First Day of the Season: There are always some first day jitters that go along with the first session of a season. Whether it is the first outdoor climb of a season, the first run of the snowboarding season, or today, the first surf session, certain thoughts creep in: Will my brain and body remember how to move on my board? Will I get off the lift without falling? Will I freak out on this 5.9? Is this climb run out? Will I not catch a single wave? Will I have whiplash or a fat-lip tomorrow because of this? Even though it may not be literally your first day at the sport, I feel that I experience first days a few times a year. So, how do you have your best first day back?
Psych yourself up. I went into yesterday’s surf session with multiple unanswered questions. How will all of this cold water gear feel? Am I going to freeze? Will I be the only person out there? Will the 2-3 foot waves be too big for me? Will I be able to get my board past the break? Will I even stand up? All of these questions we ask ourselves going into our day outside in nature, regardless of the sport, have the power to really bog us down if we let them. So, it is important to process our little fears with reason so that we can have a clear mind for the best day. So, tackle each question with reason. Will it be cold? Maybe, but my heated car is near, and being cold is just a feeling, it is not really that bad. Will the waves be too big? Maybe, but I’ll never learn to surf 2-3 foot waves if I don’t try, and I have tried this size wave before. While we can’t answer any of these questions definitively, we can reason our way into feeling comfortable with the uncertainty, no matter the outcome, and ultimately get ready to face and adapt to whatever the day brings!
Set a goal and kind of forget about it. With your mind open and ready, it is time to set a purpose for the day. What might success look like for me today? TBH, I like to keep the bar a little low on the first day. Hehe. After all, you are out there, and that means you are already winning. I decided on the way out the door this morning, that if I caught 2 waves, then I would consider that a definite success. That was it, stand up on 2 waves. Achievable. …? Once you have a goal, remember that in the big picture, it doesn’t really matter that much. Today is just one of many days, and you aren’t out there to keep score. You are out there because thousands of miles away the wind and the water made waves, pushed those waves across an entire ocean, and you got to surf them. You might even get some sun and see a dolphin.
Try hard. First, a word on wetsuits. Let me tell you right now, if you decide to try surfing and the water is cool enough to require a wetsuit, I want you to know that putting on a wetsuit will suck. Don’t give up. Don’t quit. Pull! Don’t think about how ridiculous you probably look. You WILL get that wetsuit on, and it will feel right once it is on, but not a moment before. By the time I was a bit overdressed and suited up in booties, gloves, hood, and wetsuit, I was sweating and I had to pee so, time to hit the water! Enough about wetsuits.
Try harder. I’m going to be honest. My previous experiences with 2-3 foot waves were not pretty. Lots of getting flipped backwards trying to punch through too big waves while paddling out. My board is a 49 liter 7 foot soft top, so it is really buoyant and hard to turtle roll. I have definitely been hit in the face hard enough with a wave a couple of times that I had very mild whiplash the next day. However, my board has only hit me once. Also, I have never caught a wave this big. If you haven’t seen them, they are bigger than you think, big enough to make a 2-3 foot diameter barrel. You really have to be standing in them to get perspective, because from the shore they look fine!
First lesson learned in hindsight: a proper warm up. Sitting here now, thinking and writing, hindsight is kicking in, and there are 3 things I should have done differently on my first day out, hopefully you can learn from my mistakes. First, I should have surfed the white water to warm up. I didn’t notice until the last half hour of my session that the waves were breaking twice. The first break was the big one, 2-3 feet, maybe 50 meters out. The second, less powerful break was maybe only 25 or 30 meters out. It was just shallow white water, so I literally just stood there with my board, but there was just enough power left in those little waves that I could leap onto the board, paddle, and pop up. So the last 30 minutes of my session was actually great practice.
Second lesson learned in hindsight: remember what you know. When you are sitting at home, reading articles about how to start surfing and watching all the youtube videos, your mind is clear, you are relaxed, you are internalizing some tips and watching movement. But, so much of that goes out the window when you are actually out there! In my first surf session of the year, I was so focused on just trying to catch a wave that I completely forgot tips I had learned. I completely neglected to think about where on the wave I wanted to be! With 1-2 foot waves, I think maybe it doesn’t really matter where you are on the wave, but with a slightly steeper more powerful 2-3 wave, I think it is better to be in what is called the pocket of the wave, which is the unbroken side of the wave. Or if you are not taking off in the pocket, then I think it is important to take off at an angle not perpendicular to the shore. This way you are not trying to take off at the steepest part of the wave, which is what I was doing. The weird thing is that I knew both of these tips, take off at an angle and aim for the pocket, but sometimes your mind is just a blank slate when you are out there! Next time, I go surf, I will take time to remember what I have learned, and try to actually apply a few tips, maybe you can actually do that the first time. Lol!
Reggae for the ride home. I love days I get out surfing. Like with all extreme sports outside, it makes me feel so accomplished and alive, and I am not even all that good at any of these sports! Lol! I know how cheesy that sounds, but try it. You will feel that same rush of endorphins knowing that you surfed those waves, you climbed that cliff, you boarded down that mountain. Just nature, you, your body, and some gear. A surf session with a little reggae music on top is guaranteed to just lift up the rest of your day.