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Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Our Surf Teacher From The Zoo + 5 Things You Never Knew About Surfing

Non-athletic. That's me. But I'm tall and trim—about six feet, broad shoulders, long legs—so I can fool most anybody into thinking I know how to use my body. The truth is if I didn't have hands to catch myself, I'd have no face from all the tripping and falling I've done over the years. My nose would be flat. Just a flat nose. Just a flat face with a flat nose because I'm a big non-athletic clutz.

But apparently I'm good at surfing. I paddled into a wave, got to my feet, kept my balance for a short distance, and sat back down before I wiped out. More than once, I might add. That's surfing right?

Just humor me, ok? I suck at every other sport in the world. Let me have this one, tiny thing.

Our Instructor From The Zoo

I've got to give credit to our instructor, a man who introduced himself as Armadillo, or Armor for short. He claimed to come from the zoo. He has a brother named Possum, and other family members from the rat species. Honestly, if you asked me if he was kidding, I wouldn't know what to say. In between pushing back long strands of gnarled blond locks from his copper face and looking like he desperately needed some weed to take his mind off his hangover, for all I knew Armadillo probably actually was born in the zoo. Who knows?

The great thing about him though was that even if we didn't learn to surf, Armadillo gave us plenty of Entertainment.

"Dude," he'd say looking at me, "you're doing awesome. These two girls here are doing everything wrong, but you're awesome. Well, except for your feet, get your feet wider apart. And don't slouch. Relax, man. You're too tense. Scoot back. *sigh* Ok, never mind. You're hopeless."

He asked if Danielle and I had any kids with us. When we told him no he sounded disappointed, saying one of the highlights of teaching surfing lessons to kids is being able to pick them up in high winds and skip them across the surface of the water.

"Seriously, bro, that's what we do. Me and another instructor. I'll grab their arms. Another guy grabs their legs and we just chuck 'um and just watch 'um skip—dush, dush, dush. Well, when the parents aren't looking of course."

Despite his antics, Armadillo managed to instill confidence in us—me, my wife, and a financial advisor from Kentucky named Robin who had the pleasure of learning how to surf with us.

"Whatever you're worried about, it's not going to happen," Armadillo said. "You're not going to drown. You're not going to get blown away by the wind."

"What about shark attacks?" I asked. (Because, seriously, that was all I was really worried about.)

Armadillo was silent for a long moment. "Actually, I can't say don't worry about that because, well ... ah-hem. Let's go surfing!"

Surfing Lessons at the Goofy Foot Surf School
The two of us alongside our fellow student, Robin, and our
surfing instructor Armadillo at the Goofy Foot Surf School.

5 Things You Didn't Know About Surfing


1. Bikinis and Surfboards Don't Mix
Most movies about surfing always show the female surfers in bikinis because, well, I think the reason is obvious, but after 10 minutes on a surfboard you begin to realize just how unrealistic that is because surfboards HURT! Even with a long-sleeved surf shirt my stomach and chest were beat red by the end of our lesson and the insides of my thighs were chaffed from straddling the board.

2. Surfing Should Be Called "Paddling ... With Style"
Surfing is hours of hard work for about 10 minutes of payoff. If that. First, you have to paddle. And paddle, and paddle, and paddle, just to get in the right spot to catch a wave. If there's a current, you have to paddle almost continuously so you don't float away. When a wave comes, you have to paddle—furiously!—so you can get momentum to ride the wave. And when you're ride is over you have to paddle all over again to get back out to sea. Surfing shouldn't be called surfing. It should be called Shoulder Exercise, or maybe S.E.D., for Shoulder Exercise, Dude. But that just doesn't sound as cool.

3. The Stereotypical Surfer Dude Actually Exists
"Surfer dudes" are real. They're not just some stereotype invented for TV. I already told you about Armadillo, who is every bit the laid back surfer dude you've ever imagined, but there were plenty of others just like him with long, scraggly hair; dark, spotty skin; a nonchalant strut. Even the girl working the desk at the surf shop was throwing off those chill surfer chick vibes. But, hey, it's cool, man.

4. Surfing Will Kill You ... No, Really.
Death is like a major deal in surfing. If you don't do it right it will kill you. There are sharks in the water that can kill you. There are rocks and rock walls that a wave can plow you into in a matter of seconds, killing you. If a wave carries you in too far and too fast even the shore will kill you. When you wipe out there are rocks and coral under the water that will gash your body, slice your hands, and, yes, even kill you.

5. Snowboarding Doesn't Make You A Better Surfer
I was proud to tell Armadillo that I was a fair snowboarder on the wintery cold mountains of Vermont. He just dropped his head between his shoulders in disappointment, as though he suddenly realized the work he had cut out for him in teaching me how to surf. "Snowboarders are the worst," he said. "They're so used to having their feet strapped to the board." And he was right. Shuffling forward and backward on a surf board is kind of essential to making the whole thing work, but making myself move my feet was a challenge.

Going Back for Seconds


Unfortunately, cameras and surfing don't mix, so Danielle and I have no actual proof that we did any of this. We intended to go back and rent some surfboards and take turns surfing while one of us takes pictures from the shore, but, honestly, surfing can, like, KILL YOU! After being on Maui for a week and catching bits and pieces of information about currents, high winds, sharp rocks, coral, gashes, cuts, bruises, gangrene, and, yes, even sharks, you slowly come to understand that surfing is epically dangerous if you don't know what you're doing.

So we opted to go to the mall. Much safer.

-Jake

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