Surf's up, Dude: Catching a Dream
Story and Photos By Tim Jones
Do you have an dream that you've put on hold for too long? Something you'd like to try for the first time? Something you did a long time ago, gave up for what seemed like a "good" reason and are longing to try again? What are you waiting for? August is half over; summer's ending. If your dream involves warm weather, you either have to move soon or postpone for yet another year. Believe me, it's much better to fulfill a dream than postpone it.
I have a confession: I purchased the Venture's "Surfin," on long-playing vinyl, when it was still on the charts. I saw "Endless Summer" in a movie theater when it was first released. That's how long I've been dreaming about learning to surf and not doing it. But school, work, geography, kids and finances always conspired against that dream. Sounds familiar, doesn't it?
The closest I came was when my sons were smaller, we had lots of fun boogie boarding at Coast Guard Beach on Cape Cod. But I could never justify spending the money on a "real" surfboard and lessons to learn how to use it. Stupid in retrospect, but it seemed logical then.
Fast forward to September, 2005 when I encased my rapidly aging body in a wetsuit and took a long board out into the surf off Cape Cod in a group lesson with Cape Outback Adventures. I didn't exactly come away ready to star in a surfing movie. In fact, in a three-hour lesson, I spent exactly eight seconds standing on the surfboard-and loved it! Surfing is not only fun, it's a great total-body workout.
Last week, I took another beginner surfing lesson, this time with Cape Cod Funseekers (www.funseekers.org, 508-349-1429) on Whitecrest Beach in Wellfleet. The second try wasn't much easier, but it was just as much fun.
Our young, tanned, fit instructor, Ryan Garcia, started my fellow students Andrew (a lanky, friendly teenager), and Vanessa (a high school teacher from Boston with a killer smile and a great attitude) and me (creaky-but-game) with a quick safety and surf-etiquette lesson on the beach (stay out of the way of other riders, cover your head with your hands when - not if - you fall off the board). Then we dry-land practiced the critical move in surfing, paddling the board to get it started forward, then jumping to your feet and balancing as the wave propels you forward. It's pretty easy on dry land, much harder when you and the board are both moving.
Next we hit the water--literally. Out where the (small, thankfully) waves were breaking Ryan would help us get positioned on the board. When the right wave appeared, he'd tell us when to start paddling and gave a helping shove.
The wave takes you, you feel the board surge forward, and you do that push-up-and-jump-to-your-feet thing. Then you fall.
Actually, you don't always fall. Young Andrew didn't seem to fall very much at all. Ms. Vanessa made some good rides. And me, older than the both of them combined, managed to stand up for at least 30 seconds of my two-hour lesson - a vast improvement over my first try. I figure at this rate, just one or two more lessons and I'll be able to ride an entire wave.
I've gotta do it. Some dreams shouldn't be denied. I've now felt the power of soaring on a wave, and I'm definitely up for more. Both times, I spent the rest of the day grinning like an idiot with "Wipeout" drumming endlessly inside my head while I dreamed of catching my next wave.
What's your dream? What are you waiting for? Life isn't a spectator sport. Get out and enjoy!
CAPE SURF INSTRUCTION
While both Maine and New Hampshire have surfing opportunities, the outer beaches of Cape Cod are surf-central for the northeast. The good news is that most of these places offer surfing lessons into October. A lesson includes full wetsuit and board for the time of the lesson. You can rent boards to practice on your own after your lesson.
Cape Cod Funseekers
Renting a surfboard makes sense the first few times you try the sport, but you're eventually going to want your own board and wetsuit. Having the right board and using it all the time makes learning easier. I'm going to try to purchase the 9'4" Sunset (www.sunsetsoftboards.com) I used in this most recent lesson, because it seemed to work well for me.
There are all kinds of boards on the market. Soft, hard, long short. Listen to the advice you get from your instructor or surf shop: Short boards are cool and do really wonderful things for riders who know what they are doing, but long boards are more forgiving for beginners to learn on. Soft boards are much cheaper, lower maintenance but less durable.
Fortunately, beginner surfboards are relatively inexpensive, and even cheaper if you buy used. In fact, most of the surf shops and surf schools will sell off their rental surfboards at the end of the season at great prices.
(for surfer-watching . . . in case you need to be inspired before you try it yourself)
Cahoon Hollow Beach, Wellfleet
Coast Guard Beach, Eastham
Nauset Light Beach, Eastham
White Crest Beach, Wellfleet