Surfear: yes, that is a real Spanish verb. Guess what it means? Guess what I cannot, for the life of me, do?
I asked Jaime for the day off from surf lessons yesterday. Sunday, I went with him and Rob and Rob’s kids (6 and 7 years old), and it seemed as though I had regressed since my last lesson with Jaime on Saturday. To be fair, there isn’t very far to me regress. The best I’ve been able to do so far is get up to my knees towards the end of a wave, look as if I’m contemplating standing up, and then sort of tumble ungracefully off the board. Another way to say tumble ungracefully is flop. Or Flail. Take your pick. Suffice to say, I am not graceful. Paddling out doesn’t offer many opportunities for grace either. Paddle paddle, I feel good, I feel like a surfer. Then a wave comes that I must duck under (or swim under. I don’t know. It doesn’t feel like swimming on top of a seven-foot board). Suddenly I am holding on for dear life to my board, attempting to stay on top and slip gracefully under the wave like everyone else seems to. Mostly though, the wave passes (crashing in the meantime on top of me) and I surface gasping for air, my wet hair slapped across my face, the lower half of my body flopping off the board, my arms grasping the board in a vain attempt to control it. It’s not a pretty sight.
Let me count the ways that I am not designed to be a surfer:
- I am 6’1’’. Therefore, I am actually almost the same size of the learner’s board: a board that I am sharing with a six and a seven year old. I’ve noticed that even male surfers generally come as ‘tall’ rather than ‘venti’. I’ve seen only three that are taller than me as of late. My height also means that I have very long legs. I am lying flat on a board when the wave comes. I am then expected, in about three seconds, to swing my left leg from the very back of the board to the front. This while in the meantime I am expected to do an epic push-up and somehow find myself standing upright. Which brings me to,
- I have skinny, weak, long arms. I can do five full push-ups under the best of conditions. Okay, I can actually maybe do three. I’ve been practicing my push-ups since I arrived, but due to the length of my arms and their surpassing-normal weakness, I see little results. I at one time considered myself in pretty good shape. I run, I bike. The result of these exertions is that all my strength resides in the bottom half of my body rather than the top half, where it should belong if I want to successfully surf.
- Big waves scare me.
To add insult to injury, the six and seven year old who I went with on Sunday could stand up and ride waves. I will stay strong to my belief that it’s much easier to stand up with you weigh 45 or 60 pounds, respectively, when you stand tall at less than four feet, and when your Dad pushes you into the wave. Those kids have it so easy.
But, in spite of it all, I went back out this morning. The few moments (and I meant moments) that I have made progress are sort of fun. I will give them that. It’s nice to be out in the water. I also feel like I have to at least attempt to learn how to surf here. I’m surrounded by it, day and night, constantly. The beaches are beautiful.
On Sunday, though, I got washing machined by a particularly big wave and ingested a particularly large amount of very salt water. Scary. I didn’t know which way was up, didn’t know where my board had decided to swim to (or, more importantly, if it was about to tumble into my head). The fact that this post exists is testament to the fact that I’m alive. The same happened to little Tristen (Rob’s six year old) and he got to take a break on the beach and have a good cry. I felt like doing the same, but I guess I outgrew that along with training wheels. I went surfing this morning with a bit more fear in my heart, fear that Jaime quickly picked up on. And did nothing to reassure me except say, again and again, ‘don’t be scared.’
I think I was a little testy with Jaime today. And Sunday. I feel badly about this, but I think his teaching style and my learning style are…well, different. After every wave that I fall off of, get pummeled by, he yells, ‘almost!’ No, it was not almost. It was not even near almost. I’m also realizing that I missed out on a component part of surf lessons: that first one day when your teacher spends half an hour or more with you on dry land going over the movements of surf, going over safety and other general concerns. This was fine on the first day, when I really wanted to get in the water, but I feel is noticeably lacking now.
Also, learning how to surf in Spanish sucks. There is a lot of vocabulary surrounding surfing and swimming and not drowning that I don’t know yet (such as ‘sting ray,’ of which I now know exist a plenty). I’d rather keep my Spanish learning confined to dry land.
My heart isn’t really in it. I’m straddling the line between quitting and, well, not-quitting. This is a very bad line to straddle. I need to commit one way or another, and stop piddling around. As of now, surfing (and Jaime’s incessant cheerfulness first thing in the morning) put me in a bad mood, which is not something I need. Also, Jaime, I do not like to be splashed when I’m paddling out. This doesn’t mean I’m in a bad mood. It just means stop treating me like I’m a twelve year old (which, again, to be fair, is the average age of his clientele).
In other happy news, the “don’t bite me” patches I brought to ward off mosquitoes officially do not successfully convey to the mosquitoes their intended message. The mosquitoes still bite me. These are clear, Syrian-wrap like patches that you slap on like nicotine patches, except these bad boys promise to keep you mosquito free (all natural, too!). The instructions say to apply one patch to dry, clean skin. They also say, and here’s the clincher, “more than one may be required in heavily infested areas or if drinking alcohol or if weight exceeds 200 pounds.” More than one? About how many are we talking about, patch-makers? And alcohol—does my dinner-time beer effectively render the patch useless? After determining that one does not work, I tried two, then three. (Keep in mind that every night I test-run the patches, I do not apply normal bug spray, which is the control of the experiment. So, on nights one, two, and three, I endured large scale mosquito attacks. All in the name of a sound experiment.) Last night, I slapped four of the darn patches on, and enjoyed upwards of 800 bites throughout the evening and while I slept. I don’t think sticking five of any sort of patch on myself sounds very healthy, however ‘natural’ it says it is, so alas I am back to my bug cream. I was pleased with myself for at least finding 35% deet cream—until I saw Adam’s 100% deet spray (he found it at a hunting store, or so he says).
Today was a very relaxed day. After my lovely surf lesson this morning, I taught one class at ten. The sky opened up ‘round two, so all other afternoon classes were cancelled due to the fact that none of my students showed up. I went for a short run in the rain—warm, refreshing. Warm, pouring rain on a beach is not something I get to experience much, and it was worth every darn stare I got from the locals. (“Hola!!!” I screamed and waved to all the Nicas looking at a soaking wet gringa running through a muddy road, slipping and sliding everywhere. The locals must think I’m crazier everyday.)
A Canadian couple is visiting Brio for three days, and they’ve been a wonderful addition to my social life. They’re late twenties and have lots and lots to talk about that doesn’t involve the word surf. The girl half of the couple is the sweetest thing. I knew I’d like her the moment I met her: she rushed into the main room to let us all know that there was a scorpion under her bed. I think she even may have used the words, “Not to sound like a city girl, but…” Ah, I felt for her. It’s been nice to lapse back into girl talk. She’s originally from Mexico and was excited and encouraging when she heard that I was traveling by myself. She went to an American high school in Mexico until she was 18, so she had some interesting insights about opportunities and the job market for teaching English, or any sort of teaching in English, in Mexico. They’re just the cutest couple ever, so it’s been nice to have some interaction away from the boys.
And now it’s almost dinner time. Surf lesson tomorrow morning. How excited am I?