I'm not a swimmer and I am terrified of the ocean. Having spent most of my childhood in the mountains, my exposure to water bodies has always been very limited. I have admired surfers every time I've visited the ocean and thought they were very cool but not once have I imagined myself on the surfboard, riding the waves.
So naturally, when I visited Goa, surfing was not on my agenda. It was on my friend's agenda though, she is a pro diver, surfer, and just naturally good at all watersports.
It was a bright morning in Goa and I remember riding behind my friend on a luna, listening to a song that said, "wake up, It's a beautiful morning, honey, while the sun is still shining" as we headed to Marbella Beach through the beautiful jungle paths of Morjim because she wanted to go Surfing. My role here was only to accompany her, document her experience, chill at the beach, etc. She had been insisting for a while that I take my first surf class but my answer was always a hard NO!
Anyway, we arrived and met Yarchik, our guide at Banana Surf School, and instantly got talking. Now let me tell you one thing about Yarchik and his ability to convince you to do anything. I repeat, ANYTHING. The first thing he asks me is, "why aren't you surfing!" I mutter some generic excuse.
The next thing he says is, "If there's ever a question about...to surf or not to surf, always choose to surf."
This is the point where I pretend to warm up to the idea but knowing very well in my head that I'm not doing this. He assures me that he's going to be in the ocean with me the whole time and there's nothing to be afraid of and how it's a once in a lifetime kind of experience etc. My mind actually started to change and I was surprised by what came over me. But it still took me a few minutes to muster up the courage to get in the water. After constantly making excuses about why I couldn’t surf when Yarchik and my friend asked me if I wanted to go surfing for what was like the millionth time, I finally said yes.
Now there was no going back. I changed into a swimsuit and got ready for my lesson that started on land, learning how to stand up and how to position yourself on the board.
Learning the right technique before getting into the water
a. Introduction to the surfboard
I was introduced to the surfboard, what are the different parts called, the deck, the stringer, the nose, the tail, the rail and the fins. He also showed us how to attach the surfboard leash and wear it around the ankle of the back foot or leg closest to the tail of the surfboard.
b. Lying Down Position :
I was told to lie down on my stomach; balanced and centered on my surfboard. While in the position, my toes were to nearly touch the tail of the surfboard. If my toes were a few inches from the rear or hanging off the back then I'm either too far forward or too far back. It had to be just right. This position can help to paddle into a wave with the use of your hands
c. The Pop Up :
The surfing pop-up is essentially an explosive push-up to get our feet on the surfboard. I realized later that it is the most basic and vital movement. I was taught the back foot first technique which I believe is easier for beginners. It's a three-step technique to get up from the lying position and stand up on the board.
d. Stance :
The stance is to practice the standing position on the surfboard and mimic the surfing action for balance and be comfortable shifting weight forwards, backward, and sideways
e. The Falling :
I was advised to always fall sideways with my hands covering my head so that the surfboard doesn't hit my head. He also told me to fall way before the shore to avoid hurting myself in shallow waters.
Getting into the Water
As I was walking into the ocean, I could already feel my entire body shaking but I was too far gone to give up now. The surfboard was mighty heavy and took me a while to figure out the right technique to hold it. The water was warm-ish to my relief. We walked into the water to a central point ---- I've never been so deep into the ocean in my life but I could suddenly feel all the voices in my head fade out to total silence, all external and internal noise tuned out. My only focus now was the task at hand. I guess this is what it feels like to face your fears and you're driven by some kind of rush in your head that wants to try, that wants to succeed. To be honest, the anxiety is not completely gone, you will experience it from time to time through the process.
The first step was to get up and position yourself on the surfboard in the lying position. I didn't have trouble doing this, I later even got applause from my friend saying that I did well for a beginner. Now that I was positioned, the next step was for Yarchik to push me toward a wave and I was to ride it. Yes, my heart was beating but I was excited. And so it happened and within seconds I found myself completely underwater as I'd fallen off the board.
Now, this is a completely new experience for me, to be underwater in the ocean. The few seconds before I got up was strangely surreal to me, It was like I'm living someone else's life, it was a dream.
We did the same technique a few times and now Yarchik insisted that I try standing up. And like I've mentioned before, Yarchik can convince you to do anything. After many failed attempts and 500 more falls, I was finally able to stand up and ride the wave, not once but twice or thrice. I could hear my friends cheering from the back, it felt nice. It always feels nice to accomplish something you've never even dreamed of.
The sun started to get stronger, the waves started to reduce and we were pretty much done for the day.
I can't explain the feeling after, it makes your day worth it. What started out as a nice trip to the beach ended up in me having an experience of a lifetime. I am usually not someone to be impulsive or spontaneous, I like things to be familiar and hate it when I'm thrown off my comfort zone so this was definitely new to me. But it helped me recognise myself further and learn newer things about myself that I didn't know existed. I have to thank my girlfriends for encouraging me and literally throwing me into the blue ocean :)
So if I had to end this with an advice, I would say don't spend too much time planning or internally preparing yourself to try surfing, just go for it.