I have good balance. I can do standing balance poses in yoga (the mildly twisty ones, not the super-twisty ones); I have mastered the rudiments of stand-up paddle-boarding; I’ve even done some yoga moves on a paddle-board.
So I figured that learning to surf would be easy. Liam and Caleb did it in one lesson, in Weligama Bay, where the waves break evenly along a broad expanse of beach. The Sri Lankan teen-agers who were teaching them simply pushed the boards out to where the waves broke, aimed the board in the right direction and gave it a shove, saying “paddle, paddle, paddle.” The boys paddled, they wobbled, they stood, they hung ten.
And suddenly they were surfin’ safari dudes who couldn’t wait to do it again.
Watching the boys, I says to myself, I says “self, you’ve got balance, and you’ve got an Athleta bathing suit–what more does a gal need?”
The next day we got a tuk-tuk to bring us back to the bay and I rented myself a board. I paddled out into those nice gentle waves ignoring the twinges of pain in what’s become a Middle Aged Shoulder, I watched the boys and the other beginning surfers, I got myself lined up, I paddled, I wobbled, I…
…went face first into the ocean.
That board kicked my ass.
Who knew there were so many ways to face-plant into a wave? Even with the help of the surf teacher, who tugged me into the right alignment on the wave, the same thing happened again and again: the board would dart forward on the energy of the wave, I would start to stand, and…
Again and again and again, as my kids whizzed by doing that bouncing thing with their front leg to make the board go faster, and clamoring to go out to the big waves.
I was not an Athleta gal shredding across the wave’s curl. I was that Athleta gal’s middle-aged mom with a bad sunburn and a borrowed rash guard t-shirt belly flopping off a tongue-shaped piece of fiberglass.
But you know, mom’s got some pride, and I didn’t want to hurl the board onto the sand and stomp off down the beach. Especially because it was only about nine in the morning, too early to drown my sorrows in a festive tropical drink.
One more, one more, one more…flop, flop, flop.
Then on what I told myself would be the absolute last time, I stood up! Flying, gloriously, for probably an entire 2.5 seconds, before again eating the wave.
It was enough, that tiny ride. We’re planning a return trip to Sri Lanka and before we go, I’m going to tend to the Middle Aged Shoulder, find some muscles somewhere (maybe on the internet? you can get everything on the internet, can’t you?), study the pictures in the Athleta catalog in order to find the bathing suit that comes with mad surfing skillz.
Besides, by the time we go back to Sri Lanka, I might finally have gotten all the seawater out of my lungs—and how better to go into my next decade than on a surf board?