My experiences trying to learn the art of surfing

I am five months through a six month journey to improve my surfing with the sole (soul?) intention of surfing waves comfortably that will get me in the green room. I've spent three months in Indonesia and have been scatting around Central America surfing the El Salvador, Costa Rica and Nicaragua. I'm travelling with my fifth board, Zak (6'3 / 18 3/4 and 2 3/8).

I thought I'd blog about my experience learning to surf as its such a tough, long journey. Somedays you get it, your timings perfect and you zip down the line, most days you don't. Surfing has been so good for my ego. I've never been so bad at something, despite trying so hard but something just keeps me out there, no matter how bad I am. The sea, the ocean, the soul.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Turtles and waves on the North Shore

Sunset, Diamond Head
The last 10 days of my trip have been spent on Oahu with my friend, Steph. I met Steph through a mutual friend in Bali at the very beginning of my trip and spent the first week with her surfing Canngu and Kuta. I love the circular motion of my trip....starting and ending a long journey with a wonderful new friend on a tropical island.

Steph lives on the south side of Oahu and surfs Diamond Head, a great longboarding wave breaking over reef. It is an incredible beautiful 'local', a very long and crowded ride, full of that Hawaiian spirit of Aloha. The swell was pretty small but we still had some super fun sessions on 9 foot longboards.

We also spent a few days on the north side of the island checking out the famed breaks of Pipeline and Waimea Bay. I loved the North Shore and really hope I will be back at some stage to stay a little longer. Some how, amid the circus that is professional surf competitions and heavy tourism, the small town of Halie'wa has maintained its beauty. The first day we visited the swell was huge with 8 - 10 foot sets coming through. The famous breaks of Waimea Bay, Halie'wa and Pipeline were all breaking and full of professional surfers waiting at the start of the HIC pro. I didn't paddle out. Heavy was a understatement.

We drove back to the North Shore several more times over the week. Both days were incredibly beautiful and made me fall in love with this little piece of paradise even more. On Thursday, I watched sea turtles feasting for an hour on one of the reefs and surfed a super fun Lani's on Steph's 7'2. The winds came up early on the Saturday so we spent the morning with Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii cleaning up one of the beaches up from Waimea Bay. Marine debris is starting to wash up on the Hawaiian islands from Japan - fridges, old bombs, washing machines. Its quite amazing what a big shake up like a tsunami will do.

I was really inspired by the clean up and will definitely look for opportunities to organise / participate in similar events in my home town of Fremantle. I'd also love to initiate / support similar events in Bali. The issue with plastics in Indonesia is unbelievable, incredibly sad and really takes away from the surfing experience. I am not sure what the answer is considering waste management practices are primitive but its got to begin with something.

Steph and I at the Sustainable Coastlines clean up
I head back home on November 13. I'm looking forward to settling down for a while, unpacking my backpack, sleeping in a king size bed and catching up with families, friends and my boy.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Nor Cal.......Ocean Beach

My friend Brad and I headed out to Ocean Beach for a late afternoon surf while I was in San Francisco.   Surfing this part of the world takes the sport to a whole other level. Hoodies, gloves, 5ml wetsuits are the norm. It definitely goes above and beyond what I am prepared to give on a regular basis. I'll take my bikini and 25 degree Indonesian water any day!

Ocean Beach is a well known, world class wave which handles some serious size. Peaks line up for 3 miles breaking on sand banks and still peal on 15foot faces. I'm not a big fan of beach breaks. For starters it can be challenging to get out the back with regular close outs and shifting banks. Increasing in size by one foot can take them from super fun to extremely scary. My worst wipe outs have been at beach breaks and they can hurt. Being slammed into wet sand feels the same as being slammed into concrete.

I have struggled to surf well in California. I've found the temperature of the water extremely challenging even with a thick wetsuit on. I also find the density of the water different to the tropics so I feel that I sit lower and can't paddle with the same strength and speed that I am used to. The cold water makes me sluggish and my body just doesn't respond the way I want it to. Needless to say, I had a really bad surf, lasted little over an hour and took three really bad waves.

I met Brad at Cactus Beach, South Australia while he was travelling Australia four years ago. He was on an 8 month 'radical sabbatical' through Indonesia, Australia and New Zealand carting around four boards and a desire to nail his backside tube riding. He had thrown in his job, his girl, saved a bunch of money, bought a car and was driving from West Australia through to Victoria surfing as much as possible along the way. He surfs with a finesse that I will never have, a skill level honed after starting early in life and surfing as much possible over the last 30 years.

Cactus Beach is on my surf hit list. I have been there several times driving from Melbourne to Perth but never really caught it on a good swell. It is one of the Nullabours famous desert breaks full of isolated barrels and great white sharks. It is a surreal place, wind blown, salty, lonely but it has this amazing energy and attracts a very interesting traveller. Its beauty is intensified by the fact that it is 4 hours from the nearest town of any decent size. You basically pull up on the sand dunes, pay $8 for a site and camp in the elements. One day I'll take a wave.

I'm heading to Hawaii today for the final week of my trip. I've been craving the routine and rhythm of home for a while and am looking forward to seeing friends and family. I am missing working and being part of something bigger then myself. Naval gazing is good for the soul but too much can be self destructive. It will be strange though, being on the other side of this trip. 

Friday, October 26, 2012

Advice from a pro......

Las Flores, El Salvador, day 3
After surfing Las Flores and Punta Manga receiving coaching and advice from Holly, I asked her for one thing that I could work on over the next 6 months that would improve my surfing. She gave me two..........but this was her response -

Hey Bec
I think one of the things you could work on is to relax and not be as serious about it. I feel like you are a perfectionist which is what makes you so awesome at things but in your surfing it may lead you to get frustrated which is counterproductive. If im off base, feel free to disregard.

You're surfing really well i thought. riding a thicker/wider but not longer board might help too. your board doesn't carry speed very well because it's thin, so you have to work really hard to make sections. you looked really good on those longer boards that you rode, but they were so long. riding something like 6'0 or 6'1 but 19" x 2.5 or even 2.25 thick might really be awesome. if you have mates at home with boards like that you should ask them to try theirs to see how it feels.

Ok, i know that was more like two things, but in the end it just comes down to enjoying it and having fun.

See you in the morning!
: )

Kinda what I have known for awhile. I love to surf, I really do but I am ridiculously competitive with myself and with my friends who surf. I get so caught up with wanting to improve and getting better that I forget what I love about the sport. Why I wanted to surf in the first place. That its all about being in a beautiful place with great friends enjoying the moments as they arise. My ego and wanting to be the best I can be get in the way of love. I have only just realised how much this pervades so much of my life. 

Most of the sessions we surfed with Holly were recorded so that we could watch ourselves surf and receive some critical feedback. If a picture speaks a thousand word then video footage gives you a million. It is a mortifying process but provides so much information..........Holly kindly made 2 minute clips of our waves and posted them on You Tube. Maybe one day I'll surf like her.

Anyway I am in San Juan Del Sur, Nicaragua at the moment. I surfed Playa Maderas yesterday and caught some super fun stormy waves. It reminded me of my days surfing Woolamai, Phillip Island in Victoria. I wish I had more time to surf some of the other breaks but the swell has been pretty inconsistent and the wet season is well and truly settled in. Tomorrow afternoon, I fly to San Francisco for the second last stop on my trip. Hopefully I'll fit in at least one or two surfs in Nor Cal.....anything to give to reason to hauling this 4/3 seam sealed wetsuit for the last five weeks. 

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Surf Camp with Holly Beck

Las Flores, El Salvador, day 1
My girlfriend and I are spending the week at a surf coaching clinic with Holly Beck. Its day 3 and already we've clocked up around 12 hours in the water. The camp is based at Las Flores, El Salvador, an incredible rippable long wave in the south. It is super fun and allows a nice amount to time to practise and link together turns.

There are six girls on the camp with Holly and Steph providing coaching and Jess running a daily yoga class. I thought I'd be mixing it up with twenty something rippers but the group is quite diverse in age and experience. Two women, Frazer and Isabel and particularly inspiring. Frazer has been surfing for over 30 years and still shreds on a short board. Isabel picked up surfing when she moved to Nicaragua for work and has developed such a beautiful style.

Each session is filmed and we spend the afternoon getting some critical feedback from Holly. Its is fairly confronting. Feeling yourself surf and seeing yourself surf are two different things. Over the past few years I've become more dynamic constantly shifting position in response to my placement on the wave. I have finally started turning and after a week of surfing rights in El Salvador, I am feeling pretty good on my take offs and heading down the line.

I've managed to put on 5 - 6 kilos over the last five months (care of trail mix) so I am not enjoying seeing myself on film and in photos. However, I've paid to much to be vain and understand the value of watching myself. I can see the tension I carry in my shoulders and how tight my upper back are, limiting my movements on the wave. 

I set several intentions for this week.
  1. To relax in the surf and select better quality waves.
  2. Refine my pop ups on the right side.
  3. Work on compression and using my lower body to drive the board.

Attached is a short video that Holly made of our first session. I am at the 45 second mark. Its a small one but such a fun wave. 

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Wanting to head home........El Tunco, El Salvador

So with a really heavy heart, I caught a flight from LAX to San Salvador for the final five weeks of my journey. I really want to be flying home but I've already made some commitments in Central America and I want to make the most of this opportunity. I'm unlikely to return soon. The final five weeks is nothing to complain about - a week with Holly Beck (ex pro surfer) on a surf camp in Las Flores, six days in San Juan Del Sur, five days in San Francisco and a week in Hawaii with my wonderful friend Steph.

It has been an incredible ride so far full of fantastic adventures with some amazing friends both old and new. I've surfed a lot less then I thought I would, fallen in love with the beauty and diversity of the United States, crossed Central America off my bucket list, been sicker then I've been in a long time and spent a huge amount of time distilling what I want in my life. I've ridden a motorbike in Java, surfed Bingin (Indonesia) and Punta Roca (El Salvador) on low tides holding my own and found my guru. But now my funds are running dry and my heart is just not up to the challenge of travelling solo through sketchy countries.

Its ironic that I'm hanging out for the routine and rhythm of life back home. To play down at the beach with Bear, drink good coffee with friends in Fremantle, have a glass of wine and a plate of pasta at Gino's on a Friday night and surf a wave that I know like the back of my hand. My friend, Christina asked me what would the first thing I would do when I got home..........I don't think I answered properly but it would go something like this...............grab the dog, drive down to the beach, walk barefoot through the white, white sand and the water in the setting sun, drive past the Boatshed in Cottesloe, pick up some fresh Salmon, kipler potatoes and a bottle of local Sauvignon Blanc and have a huge cook up at my house.

This time 10 months ago all I could dream of was quitting my job and thinking about me for an unforeseeable amount of time. Wondering around the globe following the waves, learning some Spanish and meeting new people. I had dreamed about surfing the waves of Nicaragua and Costa Rica. Now I just couldn't care less and can't bear another day of this routine. I want something more then hmm, time for coffee, okay, where am I going to sleep tonight and jesus, time for dinner again. Ironically, I feel that my surfing has gone backwards despite all the time in the water.

It really is all a question of balance. This time last year I was out of control. My job was incredibly stressful, surf rowing was tougher then I ever remembered and my body was not up to the challenge and I was trying to fit part time study around full time work. If I've learnt anything over the past five months, its that I just have to find balance in my life when I return home. I need to apply those lessons I learnt in my yoga teaching course earlier this year and spend more time being and less time doing. More time breathing and less time running around.

Enough waxing lyrical and whinging about my situation.............its time to change the wax on my surfboard and bring out my fins.