Enlightenment is when a wave realizes it’s the ocean. -Thich Nhat Hanh
I was never more ill prepared for an experience in my life. I had always imagined my first surfing lesson taking place in the warm waters of Florida after I had thoroughly prepared myself. I had at least wanted to watch a few more YouTube videos and finish reading Surf’s Up: The Girl’s Guide to Surfing. (I had only reached page 18 – far from being educated in the art of surfing.)
I never imagined I’d be shivering at 9 degrees Celsius (48 degrees Fahrenheit) in a winter wet suit half blind. You see, I had thought contact lens would be a burden travelling to Europe, so they were comfortable back in the States. But now I was about to enter the ocean with at least 30 other surfers and wearing glasses was not an option. My instructor, Tim, had assured me that the water was warm; the waves were perfect; and he’d be in a bright red shirt never far. We were going to have a chill lesson according to Tim. But as I sat waiting for my 2 o’clock lesson, I was uncertain any of this was going to work out. I had come to Inch Beach, Ireland with no surf board and no swimsuit, and I had absolutely no idea what I was doing. I had hoped the curiosity to learn would be enough.
When I had arrived at the beach, no one was in the water. I had thought, How perfect? Less people to possibly crash into and see me fall and fall and fall. I slowly ate lunch and watched vehicle after vehicle drive down to the beach with surf boards secured to the roof. The minutes passed slowly and with each minute, I became more nervous. The surfers laughed with one another, pulled on their wet suits and headed out to the waves. By this time, I wasn’t sure if it was the Irish stew from the night before or butterflies, but my stomach was churning. I studied the surfers as they paddled out to ride the rolling waters. I sat watching those surfers and waves for almost 3 hours before my lesson. I was beyond terrified.
Finally, 2 o’clock arrived. I popped a mint in my mouth to calm my nerves and joined the other students. Luckily, it was a small class of 5 new surfers. We all looked like we could lose our lunch. I was in good company. Tim gathered us on our surf boards and went over a few basics on how to rise up on the board and ride a wave. And then that was it. He ended, “Any questions?” I wanted to say, Um, can you repeat, like, all that? Instead I shook my head and started for the water with the rest of the students.
I positioned my board and got ready for the first wave. Tim had said to get on the board when the wave was 8 meters away. I didn’t have time to convert meters to feet and the wave ploughed right over me. When I finally found air, I heard Tim shouting, “Do you work in meters or feet? 20 feet! Go when the wave is 20 feet away! That wave was too close.” Honestly, I couldn’t see where the wave was, but I started again and this time I hopped on the board with plenty of time. Instead of watching the wave, which was all a blue-grey blur, I listened to the tossing waves. The waves grew louder, and I started paddling. This time I nailed it. I hit wave after wave. With each wave, my nerves dissolved and was replaced with pure joy.
Then Tim pulled us back to beach. We were going to learn how to stand. Wait, what? We’re ready for that? You do what you just did, pop up and stand. Easy. Right? I looked at my new Irish friends, Shona and Shane. “You ready to stand?” Shona shook her head. I was with her. Shane replied, “Hell, yes. Let’s do this.” I thought, You know what? He’s right. It’s now or never. Let’s do this. So, even though I wanted to hesitate, I went for it. And with Tim’s “Whoo hoo!” I knew I had it. From then on it was magic.
Surfing takes focus, agility, strength and a great appreciation for the waves. I may need to learn to breath, relax, move my feet up on the board, turn my front foot, but none of that matters. I’ve been inducted into a powerful world. A world of strong spirits that don’t give in even after a wave hits them hard. Because the waves will help you rise and succeed. I just had listen and let them in. Ride the waves with me and let the magic transform you. Thank you Kingdom Waves Surf School for an unforgettable experience!