The Painful Truth about Surfing When You’re Old

The Painful Truth about Surfing When You're Old - The Shitastrophy

On our recent family vacation to Costa Rica the 10 year old had her heart set on learning how to surf. I knew she’d do great, she competes in gymnastics and has a love of adventures. Surfing is perfect for her, but only her. However, the camp had a minimum requirement of two persons for lessons. I immediately knew I would be the other person, not because I wanted to but because no way in hell was my husband surfing, and my son well he’s not known for his athletic prowess.

We arrived for our surf lesson at Vista Guava Surf Camp in Jaco, Costa Rico. The facility is nestled into a hillside off the beaten path. The building had an inviting wrap around open wooden deck area with custom crafted rustic wood chairs that screamed low key. There were various workers milling about in their board shorts and toned bodies, it was a nice distraction to the looming disaster awaiting me. Our group of newbies was myself, my 10 year old daughter, and a 16 year old from Laguna Beach, California who surfs on a regular basis. So basically I was screwed.

Our instructor, Daniel, invited the three of us up to the open air teak yoga hut situated with an amazing view of the ocean to get an in depth explanation, on dry land, how to surf. He went over the important things like getting on the board, paddling, and the critical how not to get hit in the head with your board when you wipe out lesson. I paid particular attention to this portion of the demonstration since I had 100% faith it would be an issue for me, and it was.

Daniel then invited each of us to demonstrate how we would get up on the board in one continuos movement to catch the wave. My 10yo nailed it in one try, the 16yo nailed it as well, and I well…it went like this.

“Ok, soooo close but you want to JUMP up onto the board with your feet placed here and here. Try again.”

*cue my imaginary paddling *jumping *stumbling off the board 

“Are you left handed or right handed?” Daniel kindly asks trying to hide his humor at my failed attempt.

“I’m left handed but I do everything with my right.” At this point I don’t think it would matter what hand I use, I was hopeless.

“Ok, well it doesn’t look like your comfortable using your right leg as your planter position, so try the left.” (code for WTF did you just do? because that was NOT one fluid motion!)

*more imaginary paddling *jumping *bobbling *glance over at my mortified kid

Daniel has seen enough and realizes there is no hope, “How about this, here’s the cheat since you can’t seem to do this move all at once.”

He then shows me the ‘you got no fucking chance, good luck old lady’ move and deems us ready to try the open water. I glanced at my daughter who was trying to hold in her laughter and took the opportunity to remind her that I was only doing this because she wants to surf, so zip it.

We head down to the beach and the crew set up our boards based upon the amazing skills we just demonstrated. The 16yo got a very slick small board with three fins, my daughter was deemed proficient enough for a smaller board as well, and then I was given a paddle board as my surf board. I shit you not, it was like they got out Old Bessie and said, “here – sail this yacht lady because your never gonna be able to do this.” Just a side note for those that may not know, the bigger and longer the board the easier it is to surf on it. I was basically on the LARGEST option they had.

My 10yo Surfing in Costa Rica - first try!

My 10yo Surfing in Costa Rica – first try!

We headed into the surf and while I was struggling to get past the initial break water I looked up and saw my adept child catching the first wave of the day. She was a natural, and by the looks of it was thoroughly enjoying every minute. The 16yo was also very good and had her fair share of rides, with a few tricks thrown in for good measure. Bessie and I battled past the breakwater and lined up with Daniel ready to take the first wave.

Placing my hands on the outside of the board I took a deep breath, said a prayer, and wondered how the fuck I ended up in the Pacific ocean with some hot twenty something year old staring at my behemoth ass as he willed me to ride waves the size of a hiccup.

“Ok get in position, pull your leg up into the cheat move I showed you….PADDLE…PADDLE!” and with that he gave my board a good push to catch the wave. I heard him screaming “STAND UP!”

I gave it my best. My arms were cutting through the water at record speed, I positioned my palms as he had showed and attempted to gracefully jump up from my awkward position in one swift move. Instead of riding the wave into the shoreline like a goddess I went flying, landing hard in the shallow water, nailing my tail bone on the compact sand beneath. Good news, I didn’t get hit with the board. I knew paying attention to that would be key.

This played out four more times…and each time I fell harder and wilder than the time before. My cool mom flag was at half mast and my ego was even lower. At one point I paddled out to Daniel, who was a very patient saint I might add, and asked him if at any point if I could just throw in the towel. I’m sure he was relieved this was a possibility.

“Of course, you can stop anytime you want to.”

I guess that was all I needed to hear, because with renewed hope that no matter what I didn’t have to spend two hours falling on my ass I told him, “ok, let me try just a few more times and if I can’t do it then I’m done.”

He smiled, flashing his perfect teeth, and nodded. Daniel tee’d me up for another wave, making sure it was just above the size of one that resembled a ripple and pushed me off while yelling “STAND UP!” over and over. I unsteadily got up on my feet and rode that baby ripple into the shoreline! Old Bessie hadn’t failed me. Sure my dismount off of the board was ugly, and my swim suit shorts were half riding up my ass, my hair was a disaster, and a toddler might have rode a bigger wave than I had but I DID IT.

It's Not Pretty But I'm Up! - The Shitastrophy

It’s Not Pretty But I’m Up! – The Shitastrophy

I went on to catch maybe twenty more baby waves, seriously they were no higher than a foot, but I didn’t care. And sure after every deep breath my neck spasmed in agony thanks to the lack of cartilage I have between two of my vertebrae and the intense pain from landing on my tail bone, but I successfully surfed.

I can now check that one off the bucket list, cause I’m sure as shit not doing that again. My daughter loved it so much she came back the next day for another adventure, while I sat on the beach under a palm tree snapping photos.

You can teach an old dog new tricks, it just ain’t pretty.

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