So when I got the invitation to go out again this year, I was all set to say no again. But something stopped me. I’m not sure what it was, but I asked the voice in my head “Why not?” I didn’t get an answer. That’s how I found myself standing on the boat dock out at White Point Beach Resort on July 27, getting sized for a wetsuit.
The first thing the instructor from the Rossignol Surf Shop said to me when I walked in the boathouse was “you’re tall.” You have no idea how often I hear that. I think it was just a statement that I needed a long wetsuit.
Squeezing into the wetsuit is a little like filling a sausage casing. It takes a minute or two to get everything stuffed in there, but the results are worth it. The wetsuit is key to getting out on the surf in Atlantic Canada. You get all of the benefits of being in the ocean, without turning a funny shade of blue.
First we learned a few basic techniques. It’s all deceptively simple, just a matter of positioning your board with the wave, and figuring out how to hop to a standing position quickly. I didn’t think for a second I would be out surfing with the pros anytime soon though.
Our first task was just crossing the lake beside the shop on the board. The lake is warm, and there’s no surf to worry about. It’s a safer place to try out what we were just shown on shore.
Believe it or not the most heart pounding moment, the moment when I suddenly had a niggling doubt I wanted to do this, was out on the lake. We were shown how to do a “Turtle Roll”, basically flipping the board upside down on top of you then rolling it back over again. It’s a technique to get through big waves.
However I couldn’t remember if I could swim. I think it’s been a decade since I last went swimming. When you’re in the middle of a lake with no idea how deep it is, it’s not the greatest time to wonder if you’re going to drown. With a deep breath and “carpe diem” running through my head, over I went. Then up I popped again. I secretly breathed a sigh of relief.
Once we were on the other side of the lake, that’s when we got to the crux of this day.
Seeing the waves crashing on the shore is always nice… when you’re on the shore. Now you have to try and ride those beasts. That’s a bit different.
It takes a while to get into the waves too. You have to get by the already broken waves, out a little deeper into the swells. It’s not far, but it takes time and effort to go against the currents.
I felt exhausted just from getting out there. So much for thinking I was in shape. I started to wonder if it was worth the effort trudging out into the water. Then with the help of the instructors, I got myself lined up with a wave.
The ocean starts to heave you in the air, carrying you instead of just crashing over your head. The surge is powerful, pressing the board against your body. You have to push back to keep yourself in line. In one quick motion, one foot is firmly planted on the back of the board. The other is in the middle, guiding the direction you travel with the wave.
As a beginner, it doesn’t last all that long. A second or two, and you’re tossed back in the water like a rag doll. But that second is just enough to give you a burst of adrenaline. For a brief moment, you have actually done it. In a moment of clarity, I realized it’s that thrill that makes you want to haul your board back out into the water and try it again. I spent more time in the water that day then I had in the past five years.
So the big question: Would I do it again? Maybe. That seems like a cop out, but let me explain.
I wear glasses, and have since I was five years old. They go on my face in the morning, and stay on the entire day. To see what I see without my glasses, take a camera and focus it on the closest object it will focus on. Now without refocusing, look at something across a room. It’s pretty blurry.
The strap I used to keep my glasses snug against my face worked well in the shallow waves, but I don’t think I would trust it every time. After a little bit in the sun, they also get a film of salt over them, making it harder to see. So if I wanted to surf again, I’d need to think seriously about getting contact lenses or else laser eye surgery.
Would I recommend others try surfing though? Most definitely. I was out enjoying the summer sun, had a few laughs with the other people trying it out, and most of all had a lot of fun.
The best part? You can actually go swimming in the ocean in July.