January 29, 2010

Gnarly, sick, tubular, wicked.

Any and all of these words can be used to describe my first surf experience last Saturday morning.

Nat, Kat, Lyndsay and I left the house at 8:30 and headed for Burleigh Heads Beach to attend our scheduled surf lesson. A very wise investment, we only paid $20 for a two hour lesson that included a board and a rash guard (those tight fitting short-sleeved numbers to protect your upper bod). And our lesson was just the four of us and one other woman, Amanda, who was about 25 or so and on her second lesson. So it was very small and individualized which made it so much easier and more comfortable. Our instructor’s name was Giles (or Jiles? I don’t know. It made me think of the butler. “Giles, please take their coats…") and he was so cool and helpful. Very encouraging and great at giving you specific feedback. And he looked like Handsome Rob from the Italian Job.

So everyone has favorite sports to watch and favorite sports to participate in. My favorite sports to watch are football and baseball. My favorite sports to participate in were cycling and volleyball, but I think surfing is now number two. Sorry volleyball, but you’re getting the boot. Guys – it was absolutely incredible. I seriously had such a fantastic time. One weakness of mine is that if I’m not naturally good at something (usually athletically or musically) right away, I tend to get really frustrated. It’s dumb, I know, because these things take time and practice. I don’t know why I expect to instantly be good at something, but I always want that and if I struggle, I get really down on myself. As we were driving to the beach, I was praying that God would break me of that attitude and that I’d stick it out no matter how I was doing with it. But guys, I really think I can do this surfing thing! It took a little bit to get used to, obviously, like with any new skill, but I wasn’t bad! It was only a two hour long lesson and I was really pleased with my progress!

First, we practiced in the sand. Giles explained how to tides work, how to spot a rip, stay away from it, or use it to your advantage. He taught us how to paddle and how to position ourselves, and then we gave it a go. We walked out to waist deep with our boards, laid on our bellies, and caught a wave paddling in. Easy as pie.

Then we returned to the sand and practiced standing up. The plot thickens. As sand found its way into every pore on my body, I practiced paddling and hopping up gracefully maintaining my balance. No problem while you’re on the beach practicing on the outline of a board that you drew in the sand. But after ten minutes or so of this drill, Giles dragged us out to sea to give it a go. Different story.

When I was out there, the first few attempts were abysmal. Actually, to be honest, I think my first attempt was actually a small success – but it was a fluke. The struggle was keeping the balance while placing the front foot where it needed to be. The back foot was easy placement, but I snowboard. Both feet have clearly designated homes that they can’t deviate from even if they wanted to escape. So navigating both feet to their proper places from the belly position was no easy task. I seriously consumed so much salt water. And I loathe salt water. Oh, it was just awful. But for some reason, it’s all worth it once you finally get up successfully and ride the wave all the way to the beach. I was blowing salt out of my nose and spitting it out for hours, but it was so worth it. I love surfing.

After struggling for a bit, I had a good string of successful rides and I was on cloud nine. That feeling is unlike any other. When you’re walking out, you see the wave that you want, so you turn around and paddle. You then feel the wave breathing done your neck, so you paddle harder, then hop up (hopefully with ease) and ride it in with spectators watching. The onlookers are impressed with your newly developed skills, because your lovely blue rash guard says “Surf School” in bright yellow. There’s no hiding that you’re a newbie. But whatever, it’s so worth it. And Amanda said that her last lesson was with a girl who had six previous lessons, and Nat and I were even better than she was! We must have a gift :)

The entire experience was fantastic except for one minor detail. I had a run in with my new friend, the blue bottle jellyfish. Unlike last time, I’m absolutely certain that I was stung. I’m trying to find a pain to liken it to… maybe electrocution meets tattooing? It definitely wasn’t a bee sting. The idiot that coined that phrase needs to be stung by both again and reconsider that description. It wasn’t the worst pain I’ve ever felt, but it was definitely worse than a bee. Maybe a herd of bees on steroids.

I was only in about up to my hips when I starting to feel the piercing jabs on my thighs. I looked down and I saw him – the perpetrator. Clear with blue spotting, his body wasn’t much bigger than a few inches, but those long tentacles wrapped themselves so lovingly around both of my thighs, then trickled down near my knees and ankles. Thank you, new friend, I’d love to snuggle. No, I wish that I could say my response was that peaceable. I’m not one for the swearing and I usually chastise my friends when they do, but I must admit that “a steady torrent of obscenities and swearing of all kinds was pouring out of me” in that moment (quote from A Christmas Story, for my brothers). I honestly was at a loss as to how I should handle the situation, so I was slightly panicked. I couldn’t pick him up and throw him, because then he’d sting my hand and that’d be so much worse. I was trying to back away from him, or walk to the side, but he was wrapped around. So alas, the two of us danced in the water together for at least 10-15 seconds, until the waves came to my rescue and freed me of his venomous grasp.

And I throbbed. For about 4 hours, I throbbed. The cold water did help quite a bit though, but it all came back when we were in the car heading home. Lord, why? Why creatures like jellyfish? What is their purpose? I was thinking of Monica Gellar on FRIENDS: “Damn you jellyfish! Damn all the jellyfish!!!” They really are awful things. Natalie was stung four times (just little pricks here and there really quickly) and Kat was stung more intensely like I was. Except in a fit of rage, she grabbed his body and threw him, therefore resulting in a hand sting as well. When I told Giles that I was stung he goes, “Oh no way, mate! You okay? Quick, catch that wave.” So I laughed and said that I was okay, and smacked my throbbing red thighs against the board and paddled to catch the wave. Giles beamed and gave me the thumbs up. Oh Giles. I just might throw a jellyfish at you.

Overall, it was a fantastic day and I am now in a love affair with this new sport. No jellies can steal my joy. This weekend, Nat, Lyndsay and I are heading to Byron Bay for a surf getaway! We leave tonight at 8:15 with a bunch of other Americans (our lovely friends from the orientation in Cairns) and return Sunday around the same time. We’ll get two more lessons, have BBQ’s and we hope to sleep out on the beach one night. I’m just concerned as to what the nighttime beach critters may be. I want to keep a safe distance – there are many strange and scary creatures in this foreign land. So be praying for us as we tear it up! We’re all pumped and feeling prepared after our preliminary lesson.

And if you would like to see my battle scars, click here.

I’ll write about classes and new surf stories when I return!


  1. "I have since heard of people under extreme duress speaking in strange tongues..."

  2. ah Cas.....did Chandler (uh, I guess I mean Giles) have to pee on you? :)
    So sorry to hear about the stinging...jelly fish are nasty little creatures! But I just want to say again that I'm SO happy you're keeping this blog because it makes me feel like I'm there with you! I love reading it!

  3. I'm glad you're getting "the hang" of it surfing sweetie.
    To stay on the board longer, use more tongue! Gnarly!

    Love you,
    Paul xoxoxox

  4. "The idiot that coined that phrase needs to be stung by both again and reconsider that description."

    Cas, I miss you.
    You go girl!

  5. I am so happy that you had fun! And i know you looked HAWT in your little surfer in training suit! haha. I can't wait for you to call me when you are free. Looking forward to hearing from you! love love

  6. First, I miss you!
    Second, Your two references slay me.
    Third, I am glad you are learning to surf.
    Fourth, My first time learning I got stung by a jellyfish as well! You just gotta pay your dues.
    Fifth, I think for your film class you should watch The Graduate too!



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