Lying on my chunky blue surfboard, I craned my neck back to the right to see a wave growing higher and closer to where I was floating in the shallow water.
“See that one?” asked my surf instructor, Nicole Pratt. “You’re going to catch it.”
On my first day surfing in Mexico’s Riviera Nayarit at a Las Olas surf camp, I was still a little nervous. I’d surfed other things before: kayaks and stand-up paddleboards (SUP). But this was the first time I tried surfing a longboard. What if I couldn’t push up on my beginner’s foam board? What if it smacked me in the head as I tumbled in the wave I couldn’t catch?
I shouldn’t have worried.
“Paddle! Paddle! Paddle!” shouted Nicole. “Stand up!”
I scooped my hands into the water, paddling until I felt that my board was part of the small wave. Then, I pulled my hands underneath my chest and pushed myself up. There were so many things to remember: keep my knees bent, keep my arms out, my back foot was the break, my front foot was the gas. I couldn’t get the smile off my face. I was surfing.
I have no good excuse why it took me this long to learn to surf. I live on the coast. In fact, my entire life, I’ve lived close to the Pacific Ocean. But there was always something that kept me from committing, whether it was the cold water of Northern California or a busy work schedule. This time, in Mexico’s warmer water and with four talented and patient instructors, I finally got it together.
Years ago, when I ran across the promotional materials for Las Olas, a surf safari for women on Mexico’s Pacific coast, the power of one sentence not only grabbed me, but knocked me over the head and nearly dragged me to Mexico.
“We make girls out of women.”
I often joke with close friends that inside, I am 5 years old. But as with many people, that wide-eyed wonder at the world gets clouded when at home and facing daily realities like work deadlines and paying bills. For the weeklong camp, I was surrounded by my fellow classmates, eight women from the United States and Canada, who were welcome companions looking for fun.
One of my favorite things about the experience was not only the quality, focused instruction, but also the camaraderie of a group of women of varying ages and experiences. We had all spent vacations with partners and families, but did not always have a chance to focus on ourselves and get quality time to play.
This time, with a week dedicated to yoga classes and surfing, we had the opportunity to tune out other responsibilities. I can’t claim to have kept away from my cell phone the entire time, but I can say that by the end of camp, I’d fallen into a pattern I loved: yoga, breakfast, surf, lunch, surf, dinner, sleep. Even the occasional rain and cloudy weather that week (which isn’t common) didn’t dampen my spirits. At the end of my surf sessions, I had a hard time dragging myself away from the water.
Now, I’m back north, still on the coast, and eyeing surfboards. My weeklong surf safari ensured that I’ll be surfing the rest of my life. I’ll have to divide my time between the SUP and longboard now, but there are worse problems to have.