So, it turns out completing 3 or 4 things in a part of Puerto Rico that goes to bed at 8:30 at night is a little difficult. I did manage, quite ungracefully to accomplish standing on a surfboard.
Early Wednesday morning, well early for a vacation. I got up and headed over to Domes’ Beach, in Rincon, Puerto Rico. The beach is called Domes’ because way back when, the US built a nuclear plant right at the beach and it’s a gigantic Dome. Lucky for everyone, the plant never went operational. So, now all you have is a museum and an easily recognizable point of reference.
The actual geographical location of the beach, right on the point of the Rincon peninsula makes this the beach of choice when it comes to surfing on off days, when the waves are unsuitable everywhere else. To me they looked to be about 2 – 4 feet high, most likely I’m exaggerating by 4 feet.
There were a couple of other surfers out when I first got to the beach, I sat on the coral beach studying their technique, while Kit went ape-shit crazy finding tons of seashells. The two surfers caught the waves like as if they were fishes. Gracefully getting off the board when the waves were done with them. Soooooo Cool. Or gnarly. Whichever adjective you prefer.
My instructor for the day was Melissa Taylor with Puntas Surf School. She came highly recommended from other surfers. And in a place where 90% of people are surfers, and they say that she is one of the best instructors out there, you can believe them. She can also hold her liquor very well, as I learned from the night before when Kit and I meet her at a local bar. She was pretty recognizable since there aren’t many blond hair Puerto Rican women around. I can also recommend the bar where we met, The Spot. I believe every Tuesday night they play bingo to benefit the Youths of PR. A guy from Canada moved to Rincon, and was disappointed with the amount of hockey not being played on the island. So he started writing grants and raised as much money as he could to get the kids off the streets and onto the hockey rink, with his efforts three were built on the island for just that purpose.
Back to the surfing. We meet up on the beach and made sure we weren’t too hung over to accomplish the task of getting me not to slam my head into the surfboard. We were a go. Melissa asked if i had changed my mind after seeing some of the waves, I looked out over the beach again, the waves were now tsunami size, give or take 2 – 60 ft of exaggeration. I got butterflies in my stomach but there was no way I was backing out now.
She started the lessons on the beach laying on the surfboard. She chuckled when I made “Forgetting Sarah Marshal” references. “Do less?” “No, too much, do less.” We determined that I wasn’t goofy footed, and we headed out to the water.
For those who have never laid on top of a surfboard in the water, it’s actually a lot harder than I thought. Wobbling on top, I missed the rock solid stability of the beach. In my head I compared it to riding a mechanical bull, only I wasn’t drunk… anymore. Mel, paddled by me as if she was a penguin, sliding across a glacier. What a bitch! At least make it look a little harder! I was laying there like a weeble wabble. She assured me that I will find my balance in about 10 minutes. I paddled on weary of her advice.
We made it out past the breakers, or the line-up area and she continued with the lesson. First task, sit on the surfboard. She sat up and explained to me where I should be planting my butt. I sat up and immediately was removed from my surfboard. First injury of the day, as soon as I fell off the board, I could feel the coral reef under my feet, as I struggled to get my over-weight body on top again, I scraped the top of my foot along a rock or hard coral or shark, I couldn’t really tell, but I knew that once I pulled my foot out of the water I had a couple of lacerations. I sucked it up, layed back on top and tried to sit again. I found my middle way, and this time, instead of immediately falling off, I rocked for about 10 seconds and fell off again.
This isn’t going as well as I planned. I figured I would be like the cast of the 60′s surf movies within about 10 minutes of getting out on the water. Walking like Jesus all over the water. Nope, not me. I couldn’t sit, let alone stand yet. Baby steps, baby steps, was my mantra on the water. Mel told me we can work on sitting later, lets catch a wave. OK, so much for baby steps, I’m going from a crawling to running.
The first set appeared on the horizon. Mel asked if I was ready. “As ready as I’m ever going to be.” Good she replied and told me to paddle. When the wave came she gave my board a shove and I was off.
I felt the board gain speed and I could see some white water passing by me, I paddled harder. ” YOU GOT IT!” Mel screamed. Quick flashback to the lessons on the beach, First step, arch your back, Check. Second step… FUCK! what’s the second step? How could I have forgotten the seconded step already, oh wait it doesn’t matter any more I’m swimming.
I recovered my board and paddled back to the staging area, where Mel reminded me that I needed to “Pop up.” I needed to, “Do less.” The next wave came and I again paddled like hell to catch it. When I heard the, “You got it!” I popped up. Well, I more or less crouched on the surfboard, my arms glued onto the sides. Swimming again.
After more instruction waiting for the next set, I felt pumped. I was going to get this. The shove, the yelling, the white water… BAM I was up! I could feel the board rocking violently side to side as I rode the break of the wave for what seemed like an eternity. In all reality it was about 3 or 4 seconds, but it was enough. After I recovered from my wicked gymnastic inspired fall, a smile grew on my face as big as The Jokers. That was awesome. Not graceful or even good looking, but nonetheless, awesome. I wanted more waves.
The lessons went on like that for about another 45 minutes, about the time when my arms decided not to work anymore. Paddling is tough work. I could feel the burn and it was burning like hell. Mel tried to soothe my ego and told me that most people can’t do 2 hours of surf lessons their first time. I lasted an hour and a half, A tad above average, or at least thats what I like to think.
I can say now with certainty, that I will absolutely be surfing again. I am determined to stand and stay on a surfboard! Anybody going to PR, I highly recommend using Puntas Surf school, and Melissa as your instructor. She was a great teacher and even better drinking partner.
P.S. Kit actually didn’t get a picture of me standing up. But, she can attest to me doing it… So, Yeah item is completed.