
Swimsuit, Bikini, Bathers, Togs, Cossie, Trunks, Budgy Smuggler, Bathing Costume - many names for a piece of cloth that has great potential for wardrobe malfunction. So many wedgie possibilities and loss potential in the spin cycle of the big waves. I insist on bottoms with a waist toggle to tie securely. And as much as I feel like my bum cheeks are popping out, the skimpier the bottoms, the less wedgie prone they seem to be. As for the top, it also needs to tie up securely at the back- Not at the neck- Halters are no bueno. I like a criss cross style and sometimes a simple sports bra style all in one top works well. And for days when I have no patience to mess around- a one piece Speedo will definitely stay put, and give you added belly protection too!
Back to the subject of sunscreen- That whiteish paste on my face is just that- Zinc paste. I have a few favourite wildcrafted pastes that I swear by and one that I make myself. The main sunblock ingredient is Zinc. It blocks the suns rays from getting to your skin. And it's "reef safe"- so it's not just safe for your skin, it's safe for the fishies in the sea too. As unglamorous as it looks to have goo on your face- it's so worth preventing a sunburn.
The Technique- Getting up: It’s called a “pop up”. It’s how I’m supposed to get from my belly to my feet. It’s magic. I’m still working on mine… and will be the subject of future blogs!
The Paddle: Paddle hard, and dig deep, lift and rotate your torso, take long strokes from the nose of the board to your hips.
Watch the waves: Never turn your back on the ocean so they say. Even when you’re paddling to catch a wave, glance back a few times to see what you’re catching as it approaches you.
The Stance: Regular or Goofy, either way, one foot in front, one foot in the back, bend your knees, and stay low to feel out your balance point. It takes more than a few tries to figure out your balance and find that sweet spot and the sweet spot will vary from board to board.
The Wipeout: Something you will familiarize yourself with early. Fall back on the soft whitewater, or dive off and protect your head. Wherever you fall just know that you’ll float to the surface eventually. It’s saltwater, and your foot is tethered to a big buoyant piece of plastic! So even in the spin cycle of a wave sucking you under, eventually you will surface and emerge for air. Just go with the flow, and then paddle out and get back up again. And again, and again.
Getting good at surfing takes practice. And patience. For every awesome day or good wave there will be equally bad days and wicked waves. That's just the nature of the ocean- it keeps changing! Just keep at it. Don't force it. Go with the flow. Know that everyday will be something new and that you just have to get back up and try again!
“I’ve learned life is a lot like surfing. When you get caught in the impact zone, you need to get right back up, because you never know what’s over the next wave…and if you have faith, anything is possible, anything at all.” - Bethany Hamilton