Zen and the Art of Surfing – or learning to …

Posted: March 7, 2011 in Travel and Adventure writing

Don’t let anybody tell you that surfing is completely like, … Zen.  Because it aint, well at least the learning part is not! Unless of course you grew up in Nahoon and learned to surf from your bleach blonde daddy when you were just five – on the surfboard that he made especially for you.    I finally got to nr2 on my bucket list: Learn how to surf. So off I went to the deep South, Muizenberg, home of big waves and the Big Chill.  It was a gorgeous Saturday in March and the waves were packed with sexy surfing bodies. So I rented a board and suit from a shop, and tried my luck.

A few reasons why learning the Zen of surfing is harder than learning to surf:

  1. 1.        Trying to get into a slinky wetsuit. I am sure the shop dude gave me a size too small after asking me to turn around so he can look at my butt. What a job, eh. Then looking over my shoulder and seeing my lithe ‘surf buddy’ slip effortlessly into his suit, until it got stuck at his odd heels… Ha ha ha!
  2. 2.       Getting a long board. It is called a long board because it’s longer than your standard Golf, I know because I almost smashed one’s window out as I tried to cross the road. I could not even carry it under one arm, like they do in the cool movies, because my arms are too short. And they’re not really. So I half dragged, half carried the monster to the beach. People were laughing.
  3. 3.       Almost smashing the aforementioned Golf’s window to smithereens.
  4. 4.       Hitting the waves, looking cool, and immediately getting my face scrubbed in the sand by a baby wave.  Luckily the rope around my ankle and the pure power of the long board dragged me up from a certain watery death.
  5. 5.       Trying again and almost getting knocked unconscious by my own board. Pull the board back by the rope.
  6. 6.       Back to the beginning.  Paddle, paddle-out get knocked from my board by a wave.  Paddle, paddle half a metre forward. Get knocked back, but not off my board. I smell victory.
  7. 7.       Paddle Paddle, get knocked off by a moerse wave that I was trying to go under – with my board like I see the other guys are doing. 
  8. 8.       Paddle, Paddle trying to strategise and ‘read’ the waves. Arms tired. Watch a 10-year old glide by on a beautiful wave. Get knocked off the board by the same wave.
  9. 9.       Swallow half Muizenberg’s ocean – up my nose.
  10. 10.   Feel like crying. Give myself a pep talk about perseverance etc.
  11. 11.   Watching my surf buddy glide past me, albeit on his knees, giving me the thumbs up!  Bastard!
  12. 12.   Back to the beginning.  Paddle, paddle-out get knocked off my board by a wave.  Paddle, paddle half a metre forward. Get knocked back, but not off my board. 
  13. 13.   Rinse and repeat= at least 30 times.
  14. 14.   One moment of glory as I caught a big wave and surfed it out right onto the sand. Ok on my tummy. But I felt like Keanu Reeves in Point Break.
  15. 15.   Getting dragged along my arse on a wet and sandy cement floor by my smirking surf buddy as he is trying to unpeel the wetsuit from my battered body.
  16. 16.   Walking out of the surf shop and for the first time seeing the Black Shark Warning Flag which means visibility is practically zero and it’s really dangerous to swim today.

Anyway, I can’t wait to get back for some more soon  My bucket desire nr2 has turned from a “wouldn’t that be nice to do?”, to a “bloody hell, bollocky 10-year olds can do it, so can I, not the giving up quitter type, bring it on yeah, yeah, kill those waves, yeah!.” Which I suppose is not really Zen at all.

Why dogs are cooler than cats.

  1. The surfing life is a wonderful life. You’ll never be the
    same again after your first wave! Wishing you the best,

    Greg Gutierrez
    Author of
    Zen and the Art of Surfing


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