|Me, Donna, Paula|
A) Just past 9 am on a cloudless, yellow-egg-sun day, I meet my friends, Donna, Paula and Michelle at the car parks near Leisure Island. The Mount is already starting to sizzle: it’s 22 degrees Celsius (72 degrees Fahrenheit) and rising. Already, I want to jump in the water. Even without a wet suit, which I’ve borrowed from Pete, I’m ready for the sea. I strip to a string bikini while standing beside my van. I pull on the wet suit, which fits perfectly. Pete says he bought the black neoprene suit many years ago when he was thinner. Works for me.
Donna provides a land lesson before we wade into the water.
“Draw a line in the sand, like this,” she says. “This is your center line, like the one on the surf board. You’ll need to balance on either side of that line.”
Michelle watches while Donna, Paula and I lay in the sand, feigning balance while performing mini-windmill strokes with our arms. Michelle’s a physio (physical therapist) and has a client in 45 minutes. She’s loaned us her board.
Donna continues the lesson: “When you feel the wave pushing you, pop your feet on the board and grab the sides. Standing’s overrated. You want to stand, eventually, but for now, just practice popping to your feet. You can keep holding onto the sides if you want.”
Michelle snaps our picture, wishes us luck, and leaves.
The three of us wade into the water up to our waists, then jump on boards and paddle. I steer myself so I’m facing the beach, looking back for the first wave. A big green roller’s churning towards me. I start paddling like a hyperactive duck. I hear the rush of water, smell the tang of salt. I’m atop the wave. I brace my hands on either side of the yellow surfboard and pop – first to my knees, then to my feet. I can’t believe I’m on my feet! I’m exhilarated – so this is why the surfies bob out here in pouring rain or broiling sun. I’m riding on water. I’m like the Whale Rider. The Wave Rider. A surfer chick. I’m, I’m…. falling over. I ride several meters before toppling sideways.
I repeat the thrill several times. I can’t believe I’ve been in New Zealand, living at the beach for a year, and this is the first time I’ve surfed.
B) Just past 9 on a gray-cotton-cloud day, I meet my friends, Donna, Paula and Michelle at the car parks near Leisure Island. The Mount has been cool and drizzly all morning: it’s 16 degrees (61 F) without a hint of sunshine. I’m not sure I want to jump in the water. Even with a wet suit, which I’ve borrowed from Pete, I’m wary of the sea’s chill. I strip to my swim team-style black tank suit while standing beside my van. I pull on the wet suit, which fits oddly –snug around the thighs and loose in back. Donna looks at me and says,
“Isn’t the zipper supposed to be in back?”
Of course, I knew that. In my haste, I rolled the suit on backwards. I peel off the wet suit and start over. I use the long string on the zipper to pull the zip closed. I look down to ensure everything’s in place. Yep, the suit fits, except in the crouch, where it’s a bit long.
Donna gives us a land lesson before we wade into the water, then shows us how to strap the board so it doesn’t wander too far from our bodies:
“Take the strap and pull it snug around your ankle. Make sure the cord’s facing away from you, so you don’t get tangled in it,” she says. We’re tethered to our boards.
The ocean’s cold, but bearable. As I walk deeper into the sea, I notice the wet suit actually works – I feel good in the water, even on an overcast day like today.
“Paddle really hard once you get on the wave,” says Donna. “Wait until you feel it under you to try to pop up.”
Okay. I can do this. I have upper body strength – I do pump (weights with high reps) classes at the gym, after all (um, I missed two months of pump over the holidays, but I’m hoping to tap into my strength residual). I lay face-down on the board, feet hanging on either side, and rock back and forth, trying to center myself. Someone told me surfing takes heaps of balance and coordination. These are two qualities I lack. Let me know if you find a sport requiring instability and incoordination, because I’d surely excel.
A kid-sized wave heads our way. It’s smaller in circumference than a bicycle, but bigger around than a toaster. Perfect practice size. I paddle, paddle, paddle to catch the wave, then pop – to my knees. Where I stay before dumping off the board. The waves are small enough for me not to damage my body, save maybe for bruised knees.
I look behind again – there’s a bigger wave coming. Can I catch it in time? I clutch both side of my board and – oops – get a face full of water. Not quick enough, mate.
There’s always another wave. But for several minutes, the rollers avoid us. We spot green walls, white water to our left and right. Still, our particular cove south of Leisure Island lies calm. I look at the Mount, which stands out among the clouds like a green beacon. It’s all-weather beautiful. What a gift to stand in the ocean at 9:30 on a Wednesday morning!
Donna gets to her feet several times. Paula’s nearly there. After just over half an hour in the water, she asks,
“You want to give it one more go and then go in? I’m getting knackered. I understand why surfers are so fit. It’s exhausting!”
Just for fun, I paddle, paddle, paddle to grab a bicycle-sized wave. I’m on top. Instead of trying to rise, I remain prone, treating the surf board like a boogie board. Woo-hoo! I’m riding into the shore.
Which story is true? A or B? A’s the fantasy. Today. Someday, it may be reality.