Sunday, 20 November 2011

Perhaps I Need My Head Seeing To

Because I went surfing in Far Rockaway this morning. These are the kind of idiotic decisions you risk making when coming off the high of a great surf lesson like the one I took in Santa Monica on Monday with GoSurfLa. Megan is out in California this week for Thanksgiving with her family and had contacted Pete Pirus, the instructor I thought was so great, so hopefully she'll have as good a time as I had.

Today's lesson was also great, albeit in very different conditions to the lesson I had on Monday.
It was such a lovely day in New York today - although I still feel totally hardcore for going surfing in NY in late November ha ha, I'm so bad-ass. Not!! - and, while it was a bit windy by the beach, I was very toasty out there in all the kit I had on. Only two of us showed up to the lesson, but I had a great time surfing with fellow novice Sharon under the careful guidance of our very nice - and very easy on the eyes - instructor, Joel, who really helped me out a lot today when I was struggling to paddle against a current that kept sending us back towards a rocky jetty. Joel made it look easy, but the current was strong enough that you really had to paddle just to stay in place and despite all the weight training I do my shoulders were feeling the burn, however every once in a while Joel - realizing I was tiring - would help me out by giving my board a push.

I look like the creature from the deep in my 4/3 full suit. Wet suit thickness is measured in millimeters, the first number represents the thickness in the torso, and the second is the thickness in the extremities which are always slightly thinner because of the need for mobility. We also had hoods, plus thick gloves and booties on - size 5 booties for my own reference - but the extra kit wasn't the hindrance to surfing that I thought they would be.

Admittedly the photo could be of anyone, so you'll have to take my word for it, but it's definitely me.

My stance is so weird in this photo, I never knew that I held my arms that way when I surfed and I'm leaning further forward than I should, I am so not making surfing look cool and good God woman, BEND YOUR KNEES!!!! Although I'm thinking that the photo may have been taken on one occasion where I had a great ride in, but initially struggled to stay balanced on the surf board as I look like I'm further back that I need to be, so I think I may have been adjusting my position when the photo was taken. Fortunately I held on and surfed all the way into the beach. Yay!!

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

If Disney Did Surf Lessons...

...they would probably be a lot like the one I squeezed in at the last minute on Monday morning. Ah, it was the BEST!!!

I have to say that after Friday's lesson - brought to me Jaws* - in challenging conditions it was with a significant level of trepidation that I walked up to lifeguard tower 20 for my 8am surf lesson with Pete Pirus of GoSurfLa, but I'm so so so glad I scheduled the session, I had the most amazing time and could have stayed out for hours. The conditions were great for a beginner and Pete was a fantastic instructor, who disconcertingly bore more than a mere passing resemblance to my former love interest, 'Catweazle'. You could just tell he enjoyed teaching, my only regret was not scheduling lessons with him sooner.
We - another beginner, Cathy, was my companion for the lesson - even had a baby seal join us for the last 30minutes. Too too cute!! My only concern was that a shark might come and eat him as a tasty hors d'oeuvre and then consider me as a main course.**

I've already recommended Peter to Megan for when she is out in LA for Thanksgiving next week.

I also loved the O'Neill Epic 3/2 wetsuit I wore (size 4 for my own future reference). It fit me like a glove and kept me nice and toasty. Definitely a brand to keep in mind for when I'm ready to buy my own, although I'm not sure it had a key pocket.

*Although my experience in no way reflects my instructor Aidan, more the conditions that were too challenging for a novice, however I don't regret going out in those conditions in the least, because it helped me not to take the ocean for granted.

**Always the pessimist ;-)

Sunday, 13 November 2011

Not much of an achievement I know...

...but today marks 7 days of not imbibing alcoholic drinks.


I'm hoping to make it through 26 days of not drinking - an idea that came to me after a particularly boozy day supporting the marathon last weekend with Megan, Debs and Layla in a 'i'll do my own marathon sort of thing - but we'll see how that goes when I'm back to work on Wednesday and of course there is the added obstacle of a former colleague, who went to work for a wine distributor, coming in on Friday at 4pm to give the department a tasting.

Must. Be. Strong!!!

Actually I think the office wine tasting will be really tough because work is definitely my trigger for craving a glass of wine - or three - at the end of a tough day, but the two weeks before the marathon last Sunday were particularly bad for both being stressful and having a lot of social events on the calendar, so I'm trying to take a break before all the Christmas/Holiday parties kick into high gear, although I almost succumbed to temptation at lunch today when I thought about how nice a glass of organic Chardonnay would be to accompany my fish tacos at True Food Kitchen* but my Catholic guilt kicked in and I ordered the Medicine Man fruit punch instead with Olivello juice** (um...what), pomegranate juice, cranberry juice, black tea, soda water and pomegranate seeds. Apparently it's an antioxidant blast!!

So it's bye bye beach and back to NYC for me tomorrow on a 2pm flight from LAX. I was pondering what I was going to do tomorrow morning and decided I would walk the 2 miles up to the Huckleberry Cafe and sample one of their maple bacon biscuit and coffee for breakfast, but today was such a beautiful day, that walking back to the hotel after lunch, along the beach, I felt a pang of regret that I'd only managed to squeeze in one surf lesson, so when I got back I Googled a few surf schools and quickly managed to set myself up with an 8am lesson with Go Surf LA.


Despite the battering I took on Friday I'm keen to get out there for another go. Wish me luck!!

*Love love love this place, wish they would open one in New York

**Apparently it's an extract of sea buckthorn berries. But of course, why didn't you say so!!! Smacks head!! Actually I am still completely clueless, but according to Dr. Andrew Weill, it's v v healthy. It was delicious I can tell you that much.

Saturday, 12 November 2011

Looks like another rain shower is on the way

So it looks like squeezing in another surf lesson before I head back to New York is a bust judging by the dark clouds gathering over Santa Monica beach as I walked back to the hotel around 5pm this evening. Actually this photo makes the sky look much brighter than it really is. Those clouds could only be described as 'foreboding' and there were very few surfers out today on the numerous occasions I walked alongside the beach. I just can't get enough of that salty air regardless of how overcast it is.

Despite yesterday's battering I was really hoping to get out again and get some more practice in before I can pick up my lessons again in New York in the spring, but it looks like it's not meant to be. Ironically I saw on Facebook that Rockaway Surf School in New York has a group lesson scheduled for tomorrow as the temperature is supposed to reach a high of NY, in mid November!!! Who'd have thought it? I can't imagine there'll be many more lessons on the calendar in New York in 2011, but Megan did email me about an offer she received through Gilt Group to try a new surf inspired workout through SurfSet Fitness using their Ripsurfer X machine. This short video gives you a taste of the workout.

SurfSET Fitness: RipSurferX from SurfSET Fitness on Vimeo.

Very intriguing albeit a bit gimmicky!!! I'm not sure how much it will help my surfing ability given the biggest obstacle to my surf career is gaining a better understanding of the ocean, but it looks like fun, so Megan and I have signed up for one of the discounted workouts they are offering in New York in November and December.

So much for the storm being a non-event

I was woken up by the wind howling on the roof of the motel last night - although the guy in the next room snoring like a freight train didn't help - and rain lashing the windows, so it seemed the storm finally arrived.

Today is supposed to be a bit of a wash out so a good day to head up the Huckleberry Cafe on Wilshire, per a recommendation from Megan who is from LA, for a hearty breakfast followed by a few hours in the movies. Unfortunately there isn't much out there that appeals to me, but I'm considering seeing the Ides of March. It's either the movies or shopping and my credit card has taken a battering of late, so I'm trying to steer well clear other than for Christmas gifts. The upside to only having one surf lesson while I'm here is that I've saved myself $250.

Walking alongside Santa Monica beach at 7.30am on Saturday 12th November. I was surprisingly far from alone, lots of joggers and walkers out and about already.

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?