01 November 2015

Surf Simply: Domingo (Sunday)

The bungalow I shared with Jessica
Chef Denis set the bar high for breakfast on the first morning, serving me and Jessica vegan pancakes. With our bellies pleasantly full, we met our surf coaches. Mine was Francella from Nicaragua, and I was to share her with a guy named Thyago who had missed his flight and would arrive later.

With the surfboards and coaches loaded into a pickup truck with a trailer, I stepped up into a truckbed lined with benches behind the rest of the group. They were: Jessica and Mike, both from San Diego and living within 10 miles of me although we'd never met before; Kim and her father Ted from New Hampshire; Lauren and her husband Michael from Orange County, less than two hours' drive north of me; Mike and his son Eric from Seattle; and Ian from Calgary in Canada. In case you weren't counting, that's three Michaels. Mike from San Diego became Miguel for the week, to help keep them straight.
Miguel, Eric, Michael, Ian, Lauren and Mike
It was a bumpy ride down the potholed dirt road to Playa Guiones, the nearest beach. We each carried a surfboard down a leaf-covered jungle trail and across a shallow and narrow stream to the sand. Although Fran had brought a 6'2" surfboard for me, she handed me a much longer NSP. I looked at her quizzically.

"Just take it out in the whitewater and ride a few waves," she said. "Then you can come back for the shortboard."

Really? She wants me to ride a longboard? Ugh. "Okay," I said, "but I'm not very good on a longboard. I'll probably just kook it up."

And kook it up, I did. Every which way. It was embarrassing. Fran blew her whistle and waved for me to come in.

She probably thinks I totally lied about my skill level on the pre-camp questionnaire.

I redeemed myself, I thought, on the 6'2" which was dimensionally similar to my own Ward Coffey board, although none of the waves offered enough face for the carving turns I'd claimed I could do. After all, it was beach break. There were no long peelers like at the La Jolla reefs. And the waves were big, overhead – the sort of thing I mostly avoid at beach breaks at home. Still, after the whitewater longboard fiasco, I felt I'd done alright on the shorter board.
Fran on the left
Feet, hips, hands, and head – all wrong, girl
Videos don't lie. Back at the resort, I met Fran in one of the two theory rooms, icily air-conditioned concrete squares with whiteboards, flat-panel monitors, seats for the guests, and surfboard storage. Watching the replay, I saw my stance, gaze and position on the waves were less than ideal. Fran launched into the first theory lesson, on feet, hips, hands, and head. Surf Simply teaches the "functional stance," the proper placement of those body parts for the most efficient surfing.

Feet. I've been placing my front foot wrong for many years, but it's how I was taught: angled about 45 degrees off the stringer. According to the functional stance (FS), both feet should be parallel and slightly pigeon-toed, a little more than shoulder-width apart, centered over the stringer. The front foot should be ahead of the board's balance point, which was marked on the longboards with black tape.

Hips. Weight forward for speed and back to turn, all through hip movement while in the FS. "Pretend you have a flashlight in your back pocket," Fran told me, "and you want to shine the light straight ahead." That's where my front hip should be to gain speed. "Now sit back, almost like you're sitting on a stool." That's where my back hip should be to carve. With the feet properly positioned, the hips can move freely to shift weight.
At least I'm looking down the line

Hands. This was a noticeable fault for me in the videoes. With both of my hands in front of my front rail, my ass stuck out behind to counterbalance. "Front hand should be behind the back rail," Fran said.

Head. Another noticeable fault. Although I know in my head that I should be looking where I'm going, I tend to look down. "Always look down the line!"

Clearly, unlearning my bad old stance would take some work. So Fran assigned me "homework" of 10-20 pop-ups into the FS every day. It felt weird, this new stance. But I was here to learn, and I did my homework.

In the afternoon, Kim joined me under Fran's tutelage. With the waves messy and closed out from low tide and onshore wind, we stayed near the beach on longboards. Our coach explained that there was no shame in surfing in the whitewater; we could ride many more waves than if we went out the back and should look at it as training. I was assigned an 8'6" NSP for this remedial whitewater practice. Over and over, we drilled popping up into the functional stance, and shifting weight forward and back. My hips ached by the end of it.

There was a danger in surfing that shallow though; once, when I put my hand down to catch a fall, I overextended my wrist against the sandy bottom. That minor injury plagued me the rest of the week.
A friendly cat started hanging out at our bungalow, sleeping on the chairs, purring when we petted her, and meowing for food. "Sweetie, you picked the wrong place," I told her. "We're both vegans here! We don't have anything you'd want to eat." But she persisted, and I shared some of the snacks I'd brought. She liked Inner Peas from Trader Joes and, weirdly, peanut-butter filled pretzels.
On the beach at La Luna
Dinner was out, at a lovely open-air restaurant on the beach called La Luna. The sunset was glorious and the pizzas enormous. I'd ingested too much seawater to fully enjoy it, nearly throwing up in the bushes as the others piled back into the taxi van for the return trip to the resort. On my next visit to Surf Simply, hopefully next November, I want to go back and savor the place.
Stunning sunset
Schedule for the week
The Tree of Knowledge posted in the yoga room

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