The highlight of the recent Los Cabos trip was my first-ever attempt at surfing. This was not an easy decision because I was not a confident swimmer. In fact, prior to Cabos, I have never swam in open ocean without a life jacket. I have participated in snorkeling in other trips where life jacket was always required (and necessary in my case). I only learned “swimming” few years ago as an adult and I barely mastered the breaststroke in a kiddie pool.
Originally, I had signed up for body boarding lesson while Vlad registered for surfing lesson. Oddly, I did feel better and more secure with body boarding since I would be “surfing” towards the shore. After a lengthy conversation with a friend, who had done surfing, he said it made no difference in terms of “swimming”. In either scenario, I would be out in the ocean. I would not be able to “touch” the bottom of the ocean until I reached the shore.(That was the root of my fear – I freaked out when I could not touch land) I was half convinced after that conversation. Fear, irrational as always, just did not go away with “logical explanation”.
I did not dwell much as we embarked on the trip. The day before the lesson, while confirming the pick up time/lesson, I decided to ask the lady if I could still change to surfing. She assured me that it would be safe and actually more fun. I told her “okay, why not”
We drove from Cabo San Lucas to this local sport called Costa Azul to surf. The water as the name suggested was crystal blue and the waves were HUGE! I thought “holy mack, these were real waves!” And there were few dozen surfers out catching waves and it did look fun!
We had two instructors taking care of five students, a pretty good ratio. The quickie lesson was done on the sand – “one, you lay down; two, mini push up; three, you stand up” It was less than ten minutes. Then, the instructors went off with the group of three teenagers. I thought “What? Now I am supposed to know how to surf?” Vlad and I were still tired and half awake from previous day’s adventure of off road driving. I didn’t really have much energy to “freak out” although I secretly hoped that maybe I could still take body boarding lesson.
To my surprise, the instructors did not take any boards. They were in the water with the students, helping them catching waves. The most helpful thing was the instructor “commanding” when to stand up as they helped “timed” the waves. It was much easier. That helped with my nerves knowing the instructors were in the water close by.
When the other group finished, the instructors waved at us to come into the ocean. I reiterated to one of the instructor, Victor, that I was not a good swimmer and felt really nervous. He said “okay” and told me to “take it easy”. No strong reaction (which in retrospect, it was a good response).
I had my first taste of physical challenge getting the board into the water. As stated earlier, the waves were big and as they crashed on shore, it had tremendous energy still. Because of my unfamiliarity with the ocean and the board, I got smacked around trying getting into water. Finally, Victor said to get on the board quickly and PADDLE, the word that would haunt me for rest of the morning. I paddled, paddled, and paddled (and paddled some more) to the open ocean. By the time I got to the spot to catch the wave, I was already tired!
To Victor’s credit, he never left my side the first session. He could tell I was really not a confident swimmer, as the first catch turned out to be half successful. He would tell me to get ready as the wave approached and told me when to “stand up” I did as I learned on the beach but my nerves got the best of me. I wanted to actually “fall into water” so that I would know that falling into open ocean without a life jacket was safe. I was after all strapped to the board, which essentially was a floatation device!
That first fall was not the worst because I had planned it. The second fall was the hardest because I actually caught the wave and half confused because I did not know what riding the wave felt like! When I realized I was balancing on the board and riding the wave, it was super exhilarating and at the same time, the exhilaration took my focus away from balancing. And BOOM, I was off the board. All this happened in about 15 seconds. The wave kept going dragging my board towards the shore as I struggled with gulping salty sea water! That was NOT a pleasant experience.
In between each catch, there was more “paddle” (and more paddle) back to the ocean. I was dead tired and my arms felt like spaghetti by end of the first session. I could barely walk back to our chairs. In some instances, I had even hard time getting back on the board (which required core and arm strength). When the second session arrived, I was half dreading going back. I did not know if I had more energy to one, getting the board back into the ocean; two, to paddle; and three, to surf!
To the instructor’s credit and passion for surfing, their enthusiasm helped tremendously. They continued to encourage me and helped me stay afloat. They would cheer when one of us caught the wave. I did catch several waves. As the instructor called us at the end, we were “professional beginners” How about that, a sense of humor on top of being excellent teachers.
I was glad that I challenged myself to do something I feared. It taught me to face head on (literally as the wave crashed into me few times) with fear. Now I am actually thinking to go back to the pool and continue to swim to get over my lack of confidence in water. I know it has always been a mental thing than a physical thing. Granted, I was extremely tired and sore the day after surfing. The mental gain totally outweighed the physical gain. I’m very grateful and blessed with awesome teachers in Cabos with this amazing experience. Finally, I am thankful for the perfect ocean condition that allow a “professional” beginner to successful and safely navigate her first surfing session!