Wednesday, June 5, 2013

My First Attempt at Surfing...and Overcoming my Fear of Sharks and Undertows

I have to admit, I was a little scared to try surfing for the first time. Some of the other guests at Anamaya had tried it out the day before and they all came back with stories of being tossed around in large waves and the bruises they proudly showed off that evening at dinner said it all. I am only 5 feet tall, weigh just over 100 pounds and I bruise very easily. The water was rougher than usual the day they went and they were calling for even rougher surf for my first attempt. I put on my brave face and stood up to the challenge. Besides, if ziplining, jumping off waterfalls, hiking up a steep hill in 40+ degrees in mid-afternoon and walking around at night in the rainforest didn’t kill me, I was pretty sure surfing wouldn’t do me in. How hard could it be anyway? I have always wanted to try surfing. I heard the stories from surfers about the rush you get when you see that wave coming towards you and how peaceful it is to just let it take you.

A shuttle arrived around noon to pick me up and take me to Playa Grande on the outskirts of Montezuma. I assumed the shuttle would drop me off at the beach and I would just get out, grab a surfboard and commence my lesson. My guide neglected to inform me that there was a 45-minute hike involved and it was very hot out. After spending a good amount of time applying that dreadful SPF 60 and changing out of my flip flops into more comfortable walking sandals, we set out towards Playa Grande.

The walk to the surfing area was spectacular. A well-beaten trail along rocky coastline and sandy beaches that were literally deserted, making for a very serene backdrop almost like something you would see in one of those movies about passengers being stranded on a deserted island after their ship is wrecked at sea.

Playa Grande was a sight to behold with its soft sand and surfboards lined up waiting for someone to claim them and bring them to their calling beyond the breakwater and waves…massive waves. After a very quick lesson on how to hold the board, how to get the board past the breakwater and how to stand on the board, I was ready to try my first attempt ever at surfing...once I tossed aside thoughts of shark attacks and strong currents sweeping me out to sea. Initially, it did not go well. Trying to get a surfboard through very rough breakwater is not as easy as it looks. With each and every wave that broke around me, I lost my grip on the board and was sent careening through the surf, banging every limb off the ocean floor while the board flew dangerously in all directions, threatening to knock me unconscious. It was wipe out after wipe out for the first hour or more. I swallowed so much sea water that I actually got sick to my stomach but I was determined not to give up; I was determined that I would make it to where those big waves were cresting and catch one wave back to shore.

I eventually made it past the breakwater and was greeted by cheers from my instructor and some other more seasoned surfers. I continued to be battered and beaten by the waves but managed to climb on the board, get into position and catch one. But stand up and ride it into shore I did not. I remained on my belly until the board shifted sideways and I was tossed into the surf to acquire more cuts and bruises. Once again, I fought my way back through the breakwater to repeat this torturous routine over and over again until finally, I positioned myself on the board before a massive oncoming wave, looked straight ahead, waited for my instructor’s signal and finally managed to stand on the board and let that wave take me all the way back to shore! And it was amazing. I will never forget the feeling for as long as I lie. That feeling that pro surfers are always talking about. That feeling that keeps surfing enthusiasts going back to the sea in search of that adrenaline rush that one can only feel when they become one with the unforgiving sea.

Sunburned, beaten and bruised, I fought to stay awake through dinner back at Anamaya and than crashed immediately after. I had never been so tired in my life! Who knew surfing could be so exhausting? I knew one thing; I fell in love with the sea all over again that day. I conquered my fear of those massive waves and forced myself to push through when it looked like there was no hope in me ever catching a wave and now I know what all the fuss is about!

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