Friday, 11 November 2011

Surfing In Santa Monica

So here I am, back in California. I took a private surf lesson through Santa Monica Surf School this morning - the same school I used when I had my lessons with Aussie Dane here back in July, although today I had a different instructor, Aidan, since Dane returned to Australia, ostensibly to renew his visa, and was never to be heard from again. Aidan's assumption is that Dane had trouble getting back into the US. I'm not sure what the deal is, but he was on some sort of visa that he had to renew every 3-months, so it does sound like the situation was a bit suspect. Anyway Aidan was a very nice guy - I've yet to meet a surf instructor in California who hasn't been nice - and gave me some good feedback, so it was all good, although I did end up having to cut my 2-hour lesson short by 30-minutes owing to challenging conditions and being so cold that I lost all feeling in my feet and was unable to tell whether I was in the right spot on the board. I had slightly more feeling in my fingers, but only just, they were cold enough that after a 90minutes I couldn't hold my fingers together to paddle effectively.

"That happens," said Aidan "it used to happen to me all the time, but I think I've got used to the cold now."

Hmmm, I'm much too vain to be in the water so often that I'll get used to the cold. Much as I find surfer guys attractive they frequently have a weathered look that makes them look a lot older than they really are, but men wear weathered much better than women - a double standard I know - and at 40 - even though I'm already apparently "sexually invisible" to men my own age* - even if most people do assume I'm in my early to mid-30s owing to years of steering clear of the sun - I don't intend to start adding lines quite yet.

I think if I'd been taking a lesson with Megan I'd have made it through the whole 2-hours as we would have laughed about how tough it was out there for a beginner, but on my own it was too easy just to feel exhausted and frustrated. The surf was really challenging today, breaking steeply close to the shore and it was really tough for me to even get out beyond where the waves broke as there would be a series of really large waves and then it would be flat for a while - which is when I would paddle my hardest to get out - and then the pattern would repeat. Aidan had to help me get out there initially by giving me a good push over the waves. I don't know what it is, whether it's technique or upper body strength I lack, but I just couldn't get out under my own steam. I'm thinking technique must be partially to blame, because I work out 3 times a week and do chest flies and presses with 15lb weights - almost double the weight used by most of the women in my body conditioning classes - and have a good amount of visible muscle tone in my arms, so I'm no weed, but sometimes surfing makes me feel horribly fragile and girly.

Today was definitely one of those occasions where I felt like a delicate little flower. I really got battered by the ocean.
I didn't eat or drink before my lesson - owing to my psychological aversion to peeing in the ocean, but also hating to feel the discomfort of a full bladder - but I felt as if I had a belly full of sea water I swallowed so much of it and several times the leash caught around both my legs immobilizing me and I freaked slightly and had to force myself to remain calm and use my upper body to swim for my board so that I could hold on and untangle myself. It was a good lesson to learn while in the company of an instructor who could help me out if I got into real trouble, but despite being a fairly strong swimmer I realized today how vulnerable I am in the ocean, especially if I were to panic. Had today been my first lesson I may have been put off by the conditions and I realized I have a LOT to learn. I'm thinking that it might be a good idea to consider getting a jump on that learning by booking myself into surf camp for a week in the spring, somewhere warmer like Costa Rica or Nicaragua, so that I can focus more on perfecting my technique and less on my own discomfort.

Oh and another thing I learned today...Aidan told me I am 'goofy' ha ha!! Make up your friggin' mind surf instructors. Back in July Dane initially told me I was goofy - which means I surf with my left foot at the back of the board - then in San Diego Eli doubted Dane's assessment and had me switch to regular which turned out to be much better, however today Aidan gave me a test where he had me stand on the beach with my feet together and then he unexpectedly pushed me between my shoulder blades and I automatically put my right food forward.

"You naturally put your right foot forward, you're goofy," he claimed.

"But I've tried surfing goofy and I was crap, I was much more successful surfing regular, I prefer to stick with that."

So I surfed regularly with the leash on my right foot, although halfway through the lesson Aidan asked if I wanted to switch. I don't think it would have helped. Seriously I was terrible today, you'd never know that just 6 weeks ago I was surfing all the way into Rockaway Beach on 80-90% of the waves I took. It was immensely frustrating!!

On an enjoyable note I was the only woman out there among about 20 hot surfer bod men. Not to blatantly objectify them, but...well okay I will, because seriously their arses look amazing in wetsuits when they are all laying down on their boards. It's quite a pleasurable sight given how awful mens' arses usually look in their jeans - why do they insist on buying styles that make their bums look saggy? - so that helped a lot in making the tough conditions bearable ;-)

When I booked this trip I originally planned to take lessons Friday, Saturday and Sunday, but today may end up being my only lesson. A storm was forecast for later today and the surf was expected to be really strong tomorrow. Aidan mentioned that after a storm the the flood systems fail and...well 'things' get overflowed into the ocean and there's likely to too much bacteria for it to be safe to surf for a few days. I asked him to give me a call if it's ends up being okay to go out, but he looked doubtful this morning, however the storm seems to have been a bit of a non-event. We experienced heavy rain for about 15minutes this afternoon, but nothing like the 3-5inches of rain the forecasters anticipated, so you never know. Fingers crossed. Tough as it was out there today I wouldn't mind squeezing in one more lesson, although the surf was crashing very loudly on the beach when I walked back to the hotel this evening, so perhaps tomorrow is out for me, but maybe conditions will be more favourable for beginners on Sunday.

*There was a very interesting post on Jezebel this week that talked about why older men chase younger women. Apparently it's all to do with them being so insecure about their looks in their old age that they need validation from younger women to make them feel attractive, which explains why so many 60-plus men - older than my FATHER for God's sake - message me online despite the fact that I clearly indicate an upper age limit of 50. Combining the nuggets from the Jezebel article with The Atlantic's 'All The Single Ladies' cover story this month and well...much as I would like to meet a nice bloke, I wonder if there's really any point in even bothering to try anymore?


Kitty said...

wow, it's worth picking up such a tough sport just for the visuals!!! haha.

I don't quite understand older men with younger women. What do they talk about? I would think being with such a younger person would remind you of your age?

I wouldn't be surprised tho if you ran into a free spirited, not-too-old, not-too-young surfer dude. That would be ideal. :-)

fishwithoutbicycle said...

Hi Kitty,

Ha ha it's very true, the visual aspect is very appealing, more often than not surfer guys have amazing bodies and wear their wetsuits well.

Fingers crossed on the free spirited not too old, not too young surfer dude ;-)