While it may come as no surprise to those already aware of my supreme athletic prowess, it is still a point of pride to proclaim following one’s first surf: I GOT UP!
After getting a feel for the board by rehearsing my pop-up on the safety of the sand, for all of about fifteen seconds, I strapped on the anklet attachment (strung out onto the board so you don’t lose it after wiping out) and darted for the incoming tide. But of course, on my first time out, and despite Southern California being one of the most statistically safest places to surf… I saw something moving along the incoming tide. A large fish. And no, not the kind you catch on a line, keep in a small tank and name Flounder. This must have been a shark! Or a Gyrados.
Despite my inclination to yell “Shark, shark! Everybody out!”, I kept quiet for a moment, as I couldn’t understand how nobody else hadn’t seen it. Were the lifeguards blind? Are all these little kids swimming toward it crazy? And WHY are the parents encouraging them?! Then finally, after a solid ten seconds of guilty paranoia, it hit me: they were dolphins! A small family of them, out to visit me on my first day aboard. I hadn’t even gotten a chance to Tweet about my upcoming inaugural surf, but somehow they found out and showed up anyway.
Ironically, my first wild dolphin encounter came on a day when I was a bit too over encumbered to really interact with them. Had it just been me, I probably would have swam up alongside, grabbed a fin and gone for a ride. When you’re lugging around an 8ft foam longboard though, you’re not as graceful as you might think. Nevertheless, they knew the ocean currents and just where to go as the sets started to break, so I followed their lead and in came the waves.
Have you ever played basketball with a guy who always takes every shot he can, right as he gets the ball? Well, that was me yesterday. The excitement and anticipation of this first surf got me a little trigger happy, so I went for just about everything that came my way… as I have not yet attained the Jedi-like zen powers which most veteran surfers display; patiently waiting for their right one to come.
Unlike my run-in with the seals a few months back, this encounter was too far into the ocean for a cellphone camera to catch. So instead, here we have another special animal I found afterward, the coolest little dog in Venice. He was just wandering around aimlessly, but when I squatted down to take his picture, he totally struck a pose. Even the animals out here love a good close up!
Getting a GoPro, starter board and wetsuit (yes, tragically, salt is brutal on the body) have now jumped to the top of my List of Unnecessary Necessities, so hopefully by the end of the summer I’m catching tubes and hanging ten… or at least still getting up. But there’s no doubt about it: standing atop a breaking wave and effortlessly riding it to shore truly was one of the coolest experiences I’ve ever had. Everyone should give it a try this summer. It’s not scary and you won’t regret it.