Seminyak is a busy beach town with lots of hotels, restaurants and surf shops. It reminded me of Sihanoukville, the seedy beach town in Cambodia. It was slightly dirty and lots of people were aggressively selling things. The prices were high, but I negotiated some deep discounts at the local shops. We found a hotel with a pool called Seminyak Point not too far from the beach. This was where Finn and I would try surfing for the first time.
When we talked about trying surfing, people warned that it’s difficult and frustrating. I was prepared to hate it at first. I remember struggling to learn to snowboard. My teenage self fell in the snow and cried in my boots while my dad patiently waited for me to pull myself together and keep going. After putting the hours in I learned to love snowboarding, so I hoped surfing would be the same.
Finn and I walked around the beach and checked out some different options for surfing lessons. Many glossy companies offered lessons, but we had a good feeling about a group of young local guys relaxing under umbrellas with a handmade sign. They joked with us and seemed good natured. We negotiated a cheap price for two guys to help us for an hour.
First we were shown on land how to lay on the board. Not too far forward or too far back. He demonstrated how to jump up to catch a wave; counterintuitively, back leg up first, and then the front leg. We practiced jumping on the board on land. Our feet had to be parallel to each other, perpendicular to the board with our knees bent. Then we were ready to try it on the sea.
We waded out to deeper water with the boards and the guys showed us how to keep our boards from being tossed out of our hands when the waves came. I was a bit jealous that the more funny and charismatic guy was helping Finn and his boring brother was helping me. We got to the right position and laid on the board, facing towards the shore and waited for a wave. I focused on what I had just learned on land, how I would jump up and place my feet. After a moment the guys chose a wave and pushed us into it. I felt the rush of adrenaline as I was propelled forward and heard my teacher yell, ‘Now!’ I placed my back foot on the board and then my front foot. I was almost up, but unsteady because my feet were angled slightly towards the front of my board. I wobbled and fell into the water.
We tried again and again and I managed to get to balance on the board sometimes, other times I fell right away. Some of the waves were pretty strong and hit me in the face while I was trying to get into the right position. We were all pushed over by the salty, foamy walls of water. The afternoon sun was beating down from the sky and reflecting up from the water. A few times I rode all the way to the shore. Those times when I didn’t fall were extremely satisfying. When I focused on getting my feet in the right position and keeping my knees bent I could catch the wave. If I lost concentration I toppled into the water. This sport was challenging, but satisfying. I had made progress already and had an idea of how it works.
By the time the lesson was over I was ready to stop. Finn and I were waterlogged and exhausted. Surfing was as hard as it seemed, but I enjoyed it. I had fun and didn’t feel too frustrated. We ordered a couple coconuts and relaxed under the umbrella with our surf teachers and their friends for a while to recuperate.
The next day we drove to nearby Canggu Beach with a hula hooper friend. There were lots of surfers there, so after relaxing on the sand for a little while I rented a board to try surfing on my own. I spent a long time paddling out, trying to get into the right position and figuring out which waves to take. While trying to position myself sometimes a big wave came and I tried, with varying success, to brace myself against it to keep from being pushed over and churned like a dirty sock in a washing machine. I paddled to where most surfers were and observed which waves they were taking. I wasn’t sure of the etiquette and didn’t want to step on anyone’s wave.
It was much more difficult on my own, without someone getting me into position, telling me which wave to take and pushing me into it. I tried to learn from the other surfers to see how long they paddle into the wave before popping up. After a half an hour I had made a few pathetic attempts at standing up, but fell instantly. I was too focused on choosing the wave and getting into position to remember my footing. I almost gave up after 40 minutes because I was tired, but I was just starting to get a feel for the waves, so I gave it a few more tries.
I paddled into position, watched the waves and concentrated on my task. I planned to paddle hard, really hard, and then quickly and precisely place my feet perfectly perpendicular to the board. I would keep my knees bent and balance my body on this wild ocean carefully and gracefully. A wave came and I was ready. I almost jumped up, but the wave turned out to be too small, so I didn’t take it. Another wave came and it looked nice. It was big enough, nice and frothy. I started paddling as fast as I could. The wave was quickly upon me and I felt it push my board forward. I was placed my front foot and then my back foot. I was balancing! For a second, maybe three, and then I fell and twisted in the ocean current, happy to have lasted that long. I was surfing!