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When I woke up last Saturday, I had no idea it was the day I’d try surfing for the first time. It started with a text: Mmy friend Isabella was hosting someone from out of town, and she had booked a surf lesson in Lawrencetown. Would I like to sit at the beach with her while her guest, July-Ann, went surfing? I don’t have a car, so I jump at pretty much any opportunity to get a ride to the beach, especially on a hot, sunny day like Saturday. I said yes.
I should have predicted that when we got to Lawrencetown, my friend and I would be roped into the surf lesson. Isabella jumped in right away. I was more hesitant. There were only two spots left, we were told. It’s now or never. After some light peer pressure I caved in. It was time to try surfing.
Getting a wetsuit on is a sport in itself. Carrying a surfboard across the rocky beach is a similar test of will. I felt like we’d already gotten a workout in before the lesson began. When we were finally geared up and at our spot on the sand, our instructor Nate gave us the rundown. We learned the parts of the board, how to catch a wave—in theory—and some safety tips. He taught us how to pop up—going in one smooth motion from lying on your stomach to standing—and we practiced on land.
Trying to pop up on solid ground, I wobbled. I should mention that I have issues with my cerebellum, the brain’s centre for balance and coordination. If anyone is biologically predetermined to suck at surfing, it’s me. But messed up cerebellum be damned—, it was time to get in the water.
The five of us in the lesson walked toward the big, crashing waves in a straight line, holding our surf boards. My heart was pounding. It felt like we were storming the beaches of Normandy—in reverse.
The waves were close together that day, which made catching one a bit of a challenge. After floundering around in the water a bit, with Nate’s help I managed to turn the board around, flop on top of it like a fish and paddle with all my might at the right time, catching my first wave. I stayed on my stomach, but even still, zipping toward the shore, propelled by the ocean, was exhilarating. I screamed. I couldn’t believe it. When I reached the sand I turned around and headed straight back for the waves.
Back in April, I spoke to surf therapists about the healing power of the sport, and I get it now. It’s not that surfing is necessarily relaxing, but when you’re battling the waves, just you versus the ocean, all your other worries disappear. And the adrenaline rush from riding a wave is unbeatable.
When the lesson was over, we got to keep the gear for the rest of the day to practice the things we’d learned. I never did manage to stand up on the board, but that’s me. July-Ann was popping up like a pro within a few hours. Isabella made it to surfing on her knees. So if you try surfing, know the level you’ll be at in one day is different for everyone. It’s totally normal to surf on your stomach your first time, and it’s just as fun, I promise.
By the end of our surfing adventure the three of us were exhausted, but in a good way. We listened to the Beach Boys for the whole drive back to Halifax, proud of our new status as real surfers.
I felt accomplished, not because I could surf, but because I tried to surf. Getting out of your comfort zone and attempting something you never thought you could do, even if you aren’t super successful, feels amazing. Conquering the mighty ocean is powerful. If you have any surfers in your life, they’ve definitely pressured you to try it. But take it from someone who is destined to be terrible at it: You should try surfing. You’ll be glad you did.