On surfing

On surfing

January 03, 2015

When I tell people I’m Puerto Rican they typically assume I know how to surf. This is not an outlandish thought. C grew up in Austria and is a fantastic skier. It makes sense that someone who grew up in close proximity to some of the best surf beaches in the world would have at least tried to catch some waves. Not me. At least not until recently. The whole thing started when C’s parents and sister visited Puerto Rico and we took them out to Isabela for 5 days. Being the adventurous and sporty family they are, they immediately found a veteran surf instructor to take us out for beginner lessons at Jobos beach. C and I came back for more this year. Now that I have 3 full lessons under my belt, I feel like I can share my thoughts on the sport I should be good at. My verdict: the whole things feels so deep and so shallow at the same time. (Ocean pun not intended.) Let me explain.

On the one hand, surfing is a practice in mindfulness. My experience as a very amateur surfer is that of a brave struggle against natural forces: wind, water, tide, stones, sand, sea urchins that might be lurking around the ocean floor ready to stab the shit out of my foot... All this stuff places me in the NOW, acutely focused on survival. The petty worries flooding my brain (that email from work, the dished left dirty in the sink, the thing that family member said) all disappear when I’m in the water. This is especially true when a powerful wave slams me hard against the sand. It’s a giant slap in a face from Mother Nature telling me: “You idiot, look how fragile you are. Now stop worrying about random crap and be grateful that your lungs aren’t full of salt water!”

On the other hand, surfing is a trigger for insecurities. The culture of it is so strong and so not-me-at-all that I feel like an impostor when I walk down the beach carrying my surf board. I fear that some hot surfer girl is going to yell at me to please go home, to remove those surfing pictures from my vision board, to go back to my local coffee shop and blog on my Mac, or something equally hurtful and relevant. This hasn’t happened yet. So far, everyone has been super nice and accepting (even enthusiastic!) of my little foray into water sports.  I think I’m fooling them with my brown skin and strong biker legs... In any case, here are some of the things I think would help me fit into the surf culture: a rib tattoo of bright tropical flowers or a large wave, long beach blonde hair and/or white girl dreads (the first is more achievable due to my skinny hair), less punctuality, a deeper tan, an old VW van. Oh, and having the ability to surf would be helpful too. Thanks.

Except for the punctuality thing, the probability of me getting any of these things is close to zero. I'm left with no choice but to continue to tell people that I’m a Puerto Rican who doesn’t surf. But at least now I’ve tried it. I just need a scar or two to make it legit - just so I have something to show. Hmm..maybe I’m an impostor after all...