My absolute favorite thing to do when I was a kid growing up in Manhattan Beach was dive under those waves, I could spend all day in the water. The best feeling for me was still having that salt and sand all over me when I got out, I never even rinsed off. There was rarely a time I even brought a brush to the beach with me. Having salt mixed with sand either walking or riding my bike home felt so good! My grade school was right up the hill from the water, we had a pact to go in the water every single day one year. That’s my memory of it, not sure if we did it or not? I’d wait for my hair to dry at my friend’s house (my parents didn’t know), then run down Sand Dune park hill to get home.
I had a few water toys growing up, a styrofoam wave rider thingy and an itchy surf mat. When I was really little, my mom would put us on the surf mat to get us across the hot sand and pull the rope. Boogie boards came out when I was in middle school, they were actually kits you had to buy duct tape to put them together. Then the boys starting surfing, girls not allowed. This could be due to the fact that the boys weren’t very good yet and didn’t want the girls to actually know that. Right before we made that puberty transition, I was still one of the boys with my boogie board. We were all at the pier, two of my guy friends dared me to go in when the waves were big, so I went for it. Of course I was pummeled, when I came in though they both said they never would have gone out!! They both became pro surfers at some point in their lives.
What was unfortunate timing for me was short board popularity, long boards were not cool in the ’70’s, no one wants to be labeled a “kook.” I was asked by the local surf shop to join the boogie board team…ummmm, no thanks. That just sounded so wimpy compared to surfing. I wanted to stand up! I just couldn’t on a short board.
In my attempts to surf, I was lucky to hang out with a group of kids for a time with dads who were longboard surfers. I did a lot of pearling, the timing of Manhattan Beach waves with a longboard is not the greatest either. They’re quick waves, with a boogie board I could take off while the wave was curling. On a longboard, you take off at the swell and paddle hard. If there’s already a curl, it’s just going to push the nose straight down. Since there was no formal instruction, besides a beginning book in the library (I’d put guys names in as if they checked it out as a joke), I did a whole lot of pearling. I did have some success when my friend took the helm. He’d be at the back of the board to take it so I could crawl up tandem. It was a fun summer, before my BF dumped me and I had to switch steets.
I gave up until after I graduated from college, when I was working at a swimwear store in Santa Monica Canyon. The local guys there adopted me as their own and came by with a board for me after work. They put me on a 9′ board, I hopped up right away. One thing I always knew how to do was paddle and wave motion. The waves at State Beach were a lot easier than Manhattan Beach, plus I had the support of a bunch of Malibu surfers who were impressed I could even paddle. I was hooked!! I bought a board and tried to surf every day. I made a mistake though, I went from a 9′ board with the intention of getting better to go back to a short board at some point. Same fatal mistake I made from when I was younger. I bought a shorter board and couldn’t even get up…because by that time I was 5’9″ with a really slow hop up. I switched jobs too, I started working at Nordstrom getting me off the beach.
That Christmas, I went surfing with my brother and his friends. I was able to get past the break, then they would take off and I heard our friend screaming down the wave. I thought, “I have no business out here if he’s scared.” I waited for the lull and went in.
That summer I met my husband, moved to NorCal and quit surfing. I became a suburban mom and took up golf, a sport that doesn’t require speed or a quick hop up.
When our boys were grown, for my 50th my husband asked what have I always wanted to do? I said, “I’ve always really wanted to learn how to surf.” He found a women’s surf retreat for me, Kristy Murphy’s surf retreats. The first one I went to was in Mexico, I’ve also been to the Costa Rica and Hawaii retreats. She gave me this soft board that was about 11′?? I affectionally called it the “Beastie board,” I couldn’t carry it alone. I could barely paddle it once it got a little water logged. What I could do was get up on it right away, my first ride in 20 plus years was an audience of legendary women surfers paddling out hooting at me. What a welcome!! I didn’t know who they were at the time, I found out at a party afterward. Before the party, I PM’d one of my surfer friends with the names to see who they were.
At the party, I talked mainly to this woman Zuef. Zuef was married to Frosty of “Mavericks” fame. She talked about what it was like to be a step-mom to girls who had lost their mom while they were young. This was before the movie came out, I didn’t know much about Frosty or that his first wife had died. Zuef was battling bone cancer herself, their girls trip to Mexico was in her honor while she was still alive. A few years later, she lost her battle too. One of the take aways from that was how she had told me she could tell I had a great heart, I’ll always remember that observation by her of me when I’m down. Other attendee’s were Linda Benson and Heather Hudson of “Women and the Waves” movies.
I continued going to these retreats for a few years, posting shamelessly on FB. A friend from MB finally asked to join me on a Costa Rica trip. One thing about growing up in MB that was hard is that everyone’s super model thin plus a killer athlete. I’m a half ass athlete, no comparison to the girls I grew up with. She had surfed with her dad as a kid, played Div 1 volleyball in college, I knew I’d be a little jealous. Sure enough, she out surfed me after 2 shaky waves. I felt like chopped liver, that I sucked.
Since that first trip, we went on quite a few others. Some of my best waves were at a ranch in Mexico we took a boat to, that was a fun day! I surfed really well for me. Another was a right I caught in Hawaii, it seemed so effortless and went on forever. I out paddled my friend for a wave and Kristy told me about it later. I can’t see without my glasses, I didn’t even know she was going for it? I’m a wimp, I’ll let the “better surfer” get the wave. Her attitude towards the whole thing was that she didn’t think I’d get it, so she went for it. She said that to me a few times, “I knew you wouldn’t get it” as her apology for cutting me off… What a friend.
The last 3 times I’ve gone have been mini-disasters for one reason or another. Hawaii was a huge storm and WAY too big for me. I won’t go out if it’s too big, I have a healthy fear of mother nature. I surfed 2 days of that trip.
The next time was in Mexico where the biggest bitch on the face of the earth happened to be. She was an emergency room Dr. who deemed me irrelevant. She was also “off duty,” I got tourista and broke my ribs. I don’t mean “off duty” as a Dr., I mean as a human being. When I came down in the morning to say that I couldn’t surf, I crawled back to bed for a day of pain from my ribs and passing out. The morning was the only time I was even able to make it downstairs, we were the only ones staying at the Casita. She never knocked on my door to see if I needed water, or was alive. Kristy finally saved me with some gatorade and crackers that night or I wouldn’t have woken up the next morning. Less people in the line up for the Dr. I guess? God I hated that woman! If we went to HS together I would have put her name in that library book as a kook. I don’t care if you went to med school, if you talk down to people as non-existant then brag about hook ups on Tinder, I’m not going to like you more than you don’t like me.
My last attempt was almost 2 years ago now. I went to Costa Rica with my friend and her now wife. It was a few months after the Mexico fiasco, I guess my ribs hadn’t healed? All went well until I had a minor fall forward, like a belly flop. That’s what happened the first time, I figured I must have hit the board to do that kind of damage? I never went to the Dr. though for x-rays, wasn’t even sure if I broke them? I was out for the rest of the trip, it was such a bummer. Then, of all things, I lost my drone 🙁 I brought it down to film Kristy when she caught a mile long wave. I designated my friends W as a spotter, but she was spotting my friend and not the drone. Not to blame her, just that it was super annoying when I saw the palm leaf come up when I backed it up to see where it went. I would have just pressed the home button, but I didn’t have enough battery to pop it back up and she wanted some footage of A. I was looking through the FPV, not paying attention to the drone at all. Never found it, everyone was pissed at me and suddenly drone experts. The rest of the trip was painful ribs and me being the 5th wheel who was useless because I lost my drone.
So my surfing life might end? When I did get back, I got the X-rays and a bone density test. I have Osteopenia, which wouldn’t matter much if I didn’t do an extreme sport. I’ve always been so strong, that’s been the hardest part of aging for me. Never fast, always strong. It took me forever to realize my weak points as an athlete.
I might try again, I just can’t be a wimp about what board I should be riding or have others who think they’re better than me intimidate me. A few waves and a smoothie, that’s what I love about surfing. Kristy & Cat were great!! For that reason alone I might give it another go. Or I can just leave it to my friend and her now wife?
The thing about surfing, piano, sailing, whatever people want to try is that it doesn’t matter who is the best. My favorite surfing quote is the best surfer out there is the one who is having the most fun. That would always be me 🙂
This is from Costa Rica, the best wave for me with no crowds: