I’m going to go surfing today!
It freaks me out a little because I’ve never surfed before but I’m optimistic and I’m now in the business of pushing myself outside of my comfort zone. Plus, how silly would it be to come to this surf town only to watch everyone else?
It’s a 7:30 miracle — the sun is out!
It rained from 9 a.m. until well after I went to sleep at midnight. I kept waking up every hour or so to the storm outside my window until I finally woke up to the sun.
It must be the salt in the air and the sunshine but for some reason I’m listening to Jack Johnson this morning. I love sitting in bed for as long as I please, crawling out to make some Nescafé only to return to the double down comforters. It’s cold in the mornings of this thin-walled beach house. Most of the slim windows don’t even latch and are only for decoration it seems. But when the midday sun is out and the breeze pushes through, it’s perfect in here. At night I crawl into my cocoon to hide from the 45°F nights.
I love it here. I want to be a beach bum forever. I wish I could be here in the summer when the boardwalk comes alive with sand and sun and laughter and ice cream and hot days — but it’s nice to be here in the spring and feel like I have it all to myself.
After walking down to the beach around 11 I quickly realize that almost no one in Pichilemu is awake. I was hoping to find some surf lessons but not a a single shop along the boardwalk is open. Some fisherman load their catches into trucks and a somber looking shopkeeper sells ceviche to passersby — of which there are none.
I meander down the beach and back looking for any signs of surf life. The ocean is active and it’s incredibly windy and cloudy out, remnants from yesterday’s 20-hour downpour.
I hit the grocery store, “El Nueve,” for some water and a snack and head back to Atlantis. After making some lunch and working on this blog for a while I send some emails about surf lessons and find out that one of the nearby ‘escuelas de surf’ will hold a class at 3:30.
Another holy shit moment on this trip!
I just went surfing for the first time in my life and it was fucking awesome. It turns out the surf class was just me and Jorge from Manzana 54, a really cool surf shop/school. And although my Spanish is still terrible and Jorge barely spoke any English, I had an amazing time out in the water.
After finding me a 4/3 wetsuit with booties to boot, Jorge grabs me a massive 8-foot board and we head down to the ocean. After a short run on the beach and some stretching and light calisthenics to warm our bodies up, Jorge draws a surfboard in the black Pichilemu sand and gives me a brief tutorial. I barely understand anything he says to me but keep nodding and saying “Sí, okay,” anyway.
“Entiendes?” Jorge asks. I think he knows that I have no fucking clue what he’s talking about.
“Eh, más o menos,” I say with a shrug.
He laughs at me and says “It doesn’t matter, let’s go!”
So we hit the waves and he keeps talking and I understand about half of it and manage to repeat a few key words about balance and paddling and standing up.
“It is muy fácil,” Jorge assures me. We’ll see…
I get out and start paddling and it’s hard to keep my balance at first and each tiny wave threatens to spin me around or flip me over and make me drink a bucket of saltwater, but it gets easier with time (imagine that…). At first Jorge helps by keeping me stable and then giving me a great big push when the wave comes and miraculously I stand up and ride out some of these tiny little waves, just rolling bumps in the water really. He helps me make small adjustments like turning my feet and balancing my body to keep the punta of the board from dipping under — which made me totally eat shit one time. I flopped head first into the breaking wave and water shot up my nose and I must have flailed and looked so silly but Jorge just laughed and told me to keep practicing and that I was really getting better each time.
“Mejor, mejor Michael!” he would yell as I paddled back out to him to try again.
Then he helped me pick some olas on my own and without his empuje I would paddle like a maniac, inefficiently but sufficiently.
“Esta ola, Michael…tranquillo, tranquillo…ahora Michael, ahora!” my 21-year-old teacher would holler in a half-laugh.
Sometimes it worked and I would pick up some speed with the tiniest waves pushing me forward all the way back to the shore where I could safely hop off. And then other times the board would tilt or spin or dip at impossible angles, ejecting me from my fickle platform.
But each time I laughed as I came up from under the water ready to try again, knowing that I could do just a little better the next time.
After an hour or so I was exhausted. My arms and shoulders burned from paddling and my stomach and core were beginning to tighten up and bruise from balancing and lifting my chest to sky. So when Jorge told me to pick one or two more good ones I was half heartbroken and half relieved.
I caught maybe my best wave of the day then after a few duds we walked to the shop.
“Muchas gracias, Jorge” I said with the biggest smile when we made it to land.
He reached out his hand for one of those cool, angled bro-clasps, thumbs interlaced, and smiled back. We slapped five like we’ve been buds for years and I walked back to Atlantis beaming.
What an amazing afternoon, thanks for your patience and enthusiasm Jorge.
And this starts tomorrow!