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Lightning Strikes

July 17, 2015

If I’m going to be completely honest, I have to admit that I thought about playing hooky on Day 3. I woke up Wednesday morning so sore and broken that I didn’t think I had the strength for a few more hours of surfing. But all week the head instructor, Roy, had been telling us that the waves were going to be really good on Wednesday, and what kind of surfer would I be if I missed the best waves of the week?

The sky was dark gray all day, and the waves were intense. Paddling out for the first time in the morning was tough, but the waves were coming in sets, so we’d wait for a set to pass and then paddle like mad to try to make it past the break during the lull before the next set hit. It took a lot of patience and a lot of strength, but we did it.

The waves were massive. They weren’t just big, though. They were fast, and they were powerful, and they broke hard, kicking up all kids of whitewater. It was exhilarating and intimidating at the same time. Unfortunately I didn’t surf very well. With the slower waves on Tuesday I was able to make little adjustments to my form while I was riding the wave, but on Wednesday the faster waves gave me no time to react. I battled, and I managed to ride a few of the big ones, but I spent most of the day falling off my board, swallowing salt water, and getting pummeled by wave after wave while trying to paddle back out. When you finish reading this, go to your laundry room or local laundromat, climb inside the dryer, fill it with salt water, and turn it on. That’s pretty much what Wednesday felt like.


Some aspects of it were fun but I got increasingly frustrated with my lack of progress and increasingly bruised in severalplaces from getting smacked around by the waves and my board.

I was actually relieved when we had to call it quits half an hour early because someone saw lightning. It wasn’t even raining hard but the weather was clearly worsening so everybody scurried off before the storm got too bad. I got to my car without getting very wet but I didn’t drive two blocks before the skies opened up and it was raining so hard that my windshield wipers couldn’t keep up with the downpour. Suddenly streets began to flood and there were a few points where the water was so deep I didn’t think my car was going to make it through.

Thursday was a completely different story. The clouds were gone, the sun was out, and I felt surprisingly refreshed and energetic. The waves were still pretty big, but the lulls were a little longer, so paddling out was less of a fight. I celebrated by successfully riding almost every wave I attempted, including a couple of really huge bombs. It felt awesome! All the struggles of Wednesday paid off; my form was better, my timing was better, my technique was better, and I was able to handle the power and speed of the waves.

You know how real surfers, instead of just riding straight into the beach, ride sideways along the wave, just in front of the curl of crashing whitewater? I DID THAT! TWICE! I didn’t even mean to, really–it just kind of happened, and I went with it, and it was awesome! All morning I was absolutely killing it (we all were), and I even tried grabbing a few waves of my own without the instructor giving me a starting push (with mixed results).

After lunch I ran into some bad luck on a few attempts–one wave died on me, one time I got my foot tangled in the leash, etc. By then fatigue set in and my form was falling apart. This is what sucks about being 40; the instructors and the other campers who are here all week are all much younger than me, and I just don’t have their stamina. But I didn’t let it bring me down. The two biggest compliments the instructors can give you are yelling, “Yeah, Adam!” and, if you have a really fantastic run, they’ll howl, “YEEEE-OOOOH!” I got a bunch of both on Thursday, and I even got some compliments from instructors of other age groups.

Even with my afternoon fatigue and suckiness, Thursday was a fantastic experience, and it totally reenergized me for my last day of camp on Friday. Can’t wait!

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