I have a buddy who took up surfing a while ago. She kept telling that I’d have to join her for a session because she was sure I’d love it. I find it encouraging, really, that people should invite me to do sporty things with them. It must mean that they think I have that sporting potential. The other possibility, of course, is that they’re secretly filming me for YouTube (e.g. woman makes idiot of herself on bicycle)
I decide to join her. She assures me that paying R100 for the lesson, rental of surfboard and wetsuit is a good deal. I can’t help but feel that they should in fact be paying me to get into the arctic water, but decide that being hardcore, grungy, surfer dudes, they won’t see my point. Alarm bells go off when I spot the rental wetsuits. Red with yellow sleeves. Anyone who has any respect for anyone, should know that when performing any kind of sports activity - especially when it involves tight clothing and water - the accompanying kit should be nothing other than black. I’m absolutely certain they won’t have a suit to fit me but they tell me that the tighter the better when it comes to wetsuits. Riiiight.
By the time we reach the changing rooms I’m seriously edgy. I’m going to have to get my buddy to hold the wetsuit open while I clamber up to the top of the changing booth. Pin-dropping into the blasted thing is the only way around it. I finally get my gear on and after not too long feel pressure around the top of my shoulders, as if a heavy toddler is sitting on them. I realize that it’s the shoulder part of the wetsuit that wants to move closer to the body part again. I can barely lift my arms to my sides and wonder how in heaven’s name I'll be able to paddle.
I’m as ready as I’ll ever be to face the people in the surf-shop and notice that as I walk, I hear a sandpapering sound. Ah, I think, they’re doing maintenance on the building somewhere. It’s very curios though, because the sandpapering sound is only there when I walk, and it stops when I stop. Are the sandpapering men stopping to stare when I stop walking? No. It is in fact my thighs that are rubbing together and short of walking like a cowboy (even more conspicuous) I realize that I’m just going to have to talk loudly or whistle to distract people from the sandpapering noise.
Navigating a long board in the Muizenberg wind is nothing short of dangerous - I see people scatter as I am allocated my board. I notice that it doesn’t look anything like a pro surfer’s, which is a little disappointing. After dislocating my shoulder and decapitating a few passers by, we get to the beach.
Here the drill starts with how you have to go from lying prone, to jumping (jumping?) up onto your knees first, and then from your knees, jump up (from your knees?) up onto the board into standing position. Mmm. We practice. Stroke one, stroke two into the imaginary wave and then jump one, jump two and we’re up. Seems easy enough, on land of course.
We hit the surf. To me it looks nothing like pipeline, which is a good thing, because I’m not really a pipeline pro after all, now am I. It’s Iguaçu in flood, with one wave doubling up on the next. I barely notice the frigid water, so occupied am I with staying on my board. The instructor has cottoned on to the fact that I’m cheating. Apparently you’re not supposed to grip the board with your instep and big toes. Understandably really, considering the cramp that I now have in both feet.
My heart is in my lungs and my lungs are in my throat and just as I feel my soul leaving my body and moving toward the white light, we hit the back line. I’m out of breath and glad that I left my dignity back in the change room or else it would have drowned for sure in the ocean, never to be recovered.
A new wave (excuse the pun) of panic hits me has I hear the instructor yell at me “OK, your wave! Quick, paddle one, two”. I want to scream back “Are you completely [insert profanity] insane??!?!” but instead, I pull off a very convincing hippie-surfer comment... “hey man, I’m gonna like chill for a bit on the back line and enjoy just being out here, like”.
I eventually catch a wave (on my knees) and then a few more (on my stomach) and by the end I'm so wiped out that I don’t know which way's up, down, front, or back. The highlight? My mate saying to me “er, I think your board’s the wrong way dude”. And now I have to go to that beach in disguise.