Saturday, January 8, 2011

Receiving A Proverbial Ass Kicking.

It's humbling to have your ass handed to you on a silver platter not once, but a couple of dozen times in the space of an hour and a half.

I had no idea that the surf would be as large as it was when I booked my beginners lesson for today. I had watched the wave reports in the last couple of weeks and thought that the surf was generally smaller in the afternoon. Oh boy, WRONG! Those petite one to two foot waves I saw last week would surely reappear and allow me to gracefully glide across them right? Wrong again!

Today when I showed up for my surf lesson I was greeted by a well built ex-highschool football player, Peter and some equally large and powerful four to six foot waves. On approaching the shoreline my mind was flooded with only two words. "Oh" and "shit". There before me lay unending sets of four footers crashing in relatively shallow water with the odd five and six footer thrown in for good measure. The bigger waves were just there to remind you that you were a smart ass for even thinking about surfing at this time of year.

Peter got me started on the beach with some pop ups and paddling drills. The paddling was pretty much to become a moot point as no beginner can really paddle out over huge wash and waves. One thing was for sure, the 4/3 Rip curl suit I bought at Christmas time was well worth the money and kept me more than warm through the entire lesson. Not a frozen digit on my body I was free to flail and get owned by countless waves in complete comfort.

As we headed out into the surf I instantly became aware that this surf was not to be trifled with and deserved much respect and a healthy portion of fear. Everything about the walling up grey waves said, "Don't even think about screwing around" as they bounced off the sandbar and curled over the top only to slam down into the trough created in front of them. The first two completely destroyed me. Peter, laughing piped up with, "I think that's Waves 2 - Kelsey 0."

I started with a couple of knee rides into the beach which was really fun and gave me a sense of how the wave would grab the board and shoot me towards the beach. I then graduated to step ups and then full pop-ups. With help from Peter I caught a number of waves and managed to stand up and ride at least 10 or more. I was chronically over-weighting my back foot which just like in snowboarding causes a loss of steering control and eventually, falling off.

The falling off I could deal with. It seemed like a natural progression of events as a beginner. It was the wading out and staring at a six foot wave which was just about to break over my head that I had a bit of a problem with.

"Toss the board and dive into it quick!" said Peter. Had I the time I would first run for the beach and second asked him, "Are you f*cking serious?"

The six foot wave showed me how serious it was. One must consider the physics in play when it comes to such a wave. Front to back that wave is one and a half to two times as long as it is high. That wave was also breaking in 4 ft of water and most of that water lying beneath it is moving in the same direction as well. So my 5'8" frame standing there in 4 ft of water with a 6 ft wave coming at it was 4'4" shorter than the wave. The volume of water moving at the surface area of my body was approximately 120-144 gallons, each gallon weighing 8 lbs. That's anywhere from 960 - 1152 lbs of water moving at 10 - 15 km/h (ohhh mixing metric and imperial!) and when just the upper portion of the wave lands on you it can be around 400 lbs of water thumping you to the bottom and holding you there for 10 seconds or more. If that's not enough, the additional ride in the washing machine and the board possibly crashing down on your head as you surface really puts the icing on the cake.

I tossed the board and dove through the wave and sorta of popped out the other side. There were other times where it simply owned me and took my for a sommersaulting ride to shore.

I should mention that the $80 lesson was an hour and forty five minutes. I made it an hour and twenty and packed it in knowing there was no way anything good was coming from me staying out there. I would be much better to head home and come back out another day when I had the use of my body.

Was it fun in the end? You bet. Will I do it again? Hellz yeah. In that size of surf? No Ma'am. I'm going to wait for the smaller stuff and have some fun. That was way too much like getting tackled by Ernie Anderson at my first men's rugby practice (I quit rugby soon after).

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