This is how I spent my 40th birthday - in Hawaii, learning how to surf, with firemen. Yep.
Wednesday night I was all a-flutter. Thursday was my surf lesson with the firemen and the news announced a storm moving in. Now, a typical Hawaiian storm ain't so bad. Y'know, it rains for 15 minutes, then *POOF* - all gone. But the words "wind" and "high surf" really were not the words I wanted to hear before surfing.
Thursday arrived. I took a peek out to the ocean from the room and boy, was the surf rollin'! White caps indicating rough-ish water. Although there were tons of surfers out there, as a novice, I was still a-flutter. Oh well, what's a girl to do? Go find firemen, of course.
I had to meet the pick-up van at 7:10 a.m. at the Sheraton/Royal Hawaiian on Don Ho Lane - a 3-minute walk from the Outrigger. I could not sit still...pacing...fretting...pacing...almost to the point of panic, until I saw the huge HAWAIIAN FIRE logo drive by. EEEK! I was really excited to see a van?! Jimmy the Driver made a couple of stops, filling the van with 12 anxious would-be surfers (3 Japanese students, 2 girls from Canada, a local, a family of 5 from Nebraska and me). We were a bit chatty, moreso along the lines of 'courtesy' chat, really. Then Jimmy the Driver kicked in with background info, where we were going, sights along the way.
30 minutes later, we arrived at this gorgeous beach. As we drove in, someone commented "Oh, you can camp here?" Jimmy the Driver laughed, "It's a camp alright." A lot of homeless people had set-up 'camp' on the beach. Anyway, the beach is on property which was formerly a military base. De-activated in 1999, Hawaiian Fire has found it to be the best place to teach surfing. The beach was set with two tents, lots of beach chairs and a bunch of surfboards. The wind was really blowing and the surf looked huge and intimidating. The water was a gorgeous blue and I was happy just taking that all in.
We were given shoes & rash protectors (a long-sleeved top) to put on, then sent to a tent for instruction. Enter Instructor Duke. Uhh...hi! He gave us some background info on HF, the gear we had on, the beach (the whole military story) and the weather ("Perfect surf weather! The waves are great!). Then, another guy came over. He told us how to position ourselves on the board, how & where are feet should be, how to paddle, that the paddling out was the hardest part, how to push up & get through a wave that breaks in front of you, and then how to pop-up when it's time to ride. Lemme tell ya, it looked soooo easy when he was showing us! He gave us the instructions: paddle out to a surfer, when he tells you to paddle, do it, he'll push you, you paddle 3-4 more strokes, then jump up and surf! Uhh...okay. So, we moved to the surfboards. Instructor Kevin (uh...hi!) had us position ourselves and show him how we pop-up onto the boards. I did pretty well. On dry land. Then we were set free, into the ocean.
One by one, Instructor Ryan (uhh...hi!) set us on our boards and pushed us off to the instructors out there 100 yards and waiting. Ryan said the surf was only 2-3 footers, perfect for beginners. I started paddling out. Damn, that's tiring! I got through the breakers crashing in my face and made it out to Kevin. Wait. Wait. "Ready, Reese? Paddle now! Paddle now!" I did! I jumped to my feet! I fell. OK. I got an hour and 20 minutes of this - I'll stand. So, paddle...paddle...cough, cough. Back out to Kevin. He gave me encouragment and advice ~ "Just pop-up to your feet!" Umm...yeah, okay. Wait. Wait. "Ready, Reese? Paddle! Paddle! Paddle!" I did! I jumped to my feet! I fell. I tried 2 more times. I got an hour and 10 minutes of this?! I rode back to the shore and sat for a few minutes. I was totally winded. I was totally disheartened. So, I sat there watching a 7 and 12 year-old surfing. Ohh, to be 12 and have no fear. (And have flexibility!) Grabbing my board, I went back into the water. Ryan, bless his heart, surfed in and pulled me out to the starting point. I sat through about 4 or 5 waves, then he turned me around and said "Go!" And I did! I paddled! I jumped to my feet! And was able to stand for a brief shining moment! And, when I say brief, I mean brief. It was fantastic! That was the only time I was able to get up on the board. I had a great time! Until I got back to the hotel.
Dude - my knee was totally jacked. My arms and shoulders were so sore. I sat in the jacuzzi for hours. I was far less sore when I started working out with my trainer! This was totally different. I'm still sore now.
I went to the Hawaiian Fire store to pick up my pictures and Ryan was there. "Hey, Rissa. Do your arms hurt today?" Hardy har har, bastard. :) He wished me a happy birthday, gave me some stickers and I left.
I highly recommend the surfing lessons ~ great fun, great pain.