So as I somehow landed in Zipolite, a nudist, surfer beach and had braved getting naked, I figured I should give surfing a shot too.
Bearing in mind I have little in the way of hand eye coordination this was going to be a challenge, although I do have something in the way of balance – if being able to trip over and keep a tray of drinks alive counts!
I was told to go to the surf school in front of Hotel Nude. It’s 600MXN for a one-to-one surf lesson which is around £20.
The sea is remarkably cold today and quite choppy. After a quick 10 minute instruction on the sand with Cali, my instructor, I was handed a waterproof and a board and we dived in. The beach is beautiful, the sea wild and I’m feeling truly blessed to have this freedom.
I want to make some clever analogies between life in 2020 in the midst of a pandemic and learning to surf. I mean learning to surf is brutal, wading out only to be beaten round the head and face by wave after wave is not easy or always enjoyable but while it’s testing and it hurts at times, it’s exhilarating and can be fun. Thankfully I had a good guide who could pick out the best waves for me to attempt to ride.
It’s actually pretty amazing seeing these waves form and come for you, and there is this moment of calm before I’m spun around and given some encouragement to do it. I crash and burn so many times. The first few times I’m just laughing – I knew I’d be shit at surfing but it was fun to be trying. After 20 minutes of being bashed around by the waves, falling, sliding into the sand and grazing my legs and ass – I have a moment of ‘okay I tried this, I wasn’t very good at it, let’s move on’. The old perfectionist in me – that thought if I couldn’t do something right almost instantaneously I might as well not bother – was talking. But Cali is awesome and encouraging, we take a breather on the beach and go back out again.
This time I’m determined. I am going to get up and ride a fucking wave if it kills me. I get half way up and he’s like what happened? You need to let go. Your arms are only on the board to propel you up, then you need to let go and take a leap of faith literally in one swell movement. I almost do it a few times for mili seconds. I spend a lot more time being bashed around by the waves, smack my head on my own board, graze my legs and knees some more. But I almost did it! I’m close now.
I’m eying up each enormous wave thinking yes this one is mine, eso es. I’m making a mental note of how the wave looks and crests in the distance before it hits me. I want to remember my first wave in exquisite detail. Cali is willing me to take it on and thinks I can do this, puedes, puedes he shouts.
But it’s not working. Frustrated, we take another break. I recalibrate. What am I missing? Why is this so freaking hard? I ask to go back to do some drills on the beach – and then realise I’ve been missing a step out. I am getting cold now, my hands are sore, my body is battered, I have swallowed and practically snorted a whole lot of salt water. I am not having fun right now. I’m almost done with it.
But we head back out, and like everything in life really, it finally happens when I least expect it. That first wave on the way back in, I catch it, I’m half up, I propel myself up, feet in the right position and fuck I’m standing up riding a bloody wave – it feels amazing!
I could call it a day there, I’ve done what I wanted to, what I’d defined success as for today. But that’s the funny thing about goals, the moment you reach one, you get a taste for it and want to push it some more and make new goals. Can I do it again? Can I do it better? Differently? Last a bit longer? Style it out better? So we go some more, I get back up a bunch of times and ride waves, I crash and burn others. Now Cali is looking at me after each crash like ‘what happened?’ To be fair, the first time I crash and burn after that first success is because I was distracted by two nude women walking into the sea. I’m still getting used to this nudist beach stuff.
Almost two hour after we started we call it a day, I didn’t go out on a high – I burned on my last wave but it left me wanting more.
I got beat, I got back up, I got beat some more until I thought I would never figure this shit out, then I took a little rest, looked back at the instructions, checked myself and went back out. All those waves I studied like they were the one, burned me, the one I didn’t overthink and just went with worked. It gave me a taste for it, to want to do more, better. It still wasn’t easy, but it was fun and exhilarating and exhausting. I am battered and bruised and loving it. What a way to celebrate freedom and push myself out of my comfort zone.
Travelling alone sometimes you feel like you’re missing the experiences without anyone to do it with or share it with, but today I had one hell of an experience. And I survived.
So I’ll try and attempt the surfing is like dealing with life in a pandemic analogy again, somewhat messily. Don’t try and fight the wave and swim against it, you’re going to lose – it’s way more powerful than you. Don’t swim with it and let it beach you either – you’ll just end up fucked for a long time. Turn a little, not a lot and see if you can cushion yourself from the full force and find a way to break through. With surfing you swim sideways in the sea, a little along but not against the wave, make a slight pivot not a full 180 and you’ll survive to ride the wave and live to tell the tale.