Surfing in Spain: My Baptism

Today was a day where I felt like a true traveler. I felt like an adventurer of life, a seeker for experience, a tourist looking to immerse like a local. I went to sleep Saturday night and kept having dreams of running the 400-meter race in less than a minute. I was the fastest and the most athletic in my dreams as if I had been training like I did when I was young. I kept going to races and felt the taste of victory. I was prepping myself in my dreams! How convenient. Then I woke up and was happy to see the sky was blue because the sunshine was actually out. The sun is finicky here. It comes and goes but it is not partial to the mornings and evenings. I usually wake to grey skies and cold wind. Today, though, today was blue and sunny.  The day was ready just like me.

 

Today I went surfing.

 

My host mother just began surfing lessons and is the reason I went today! Many thanks to her! 

My host mother just began surfing lessons and is the reason I went today! Many thanks to her! 

I have never touched a surfboard but ever since I watched Blue Crush as a little girl I wanted to be a surf girl. After Blue Crush I watched every surf show and movie I could find on Nickelodeon and Disney.  I read magazines and books about surf girls. Today, I love watching surf documentaries. As a kid I was told, “surfers are poor. You can’t make a living out of it.” So I merely dreamed knowing it was not a reality.  Don’t ever think like this or tell a child that their dream is not a reality.

I have since followed surfer girls on Instagram and have re-watched Blue Crush on Netflix many times. Watching the surfboard nosedive under a wave is so pleasing to me. Surfing was gold that I had never touched until today.

Before changing into a wetsuit I was unpleasantly surprised by the strong, freezing wind on the beach. I couldn't see anything because my hair kept blowing in my face. The wetsuit, though, was so thick that I barely felt cold in the water.

Before changing into a wetsuit I was unpleasantly surprised by the strong, freezing wind on the beach. I couldn't see anything because my hair kept blowing in my face. The wetsuit, though, was so thick that I barely felt cold in the water.

This is the beach that I surfed on. On the beach were kayakers, surfers, dogs, walkers, pick-up games of football, and paddle boarders. 

This is the beach that I surfed on. On the beach were kayakers, surfers, dogs, walkers, pick-up games of football, and paddle boarders. 

A Coruna, and its surrounding cities, has beautiful beaches and this particular beach is perfect for beginning surfers. I went with my entire host family. I put on my wetsuit and made my way across the beach with an instructor who worked individually with me because he speaks fluent English. I thought that was so nice and I am thankful for that.  We found a spot on the sand and he sat down, placing the board on its side between he and I.  He explained to me that this process is called the bautismo, or baptism. I learn the anatomy of the surfboard—fin, tail, deck, nose, leash.  He told me the steps we would take to learn and he explained to me what surfing was like. Then we practiced the steps in the sand. The third step is the jumping up part. I really struggled with this step. Everyone has different techniques and this technique was difficult for me for two reasons—I have tight hips (who doesn’t though) and my wetsuit was seriously just too tight. I could not bend my knees high enough to place my foot correctly and jump up without moving my foot incorrectly. I was shocked and frustrated because the jumping part was the part I was confident I would nail and was actually very excited to try.  In the end, it didn’t matter because my instructor said, “just try in the water. It’s different. The wave takes you and you’ll find it.”

The baptism of surfing

The baptism of surfing

My instructor explaining the anatomy and process of surfing

My instructor explaining the anatomy and process of surfing

So instead of dwelling and practicing over and over again I took my board to the water. I walked into the salty waves and practiced lying on my board and paddling with the motion. Then I practiced going over the waves with my arms off the board to play with balance. After a few times of feeling the water I could just taste the jump. I needed to try. A wave came and I paddled hard. “Harder! Harder!” the instructors yelled at me. So I paddled harder and faster and felt a little wibbly wobbly.  I was flying across that wave and it was thrilling. Then I jumped up and for a second my feet found the board. It was a thrill. I did it again and again and again. A few times I stayed on the board long enough to celebrate but for the most part I fell. I wanted to be that person that nailed it the first time but knew that probably wouldn’t happen. The waves were also choppy and slightly big due to high wind which was actually great to practice on.

I know this image is low-quality but so what because look!! I'm actually on top of my surf board! I'm the blue and black surfer.

I know this image is low-quality but so what because look!! I'm actually on top of my surf board! I'm the blue and black surfer.

What did I take away from my surf lesson?

I was way too forceful like always with new things I try. I kept expecting and trying to make something work when I wasn’t focusing on how to open up to the wave and let it take me. I kept pressing my hands down on the board like a pushup instead of opening my shoulders and chest back and letting my back and legs do the work. I know what I need to do which is easier than actually doing it but I do know that I need to be more patient and intuitive with the wave. It’s funny because for a while now I have wanted to do yoga, which would have helped me today. I did yoga for a while in Morristown, NJ and loved it. The reason I have been so interested in yoga is because it teaches you so many things that can easily be ignored or irrelevant in the athletic endeavors I have done such as lifting, HIIT workouts, and sports. Yoga interested me because it can teach me to not use force but to use focus, posture, breath, and control. It teaches me to open my mind to one thing and close it to another. It teaches me flexibility and movement, multitasking, and strength. In yoga, the one thing that was most difficult for me and so wonderful to finally understand and accomplish was to open my shoulders and chest and push back without forcefully using my shoulders. Today while surfing I reverted to forcing my shoulders to do work when that only hurt me more, sinking below the wave instead of floating on top of it. The entire time I surfed I thought about how yoga and surfing are so similar. I later asked my instructor if he did yoga in which he replied, “yes I do. I love yoga.”

 

When the lesson was finished I told my host mom and instructors that I will continue on the weekends!  I have a feeling you all will hear more about my surf experiences.

 

Today I tried something new. This is what travel is all about.  

Surf's up dude

Surf's up dude