While I had a lot of fun within the “Disney bubble,” I also went on a few adventures around Orlando and the state of Florida. This is one of those experiences, and one I will always hold dear.
I’m not sure when the desire started, I can’t pinpoint the day, but at some point in my life I decided I wanted to learn to surf. Maybe it was when we watched the movie about Bethany Hamilton, and how she persevered despite losing a limb in a shark attack. Or maybe it was the Disney Channel original movie Johnny Tsunami that inspired this bucket list item. Just maybe, the Universe has been calling me to certain times and places for longer than I’ve known. Whatever the reason, I knew that I wanted to use my chance in Florida to at least attempt this sport.
As my entire program seemed to go, I met the right people at the exact right time. Brittney had been a CP in the parking lot for a week longer than I had, and while we had had some friendly conversation, we had never hung out together. We brought up surfing once, and she invited me on the next trip she took with one of her friends. I couldn’t hardly believe I was actually going to get to surf, but I was so very excited. A few weeks later we were in the car on our way over to Cocoa Beach. We pulled up to the RonJon souvenir shop after about an hour- a tourist trap if I’ve ever seen one. Finding a place to park, we went inside to kill a little time and walked around, admiring the beautiful (and expensive) boards and deciding if we needed shell necklaces or bumper stickers(that was a no). Finally, it was time for our lesson so we headed down the street to the separate building where the instructors were. Now Britt and her friend had been through one lesson already, so they knew the instructor and they knew what to expect. I was nervous as all get out because I had no idea what I was walking into.
The first thing that put me at ease however was in fact our instructor for the day. His name was Larry, and he was by far the perfect image of what you would imagine a surfer dude to be. Wet-suit slung low on his hips, dark tan and sun-faded tattoos, barefoot and sun-bleached blonde hair to his shoulders. He even talked like you would expect him to, he said things like “knarly” and “sick” without mockery or sarcasm. He lightened the mood immediately and made me feel 100 times better. After suiting up and going over some quick safety tips about rip-tides(yikes!), we headed down to the water where we got our beginner boards and set up on the beach. There were five of us plus Larry, and Britt and her friend were the only ones who had done this before, so he had a full class to teach. We spent a few minutes on the shore reviewing safety tips and practicing “popping up” on our boards and finally it was time to take to the water.
We started several yards down from our starting point since the wind would eventually carry us back down, and then we waded in. Going out until we were roughly chest or neck deep in the water, and then Larry would take turns having us climb on our boards and pushing us off as the perfect waves rolled by. We had two hours on the water, and we all got probably a dozen or so pushes and opportunities to pop up and ride the waves in. While Brittney caught many of her waves, and one of the girls from the other party did as well, I was struggling and I was taking on a lot of water. I was popping up too late, or I wasn’t loose enough, or I was leaning too far forward. I couldn’t quite get the hang of it, but every wave that I attempted brought me closer and closer. I was starting to get tired and I was starting to become disheartened- what if I didn’t get up even once? I rode a few in on my knees because I couldn’t get up on my feet in time, and I was dumped off even more often. I couldn’t tell you how much salt water I got up my nose. At least my sinuses were clear!
But then- success!
It was near the end, we had been at it for nearly an hour and a half, I was finally gaining confidence and with the encouragement of Brittney and Larry, I focused my mind and energy and experienced something amazing. Larry reminded me to go slow, he gave me a push, and I felt the momentum gathering. I heard him yell “pop up!” and I gathered my feet under me, almost unsteady but finding my balance. I took an extra second to gather myself once again, and then stood- squatting with my knees apart and my hands at my sides and the wave took me straight into shore. It was like I was flying, the wind on my face, the board gliding on the water below me. I heard my friends and instructor cheering behind me, I raised my hands in the traditional “hang ten” sign and whooped. I made it all the way to the beach on that wave and I was filled with adrenaline. I had actually done it, I had successfully coasted into shore, I had checked that thing off my bucket list and I had surfed! Now, maybe I wasn’t as good as Larry, and I probably never will be, but I was so proud of myself and so excited. I caught one more good wave into shore before we were done, and one more almost complete ride (I jumped off too soon). I couldn’t have been more proud of myself.
Even now, thinking about that day and that feeling, I find myself smiling and feeling all warm and fuzzy. When I return in 60 days, I hope that I will be able to make several more trips to the beach and try several more times to work on this skill. I know that if I have it in me to do it at least once, that’s all I need. I know learning to surf will be harder after I no longer have an instructor with me, and that I’ll probably have to start over since I’ve been out of practice for so long now, but I want to keep trying. I want to feel that flying sensation once again.
Shout out to Brittney for taking me along on that first ride, and to Nicole for taking the picture I have here which came from my second attempt at surfing.