Being a merciful sort, I rolled up the top until we arrived at the Blue Water shrimp truck, where we met Carol, our instructor and owner of North Shore Surf Girls. She had surfed competitively so she knew her stuff. We headed to Chun’s Reef where we would be having our surf lesson.
Pop Ups Should Only be a Toaster Pastry
Joanne and I were on the sunny side of 50 and while she’s petite and fit, I’m… well, to put it simply. Not. Sure, I’m in shape. After all round IS a shape! Carol exhibited great patience and understanding with the greatest challenge a surfing instructor might face… a hefty old guy.
The first 20 minutes to half hour of instruction took place on the beach and consisted of the basic moves to enable one to “pop up” on the surf board. Hands under the shoulders, push hard and “pop up” using your outstretched arms for balance as seen in the instructional video a couple of paragraphs south of here.
We were supposed to start lying prone with our heads high. My belly already made sure my noggin was at a higher altitude than the rest of the class by about a foot and a half. Maybe that made it easier because after a few of these Carol asked if I’d been an athlete at some point in my life because I caught on quickly. I should mention I’ve always been surprisingly athletic, in an Indian rhinoceros kind of way.
I’ll substitute my name and pronouns for “Indian rhinoceros” in this National Geographic article and edit lightly in red and you’ll have a sense of what we’re talking about here:
“Mark can move very quickly when aroused. His charges to the refrigerator have been clocked at 30 miles an hour. Despite his bulk, he is nimble and can jump or change direction quickly to avoid doing chores.”
Unlike the Indian rhinoceros, I do not have a prehensile lip to grasp food items (although that does seem like a pretty handy evolutionary outcome).
So in one smooth motion you go from lying prone, to pop up with your right front in the place your belly button occupied on the board. This is Spiderman level stuff to a guy like me. I’m gonna need a radioactive Shave Ice for this one. The fact I caught on quickly didn’t work out so well for me. Although I was comfortable, Carol said to continue to practice with the class rather than wandering off for a cigarette so I “popped up” 42 more times in a row. I’m probably overstating that, in retrospect it really only felt like 39 popups. I was GASSED. Finally, I told Carol maybe I’d watch Joanne surf, which was ironic because Joanne hadn’t wanted to do this in the first place. However, being a kind woman and a dream wife she said she’d come along. Carol suggested that I at least try body boarding and I said I’d give it a go.
That Would Be the Downward Dog
We were using 12 foot boards or “guns” in surfspeak. The swell was three to four feet. Not much by North Shore standards. It was a gorgeous afternoon with a few wisps of cirrus cloud in the sky and temperatures in the mid 80’s. At the water’s edge, I dropped the board in and waded in up to my knees and the next swell hit and almost ripped me off my feet. Then the undertow almost pulled me off my feet in the other direction. I got on the board as quick as possible and started paddling… it just felt safer.
Both Joanne and I had an instructor with us swimming alongside and offering advice while we bobbed on the waves. Carol was with me, her “special needs” student. I wondered whether we should have a priest paddling alongside for potential last rites.
Kristiane and Michelle had tagged along and were ashore taking video of our little adventure. On video I look like a supertanker had somehow drifted into a random group of surfers on its way to anchor but no, that’s just me floating on my “gun.” Michelle thought that I was apparently preparing for the “Downward Dog” yoga pose rather than actually surfing.
It was the instructors who actually did the work to launch on our way. They would look for appropriate waves for us to catch then yell “PADDLE” and give us a little push to get us started. I don’t think Carol could do much with me in that respect. I honestly don’t think Elon Musk’s SpaceX solid rocket boosters could provide the necessary thrust to get me going.
Joanne was up immediately and surfing like a… well, I can’t say pro. I can’t recall seeing pros wobble quite so much or windmill their arms, but she looked smoother and more confident every time she got up, which was pretty much every attempt. For me… well. I never did stand up. I did hit the water a number of times trying. While I may not have stood up it was only the final act of “pop up and pivot” that I failed to achieve. If I were younger and weighed closer to the ideal for my 5’9″ frame rather than that of someone 8’7″, I’d be moving to the North Shore and doing this all the time.
Vid of our surf lesson with North Shore Surf Girls. My daughters provide commentary. I have NO idea where they picked up the smarty pants gene. Nothing like that ever happened on MY side of the family.
I did manage to body board and it was incredibly fun. There’s high velocity and white water all around as you drive in towards the beach. After the final run we thanked the ladies, tipped them and headed back to the house for supper. We were exhausted and still had not adjusted to the time shift yet, but I was really looking forward to going shark cage diving with Kristiane the next morning.
Next time on TTWTH: Haliewa Shark Cage Diving
Previously on TTWTH: Haliewa Surf Lessons, or “Surfer Down” in My Case