I think it is fair to say that the concierge at a posh golf resort is not often asked to book a surf lesson for a wannabe dudette!
She didn’t know who to phone. Picking up the tourist book, she phoned the recommended school but they couldn’t take me and recommended Barry’s Surf School.
Down in the middle of the south coast,where the Atlantic waves wrap around the island, this cute little surf shack was open and welcoming!
One of the guys had gone to pick up some of the group from a cruise ship in Bridgetown harbour, the gorgeous Christie looked out a rash vest for me. She kindly advised to put sunscreen on the backs of my legs, particularly behind my knees as my ass would be pointing towards the sky for a while. Doh! A quick slap on of some (extra!) sunscreen and I was good to go with the two Canadians from the ship. We jumped in the Barry wagon and off we went in search of the elusive waves. The first port of call was declared a bit pants, so we headed to South Point.
As I jumped out of the wagon, I didn’t realise that a decision I was to make there and then would affect the rest of the holiday. Whilst the two Canadians were a good advert for the body beautiful, I thought that my shorts wouldn’t stay on when they got wet. So I decided to get in with my cossie and rash vest.
Island life, when enjoyed in no shoes or flip flops, leaves you with weathered feet. For us tourists, our normally sock and shoe encased pinkies where pummelled by the stones and grit as we walked barefoot towards the demonstration grass; even then, I won’t call that grass being soft either!
I tried to work out what was my lead foot. I seemed to swap between “goofy” and “regular”. But what was clear was that this old gal needed to practice more yoga! Strength and flexibility were not apparent on the land and it certainly wasn’t any better in the water!
A few other surf schools were in the water, some with printed T shirts , but the ones I admired the most were the ones with booties! I have a fear of standing on something; a fish, seaweed, an anemone on the reef! I really wanted a pair but Matthew, our coach and motivator for the morning, said that although he was born, bred and surfed the island all his life, he had only stood on something one. Having seen how bulletproof his feet were when we walked from the jeep (with a board balanced on his head I might add), I am sure he has stood on more, but just never felt it!
The Canadians had a Go-Pro camera and handed it to Matthew to take some shots of them. On my first launch, the leash of my board caught on the leash of the camera and yanked it clean out of Matthew’s hand. It has been a while since I have seen such panic on a face. There was much peering into the water, but as I hauled my board back to me, I realised that the camera was still entangled in my leash. I raised it triumphantly above my head, not realising that it would be my only triumph of the day!
A turtle came up to see what all the noise was. He was happy enough to be there with us, and it was an awesomely, natural sight. We had seen turtles in the water around the island before, but only off the tail of a tourist-packed catamaran with scraps flung in the water to attract them.
I couldn’t do it, this . I couldn’t get up quickly enough. I just couldn’t get my knee through my hands quickly enough to be able to stand while the wave still had strength. This is where the yoga would have been helpful. I was tiring quickly. Paddling out was hard work. In the end, lifting my head off the board was hard work. Matthew suggested straddling the board and sitting up for a breather, but I couldn’t even get my tight hip flexors either side of the (VERY WIDE!!) board!
For every run in that I had, my cruise compatriots were getting two, and becoming world class surfers in the process. Every time that it was my turn, I promised Matthew that I would give it my best. And I did, but I still couldn’t make it to a stand nearly 2 hours later. I had a few cossie wedgies to my name but I’m not sure that they count as trophies of the day!
Those hours in the water flew by! A beautiful storm was gathering itself off the west coast. It rained hard and we didn’t notice. The air was full of shouted instructions to various students, but I couldn’t hear them. It was just me, the waves and that point on the beach that I kept looking at so that I didn’t fall into the sea too quickly.
The scariness of a wave breaking on top of me left me. I’d put the thought of standing on stuff kinda out of my mind. Yes, I was disappointed that I didn’t get to stand up, even for a nano-second, but I had accomplished small things and sometimes they mean more in that moment. You learn fear, you aren’t born with it. There isn’t always Conger eels in seaweed, spiny urchins on the reef , and just maybe that huge wave just above your head isn’t strong enough to smash your face onto the board. I gave them all a chance to break my front teeth, puncture my foot and slither around my legs, and they didn’t. I survived Barry’s Surf School and had a swell time to boot!
I couldn’t take my camera with me for in-action photos and it seems really odd that my September Microadventure movie of the last few waves is on the cutting room floor of some Canadian couples’ home. But here is one photo that I am willing to share.
I am terribly glad we surfed in a storm. I would hate to have seen my third degree burns on my ass if the weather was better! My decision to not surf in shorts lived with me for a few weeks! Reminds me of that Baz Luhrmann song in 1999, some sage advice there….