Have you guys ever done something that you just failed miserably at?? Like put all your effort into and just bam. Fall on your face.
That is literally the story of me and surfing.
When I moved to Australia back in 2011, I knew in my heart I was going to be a surf bum. My hair would turn golden from all the sun and salt. I would hang out on the beach all day. And I would be some kind of surf goddess effortlessly catching waves and flashing the hang loose sign. I would be the epitome of laidback.
So, my first week in Sydney I had a 2-hour surf lesson. I didn’t stand up but I was able to push my upper body up into an upper facing dog yoga pose. And I had fun.
To continue my education, I signed up for a 3-day surf camp where all I would do was eat, sleep, surf, repeat. And nothing happened. I never stood up. Actually, I got worse as time went on. And it was exhausting carrying the heavy board back and forth to the beach. I quickly gave up my surfing dreams. It just didn’t seem in the cards for me.
A few months later in Bali, I tried surfing again. Two mornings straight, me and Ana hired a private instructor so we would have extra attention and support.
But the waves in Bali are rough. I almost drowned when I got pulled into the shore-the most dangerous area as there are tons of rocks and it’s easy to get sucked under the crashing waves.
The most fun for me those two mornings was getting out of the water, leaving the surfboard, and having a coconut to revitalize after being completely wiped out.
All that had managed to happen after at least 9 surf lessons was a mouthful of salt and a complete battering by the waves. Worse, in Bali I had felt like I was in real danger of drowning-a feeling that has thankfully never been replicated in my life. I thought that was that and gave up the idea that I would ever surf. No more money wasted on lessons. No more time wasted gulping down salt water. There were other beach activities I enjoyed-like snorkeling. Now, surfing kind of scared me. It was exhausting. And I sucked at it. I put that dream to rest and moved on to other adventure fantasies.
One morning while we were staying in Hilo, me and Josie woke up early and drove to Honoli’I Beach Park to just watch the surfers. I don’t know how long we sat looking on. It was a beautiful cool morning. Kind of misty but still sunny and bright. I felt completely present just enjoying the good weather and watching the surfers effortlessly stand up and ride waves back and forth. Me and Josie cheered as women would ride huge waves in. (There were way more guys participating in the sport.)
Somehow, my dream of being a surfing goddess came back. It had been 5 years since I had tried the sport. And somehow, I had given my heart to Hawai’I to nurture and heal after the Peace Corps fiasco. The whole core of my being felt safe and peaceful. Something egged me on. Try surfing again. Not at a beach with huge waves like the one we were currently watching. But a place easy for beginners.
Luckily, Josie was captured with the same feeling. She had never been surfing before but watching the surfers at Honoli’I Beach made her want to try. We resolved to take lessons in Kauai since the Adventure Island is famous for its numerous surf spots.
We signed up for a group lesson with Kauai Surf School at Poipu Beach. Poipu Beach is an ideal location to learn as the waves are gentle and the beach isn’t too crowded. Kauai Surf School offered group lessons with up to 4 people which would give us plenty of attention.
I was nervous. I didn’t know what to expect because every other time I had surfed it had gone so shit. But I was excited too. Our surf instructor Kyle was awesome and there was only one other young girl in our class.
Kyle made us practice on land for about 10 minutes tops. Most importantly though he gave us some sage advice. In the past, I focused so much on going through the steps to get to standing. Before we even got in the water, Kyle set us straight: Where you look is where you’ll go so look at the beach. Don’t look down at your feet. You have more time than you think so take it slow. And just, stand up.
It was so basic but as we got into the water I thought to myself, you can do this.
We paddled back to where the waves were. Kyle would wait for a good wave and then tell us one at a time-paddle now. And then, stand up.
Surfing is weird. You hear the wave rushing behind you and can feel it building. Every other time I had gone surfing I had anxiously started running through the steps in my head that we’d practiced on land. Somewhere in between the rushing to get up, I would inevitably fall. But in Kauai, with Kyle’s simple advice to go slow, take my time, and just stand up, everything felt easier.
I didn’t focus on what leg should go where or how. I just did what felt natural. And I moved slowly. The first wave I tried, I stood.
Of course, I fell almost immediately from the shock. But I shot out of the water laughing and excited. All those surf lessons and my first try in Kauai with Kauai Surf School and I had stood. The next wave I took all the way to shore.
Those two hours surfing were amazing. Me and Josie caught wave after wave. While waiting for our turn we would chat about Kauai with Kyle and give encouraging words to each other. Kyle would gently correct some of our problem areas so that each time we were more confident. After we got the hang of it, Kyle started telling us how to spot good waves so we could rent boards and not rely on an instructor to tell us when to start paddling. After those few hours in the water, I would feel comfortable going to an easier beach and surfing by myself.
I relished each opportunity to catch a wave and ride it in. I wasn’t even aware of time passing. Everything was just fun and delightful. I don’t think we would have ever gotten out of the water if we hadn’t gotten hungry. And once we were out, we were exhausted. But in wasn’t that amazing? type of fatigue.
After one morning, I’m in love with the sport. I’ve started researching beaches in Virginia close-ish to DC where there’s good surfing and I can take weekend trips in the future. But beyond wanting to continue surfing, I’m so proud of myself for trying something again. Something that I had completely failed at.
It’s so easy to write off one of two experiences with something and think-that’s not for me. Sometimes that sentiment is true. But sometimes you just have to work a bit harder. Or change up your teacher. Or atmosphere. Or have a different state of mind. Sometimes, you have to give things a few chances. But it’s worth it to embrace your failures. None of us need to be good at everything. But fear of failing at an activity shouldn’t hold us back from doing them.
And if you are looking for a good surf school-get over to Kauai.
Hang loose, ya’ll.
Are you a surfer? What’s your favorite surf story and where did you learn? Or have you accomplished something you thought you would totally suck at? Spill!