It took me 5 summers, but I got my first surfing buddy, and surfing has never been more fun. And I didn’t actually trick her, she was completely stoked and willing! The one thing that can make your favorite sport even better is when you have an awesome buddy to share it with.
So, my surfing buddy and her husband were kind of dabbling in mountain biking and thinking about picking up a new sport. We all climb, and we try to climb as hard as we can, so being active and outside is a pretty big part of our lifestyles already, but still, picking up a new sport is like getting a puppy, you have to have time and money to invest in it, you have to want it, and you have to know full well that it won’t always be pretty, there will be times that you are like, “Why do I have this puppy when I could have something easy, like a plant?”
Anyway, her first time mountain biking, a sport I may try ONCE, is a bit of a tale. Although, being outside, trying hard, pushing through, is always a success story in the end. Ultimately, between the $4000 mountain bike being so mal-fitted for her that it was barely functional and the trail being way too hard for a beginner, she was not super psyched on investing $4k+ in a bike and gear. So, for the time being, mountain biking was put on hold, a decision her lady parts are probably happy with. I know every woman who has been on a bike for a long time knows exactly what we are talking about. That is when I made my move, “Hey, if you ever want to try surfing, I would totally do a lesson with you!”
And she was stoked! I was so happy. After surfing by myself for four years, I felt my little skills plateauing, and I knew not only would the lessons be great for me too, but it would be awesome to maybe have someone to share the waves and to share learning. Girl power.
We went to the 7th St Surf Shop in Ocean City, NJ for the first private lesson. 7th St in OC, NJ is where I had my first couple of lessons back in 2016 and 2017, all with instructor Matt Ellison, who is one of the most awesome laid back guys. (As a grown ass woman, however, I totally recommend private lessons, not the group lessons. It is totally worth the little extra $$.) Anyway, for our first private lesson, our instructor was Frank. He taught us the basics, of course, and told us about living for the last 6th months on a tiny island surfing in the Pacific, what surfers do if they have to #2 after they have paddled way out into the ocean, how the shaka sign can mean just about anything, and about different kinds of surf breaks, so we were learning more than just how to pop up on a wave, we were learning about surfing and some surfing culture.
My buddy stood up on almost every wave he pushed her into, and he helped me stand up on some waves that were a bit bigger than I was used to, which gave me great confidence in my muscle memory for my pop up and on my board. For the first time, I felt what it was like to actually drop down into a wave and catch it; scary for a second, trust your instincts for one scary second, then it is amazing, because you are surfing.
We had a great hour, surfing, honing skills, and learning a bit about surfer dirt-bag culture. As climbers, we really kind of appreciate people who are really willing to make their sport their lifestyle. In climbing, we call it dirt-bagging. Apre-surf, we reapplied sunblock and went to stake out some burritos bowls on the boardwalk. (Covid note, the boardwalk was not super busy in OC, and TBH, it felt safe. People wore masks, we wore masks. The CDC has indicated that outdoor recreation is one of the best ways to get out safely these days.)
Private Lesson 2! More time on task. We went back to 7th St in OC, NJ for our second private lesson, and this time we were teamed up with instructor Rob. My buddy wanted to size down to a 8ft board as she was trying to see what size board she might like to invest in. I used my own 49L 7ft soft top board. We let Rob know where we were at in our skills and our goals and hit the water! My big goal was to get turning in the direction a wave was breaking, so I could surf down the line of a wave, and not just straight to shore. I had so much fun and really surprised myself with my left turns! Right turns are still a challenge though. Rob helped me know how to turn by shouting which way the wave was breaking. Then he walked me through how I could tell which way a wave was breaking by observing the shape. He even had my buddy turning down the line of the waves. It was such a great lesson, and we both left stoked for our next day, which was at Cape May, NJ.
Cape May, NY! Covid note, while Ocean City, NJ was not crowded and people where we were, were being pretty good with social distancing, Cape May was even less crowded! Fueled up with a pancake and eggs from Uncle Bill’s Pancake House, we took out leftover Buckwheat pancakes and leftover pieces of pork roll to the surfing beach to see what we had! My buddy rented a 7ft board from the South End Surf Shop, sizing down yet again!
So, a note about this particular break in Cape May. It was a bit of a nemesis for me. Rob (not instructor Rob) and I were down in Cape May for 4 days in early June, and I surfed here everyday. I was trying to learn to turn, to surf down the line of a wave and not just straight at the beach. I went through so much trouble shooting. Maybe if I turn my board more when I take off, nope. Maybe I am taking off too soon, nope. Maybe I am taking off too late, nope. I surfed for 3 days straight here, and I didn’t catch a single wave. 3 days of identifying problems and possible solutions to no avail. Now this break is a left break, and the day before I had gotten really comfortable with riding left! So, this was a test.
First wave for me, I fell off the back. I was a little too late. First wave for my buddy was a MASSIVE success! She rode that wave to the sand. Second wave for me, MASSIVE success! I dropped in, rode left, grabbed my rail, and rode it like I knew what I was doing! Now, as Matt says, I just need to let my fingers drag along the wave behind me, for maximum style points. We stayed out for like an hour and a half and each caught like 5 waves; it was awesome. Plus, the dolphins were swimming so close to the beach, only about 30 feet out from where the surfers were lining up, so it was just amazing. We could barely stand when we stumbled out of the water 90 minutes later. Eating cold leftover buckwheat pancakes and cold pork roll with wet salty fingers was the perfect end to the best surf session of the season.
Next week, we will hit Hering Point! A right break in Delaware’s Cape Henlopen State Park. We will see if I can master those pesky right waves.
Today, our triceps and deltoids are feeling it from all of the popping up and paddling, but we enjoy it, we enjoy feeling our muscles working and knowing that we are getting stronger. Even though she is 32 and I am 38, we don’t let that stop us from getting into new sports. One odd thing that surfing and mountain biking have in common though, both leave your lady parts a bit sore for a couple of days, but it is worth it.
P.S. If you haven’t surfed before, you are probably wondering, “How in the heck does surfing make that sore?” So, your hip bones fuse together in the center, right at your *ahem* parts, and at the center there is an arch. So, when you are lying down, as if lying down to paddle on a surfboard, your chest is slightly up, and your feet are also up, in almost a superman-like position. So, you end up bearing some extra weight on the bottom of your rib cage as well as that central arch area of the hip bone. Thus, next day soreness.