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It’s not a sport, it’s a lifestyle

On Saturday morning I found myself forcing my exhausted, already defenseless body through overwhelmingly powerful waves in the icy cold waters of a beach my Florida yard alone puts to shame thinking, What [pick your profanity] am I doing?

I’m slowly admitting the downside to living here is that I can reasonably defend the beach’s proximity and accessibility, but cannot condone the quality or the aesthetics while maintaining my good standing as a Floridian. It’s not New York’s fault when the bar is set so high, but their beaches will always fall short of the Sunshine State’s. And I’m not one to bash the city I love, but its tourists are infinitely more unbearable, as well. (Hint: corral them in a park.)

I had woken up at four phone calls past 6 am to my friend Ashley reminding me to get up. (Everyone who knows me and has consequently experienced my concept of time just nodded their heads. I’m the friend who needs a wake up call to fully commit, or follow through post-commitment, I guess.) I don’t care to admit how few hours before I had involuntarily passed out knowing and ignoring the reality of what was to come.

Ashley’s been taking surfing lessons, and I’m that person who consistently voices praise and envy. In the spirit of trying new things—newly acquired and inspired by my unlikely employment—I enthusiastically agreed to join her without hesitation or much consideration. At all. My logic followed a pattern something like: surfing’s so cool > a lot of people I love, love surfing > how have I never tried surfing in Florida? > I wanted to go to the beach this weekend, anyway > Yeah, I’ll go. My logic should have followed a pattern more like this: I don’t know a single thing about surfing > I can’t wake up at 6 am on a Saturday > I’m extremely uncomfortable walking into the ocean > there was mention of baby shark season > I’m terrible at skiing and have refused to snowboard > I’m a wuss.

This question of my inappropriate and uncharacteristic thought process had me completely distracted as I battled the relentless waves trying to keep up with my instructors. I couldn’t even glance back at the shore, because I knew I’d barely made it out five yards. My classmates, five boys named after all of my ex-boyfriends (seriously), were naturals. They were gliding right out to supposed sandbar, boards in tow. I couldn’t even reach my arm around the board, much less lift it. I was clumsily dragging it alongside my unstable body as every splash sent buckets-worth of saltwater down my throat and up my nose. This wasn’t fun, but I was not about to back out.

Some sort of beach patrolwoman who evidently took herself pretty seriously came whistling behind us warning how unsafe the water was. She was on my side. We reluctantly headed back for land as salt leaked from…everywhere. I still hadn’t woken up. To my relief, the instructors agreed on an assembly line approach. They’d spread out and send us out one-at-a-time in a constant rotation. Besides all the ghosts of boyfriends past watching my feeble attempts, this worked for me.

The first try was just a joke. I climbed aboard, waited for my wave, paddled, then essentially seized when my guy yelled, “Up! Up!” I hadn’t paid any attention to the land course, or anything I’d been told. In my defense, the tampon in the sand was pretty distracting. Then I watched my whole class do the same thing: nothing. The following thought process was far more effective: this is ridiculous > don’t you just stand up? > I’m doing it on the next one.

On my second try up meant up and before I knew what had happened I was leisurely riding a wave right towards shore. When I realized it had worked I screamed, and kept screaming, then followed the coaching to calm down and bend my knees. And I did it, I made it all the way in. I had no idea you could just wake up one day and surf for the first time, and with such little motivation.

In the end everyone got at least one successful stand, and I caught four or five decent rides. I wasn’t half piping, or left-ing, or hanging ten or anything, but I surfed, and it was so exhilarating. I highly recommend trying something new on a whim. An encouraging friend and/or expert coach coupled with a good ole’ can-do attitude is all it takes. I never thought I’d be fishing for sharks, casually throwing up in front of strangers, taking an ATV course, or surfing in New York, but that’s what makes an adventure.

Next up: shooting a gun for the first time next Friday. Not a blog you want to miss.

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