A California girl’s first surf lesson.
Thursday, July 12, 2007
The nine-foot foam surfboard balances atop my head, working my biceps, triceps and wrists to the limit. The unfamiliar feel of my wetsuit against my skin distracts much-needed concentration – my first step into the sand bucks me forward three feet. My surfboard, “Big Blue,” almost goes down.
I haven’t even reached the water and surfing is already proving physically and mentally demanding. Over the next three hours my body will be pounded in ways I never imagined and my head will have to resist fears of Jaws and breaking limbs long enough to retain unfamiliar surf lingo.
Fortunately this 22-year-old California girl who’s never gone surfing has Noah Greenberg of Carmel Surf Lessons – and his 20 years of know-how – to ease her nerves.
From Greenberg’s big van, three other students and I navigate a mess of dogs galloping, families barbecuing and skim-boarders shredding to reach the sand.
We stop a few feet from the waves to practice our paddling and standing-up technique. Once we’ve earned Greenberg’s approval, we’ll get clearance to enter the water here at the north end of Del Monte Beach.
His two kids, Mitchell and younger brother “Bear,” provide comedic relief and actual role models on how to go about learning to surf – while neither child is out of elementary school, both have been surfing since age 2.
Having lined us up on the beach like a football team’s offensive line, Greenberg gives commands of “stand-up,” “paddle,” and “ride the wave.” One by one he isolates each of us, gauging progress and judging to see who’s ready for the waves.
Finally “Big Blue” and I are cleared to enter the choppy white water. Each wave that passes smashes against my face, shooting salty sea water up my nostrils. A steady stream of snot runs down my face and remains there through the entire lesson, making me wonder how much snot my body can hold.
I wipe the current snot collection off the top of my mouth as I feverishly paddle toward the others in the group. “Slow down your arms,” yells Greenberg as he motions me over. I take a deep breath and focus on a good steady stroke. My productivity increases as I inch closer to riding my first wave.
Greenberg, who gives over 300 private lessons a year and enjoys endorsements from three different local surf shops, waits for me to get my board situated next to him. Heavy breaths leave my mouth, adding a slight pant to my voice. “Let’s do this,” I barely get out as Greenberg’s hand thrusts my board forward into a wave.
“Stand up, stand up!” Greenberg booms from behind me as I lift my chest up from the board and attempt to bring my feet up to stand. I use my arms for balance and gaze up at the beach. The hour of practice needed for these precious few seconds hovering over the ocean prove well worth it – for the first time I understand what drug users mean when they say there is nothing like that first high.
I finally fall off the board a few feet from the sand, with victory racing through my veins. Swallowed salt water scratches my throat as I try to keep my board from drifting away. With the first wave down, I see a lifetime of rides ahead of me.
Souvenirs I had not expected – a dozen bruises and two scrapes from banging into “Big Blue” – appear over the next few days, reminding me that surfing is more demanding than I had originally thought, giving me a new-found respect for surfers, and fueling greater curiosity in the sport.
ADVENTURES BY THE SEA (372-1807) AND EVOLUTION (373-0427) ALSO OFFER SURF LESSONS LOCALLY. FOR MORE INFORMATION ON GREENBERG SURF LESSONS, WHICH RUN $75 AN HOUR FOR GROUP LESSONS, CALL 915-4065.