The End of A Class Project, But Really Only The Beginning- and why everyone should have a perpetual 20% project
This is pretty much what it feels like to be me right now... there are so many important things to juggle in Life at this moment! I can sincerely say, though, that each thing I am doing or involved with is enjoyable and positive. So I'm not complaining at all- just stating the obvious- I'm busy! As full as my life is right now, I am ridiculously happy that there was a 20% project as part of my EDL630 course. The 20% project is the reason that I have overcome my fear and committed to regularly putting on my wetsuit and getting in the water. I have wanted to learn to surf for so long, and without the push of the 20% project, I may never have done it. I am always "too busy" or "too tired" or the water is "too cold." Choosing to learn to surf for my project took away all of those excuses, and learning to surf appeared on my priority list of "things to do" each week. It was that simple. Suddenly I was re-prioritized. Isn't that amazing? I've decided that I should always have a 20% project going. As a core priority in my life, I should always carve out time to spend learning something new. I think everyone else should too- as a basic living philosophy. It is so good for us! On a regular basis it has us taking time to work on learning something enjoyable, and learning something for ourselves, but It never feels like work.
Our class is coming to an end, so it is time to wrap up my project here on my blog, but I can honestly say that this is just the beginning for me and my adventures in surfing. It is now a regular question on the weekends in my family: "Mom, should I put your board in the truck?" That makes me smile :) Over Thanksgiving we drove to Santa Cruz to visit family, and for the first time, my board was on the roof rack. Surfing has become part of my life, and it helps that my family has that surf culture going already, because there is always enthusiasm to head to the beach. This summer my husband and I will take a vacation to somewhere warm and surfy... maybe I'll be bringing my board too this time? For now, I can answer my initial authentic questions regarding surfing. It seems like I wrote these a long time ago:
Learning To Surf: 10 Authentic Questions:
1. What does it feel like to stand on a surfboard and ride a wave in? It feels absolutely amazing. I know when I pop up on the board, whether I'll stay up for a bit. There is a solid feeling of Flow and being part of the board that rises up in me. There is nothing like it :)
2. What is the best type of board for a beginning surfer? The Best type of board for a beginner is a soft longboard. Mine is called a Wavestorm. Not as cool-looking as other boards, but at least everyone can tell I'm a crazy beginner and they stay out of me way.
3. What other gear or equipment will I need? I don't need much other gear- Just a wetsuit, sunscreen and a towel. Eventually surf wax will come in handy.
4. What do I need to know how to do before I get into the water with my board? The answer to this is ABSOLUTELY NOTHING. I did learn a few basics like how to tell if you are goofy-foot or regular, and I did practice on the sand with how to pop up on the board, but most of what I need to know I learn through experience out in the water. For example, I learned very quickly that my board always needs to be facing perpendicular to the wave, even if I'm just standing in the water next to my board. If my board is ever parallel to the wave it WILL pop up and it me in the face when the wave hits it. Learning by experience with a board to the face makes the learning stick. Very authentic :)
5. How does a surfer know whether the surf is "good" or not? I'm still not good at this on my own yet, but through many conversations and much reading I have learned that a surfer will look at the surf to see if the wind is onshore or offshore. The ideal conditions are an offshore wind that will help shape the waves. From what I can gather it seems that conditions are better if the water is glassy and not choppy and messy.
6. What is the optimal wave height for me to surf? This question makes me laugh now because the optimal height for me is teeny-tiny, as in white wash. Someday I'll feel comfortable paddling to the outside to catch bigger waves, but I'm still such a beginner that I'll probably be surfing whitewash through the summer still. And that's ok- still super fun.
7. What are the various weather occurrences that affect swell? Storms and wind affect swell.
8. Will I be able to overcome my fear of waves? I am very happy to report that, yes, I will be able to overcome my fear of waves. Not that I still don't have a racing heart out there sometimes, but I am OUT THERE- and that is nothing short of amazing. I'm sure as I move into bigger waves I'll experience more fear, but I'm confident that my emerging skills will make that something I can work through.
9. What do I need to learn about the unspoken rules in surf culture so that I don't offend anyone or make anyone angry out in the water? The main thing I can do is to stay on the inside until my skill level is up. I don't want to get near experienced surfers until my skills match my desire to surf larger waves. When eventually I do make it to the outside, the unspoken rule is not to drop in on anyone else's wave. You have to be aware of everyone around you and pay attention to body language so you know if it's ok for you to try to catch a wave.
10. Are there different techniques for learning to surf? I have watched a lot of videos, read many blogs and articles, and spoken to many surfers... yes, there are many different techniques for learning to surf. The technique I chose has a very fancy name called "Get Out There and Try."
11. Where are the best surf spots in North County for beginning surfers? In North County I have found the best spots to be at the Oceanside Harbor near the jetties and also near the Oceanside pier.
12. How many waves does the average surfer catch in an average length surf session? Most surfers will surf a session that lasts 1-2 hours and during that time will catch 7-20 waves, depending on the conditions that day. Of course my results are very different, as "catching a wave" has different meaning for me. I can catch a wave, but that doesn't guarantee I will actually stand up and be able to ride it in. That's ok though, I am patient.
So what has surfing taught me so far? Surfing has taught me:
Pushing Past Fear
Yup that's me. And if you had asked me ten years ago if I ever thought I'd see a picture of myself laying on a surfboard out in the ocean, the answer would have been a definite "no." For as long as I can remember I have wanted to learn to become comfortable out in the ocean with the waves, but simultaneously scared to death of those waves. I share this now because it is nothing short of amazing that I am actually learning to surf, and excited about doing so. For years if I was facing something scary in life, my dreams at night would feature me facing down giant looming waves that threatened to crash down on me. These were nightmares that I would wake from, heart pounding and sweaty. My fear of waves was without explanation, but real. I distinctively remember a day in Rhode Island about 15 years ago where my my boys' father spent probably four hours trying to cajole me to get into the Atlantic and swim around. He knew I really wanted to, but my fear was too big. It was kind of ridiculous. Since that time I have slowly ventured into the water. Becoming a mother, especially to three little boys who are adventurous and fearless, helped that along for sure. My husband, Scott, surfs as often as he can and is teaching my boys now too, so surfing is becoming part of my family culture for sure.
The most pivotal moment so far in my learning to surf was a quiet moment of fear I had out in the water at the very beginning of the project. I was out with my son Lohgan, and he was helping to push me into some whitewash waves so I could start out. At one point he told me that if we went out just a little bit farther it would be easier for me because we would be closer to where the waves were breaking, and that stronger power of the breaking wave would give me more momentum. Immediately I felt my heart beat faster and anxiety crept into my chest. Lohgan could see on my face that I was scared to go out farther. He said, "It's ok Mom. Trust me. You'll be ok out there. I'll be with you." His words, spoken so calmly, and with so much sincerity and love, calmed me down immediately, and I knew that what he said was true. I just had to trust him and know that I could do it. How many times had I told him in his 13 years to trust me? And because he did trust me all those times, I knew he was trying to offer me that beautiful sense of calm that I have offered him so many times in his life. He flipped the tables on me and parented me in that moment. Just thinking about his calming words and absolute belief in me in that moment makes me emotional, and I'll never forget that moment with my son. I did trust him- I took a deep breath and allowed him to pull me out farther. The next 30 minutes out there in the water with him were so fun. Yes- my heart beat a bit faster for awhile, and I had the adrenaline flowing- but boy, did I know I was alive! I stood up on the board four or five times, laughed a lot, and felt like I had overcome something large that had been blocking me from something I really wanted to do. Overcoming that fear was huge for me.
This Saturday as I headed out into the water I sent my husband out to surf while I reacquainted myself with the water. Each time I put on my wetsuit and head out, I have the old fear that creeps up, so I have to take a few minutes in the water at my own pace, and re-establish my comfort level. It's nice quiet time for me. Then, feeling some equilibrium, I paddle out and begin the fun of paddling, bobbing, and crashing over and over- occasionally standing up on the board and remaining upright for a few seconds. It really is fun. Scott eventually finished his surf session, grabbed my camera, and walked out on the jetty to take some pictures and video of me for my blog. I probably stood up on four or five waves- smiling big every time. I had a few good wipeouts too. Once the board slammed sideways into the sand and I slammed into the board with my ribs. Ouch. But I kept going. My focus for the next two weeks is to practice popping up and getting my feet under me faster. I think it will just take a lot of repetition and practice. I've added some more upper body and core strength workouts too, as I know those will help me with paddling, balance, and keeping my lower back from being sore all the time.
For this weekend's surf session the most peaceful, illuminating moment for me was when a lull in the waves occurred and there was calm water for a few minutes. I laid there on my board, bobbing up and down on the water in the sunshine, and reveling in how good it felt to be out there. The sound of the water, the feel of it, and also the realization that my heartbeat had found a slower, calmer rhythm out there too. :) I am truly grateful for this project. It is adding positive to my life, and I LOVE it.
In The water
This past weekend I got in the water. Temps were in the high 80's all weekend at the beach; it was a weekend of golden sunshine and fun wave time with all the boys in my life. Saturday just my oldest son, Lohgan, and I went to the beach at Oceanside Harbor. Lohgan thought it was great to be teaching me. Once he made sure my wetsuit wasn't on backwards or anything he had me lay on the sand and we practiced the pop up. I can tell you now that it's much easier on sand than out in the water. Lohgan took note that I am "goofy-foot," meaning that I naturally stand on the board with my right foot leading. I guess it's called goofy because more people naturally stand with their left foot forward. (By the way, one way to figure out whether you are regular or goofy is for someone to come up behind you and push you forward rather hard. Whatever foot you naturally put forward to catch yourself is how you will naturally be most comfortable leading with when you surf. Saw that in one of my You Tube videos.) Once in the water we began with my son helping me get lined up and pushing me into waves. Can I just say HILARIOUS! We had the perfect conditions for hilarity: choppy, larger-than-usual waves, my unsteadiness on the board (it doesn't stay steady like my yoga mat), Lohgan with a GoPro rolling, to make sure nothing video-worthy gets by him, and my sheer determination to not get out of the water until I rode some white wash in at least once or twice. Saturday's session was about two hours, and of the probably 30 waves I attempted, I succeeded in standing up on and riding in about 4. Success!! Success?? Success.
Sunday was even choppier, and this time the whole crew came down. Both my husband, Scott, and Lohgan had turns helping me out on Sunday, but it was Scott's suggestion that I move South, closer to the jetty, that finally got me upright on my board during this session. That, and his strong push into the waves. He also suggested I position myself very close to where the inside set of waves were breaking so that I could make use of the momentum and power in that water right after the waves broke. I stayed in the water for awhile after he got out, and I was able to catch two waves on my own. The best ride of the weekend was a wave I caught myself and rode all the way in. Not a super fast-moving wave, but enough that I got a nice long ride, and that was really fun. Another highlight to Sunday's session was time I spent pushing my youngest son, Dakota, into waves on the board. He's a natural, and I loved watching him just pop up so easily- grinning back at me and cracking up every time he crashed.
My learning in the world of surf this week was quite a bit:
This week began my surf adventure, and I gotta tell ya- I'm excited and having fun already. I decided to start at the beginning- to try to learn some of the basics before I head into the water. Since technology is a tool we must use as part of this project I started with quite a few learning-to-surf videos that I added to a playlist I created on You Tube. After watching about 10 videos I have come to the conclusion that there are a LOT of cheesy surf videos out there. I was forced to edit and add to my playlist as I encountered videos that featured music that drowned out the instructional audio, or more footage of the instructor surfing than actual instruction. As I embark on this 20% project I keep in mind that I would like to do this with my own students, so the lesson I am learning from Part 1 of my project is the importance of evaluating resources. Every topic is going to have its nuances in terms of how to spot quality resources, and so far with surf instruction videos I can see I have to look for good audio, an open and laid-back, but thorough, instructor who remembers what it was like to be a beginning surfer (by the way, beginning surfers are aptly called kooks). In my search for resources I also found a few great sites that offer definitions for the many words that make up surf lingo, and these sites also offer lots of beginner tips. So far from my videos I've learned a lot about equipment and I've begun learning and practicing the "pop up." I'm searching for some good videos on the topic of duck diving, as I know that is a skill I will need as well.
Equipment: I have a foam longboard that I will be using as I learn. It is light and soft, so hopefully it will provide good buoyancy and will go easy on my noggin when it inevitably pops up and smacks me. My surf vocabulary lessons have taught me the parts of the board: nose, tail, fins, rails, leash, and deck. My husband and sons are excited about me learning to surf, and so I welcome their advice and expertise as well. Scott, my husband suggested that we shop for a wetsuit this weekend, as the water temps are dropping a bit, and I'll be more comfortable in the water if I'm not freezing. So this weekend we did just that. We found a great deal on a women's Rip Curl, so I just made the investment and called it a day. By investing in the wetsuit I am stating my intention to really learn this and incorporate it into my life. Scott and I take many surf vacations so that he can check out the wave experience in exotic locations (my favorite trips have been to Bali and El Salvador). Usually on these trips I run or just enjoy the beach while he surfs. Maybe this project will help me want to get in the water with him on our next adventure!
I had some long runs to do this weekend, as I am preparing for a big relay race in two weeks, so I didn't get in the water. But next weekend I'll be tapering off my running, and my boys are excited about the plan to hit the beach both days. I should have some great embarrassing footage of my beginning attempts on the board, so stay tuned! This week I'll continue my search for the best instructional videos and add to my surfer vocabulary. Here's me making my first investment into surfing: