A bit of soul surfing

Nicaragua wouldn’t necessarily be the first place that springs to mind when you think of going surfing. Well, surfing on waves, that is. It does, however, get top billing if you fancy surfing down an active volcano..

But more on that later. First to the traditional variety.

I really would have been quite content to stick to mooching around colonial towns and marvelling at mountains, (more) monkeys, lakes and lagoons, but for the lure of the Pacific pounding the shore only metres from our guest house..and the promise of a whole new world of adventure opening up..

Playa Maderas. OK, not much pounding going on at this moment..

Apparently it is possible for someone over 40 to learn how to surf.  Well, sort of. If you don’t mind being pummelled relentlessly by waves, bashed on the head by your surf-board, face down and floundering, incurring bruises and board rashes, and waking up the next day feeling 195.  Curiously, this was all rather addictive, in a perverse sort of way.

I’ll have you standing up in the first lesson‘… said my Dutch surf guru Marcus. No pressure then. ‘Oh, and by the way, suggest you  moon-walk in the water to avoid stepping on a sting ray on the way out’..Marvellous.

There are some very annoying things about being a beginner surfer, and sting rays are actually the least of them. Not least, is your board, which is very large and cumbersome. The surfing equivalent of a bike with stabilizers. It screams ‘I’m a beginner!’ on the beach. So,far from strutting in a cool fashion with it nonchalantly stuck under your arm like all those cool surfer dudes, you lug it, stumbling along, and cursing the fact that the wretched thing was clearly designed for long-armed people, i.e. most men and Scandinavian women.

Braving the Wave (courtesy of Anna, who opted for more cerebral land pursuits)

The lugging is the easy bit, it turns out. There are two critical next steps. If you get them right, they will set you on your path to surfing nirvana and dude-dom.  If you get them wrong, you will crash face down, tossed and twisted in a turbulent torrent of wave-power, only to be washed up unceremoniously on shore like a bit of flotsam, bikini mangled around your neck, sand in every orifice, and gasping for air like an asthmatic whale. Your board, meanwhile, attached to your foot with a bit of rope, is every bit the sea’s accomplice, joyously springing to life to smack you on the head just as you surface spluttering..

Down but not out

So, to those key steps:

Step 1. Lie on the board on your tummy, bobbing around in the swell, preferably not too far out (so as to avoid becoming ‘shark bait’). A quick assessment of wave height, speed and wind direction is recommended at this point. Tips of your toes and arms poised ready to spring into action….

Step 2:  Timing is everything. As looming wave approaches, paddle furiously like a dog. Just as wave starts to lift you, spring, in one lithe movement, from a lying position to a standing one, onto the middle of the board, feet sideways. Easy, huh?

If all goes well, at this point you should be whooping something like ‘Da Bomb!’ or ‘Banzai!’, hunched in a cool surfer-dude position, at one with wave power, shooting the curl, and saluting your admiring beach-lubber friends as you cruise gently to shore..The cooler Salty Sisters adjust their bikinis in a nonchalant fashion at this point to make sure that their slick arrival on shore is not marred by a wave-induced wardrobe malfunction. (The less cool ones don’t notice..they’re just too excited to have made it ashore in one piece..!)

And I did stand up on my first lesson!  🙂

(sadly no pics of this, or subsquent heroic efforts, because Anna got bored and went off to do a bit of water-colour painting..)

Battered, bruised, and ready for a fish taco

3 days and 3,692 waves later, burned, bruised, creaking, and full of sea, it was time to dry out my water-logged brain and do something tranquil, like read a book. But the thrill of  harnessing the power of a wave (however briefly) was acute, and lasting. I can see how easy one might drift into Soul Surfer-dom, at one with the Spirit of The Sea, hair permanently tangled and smelling of seaweed. Get to wear cool gear and have a nice tan too..

Sweet boards for Salty Sisters

Dudes only

And I am sure there must be global warming dimensions to surfing too. What better source of (obsessive) data and knowledge about the changing tides and sea-levels around the world  could there be than a bunch of surfer dudes?  What is less clear is whether rising sea levels are a good or a bad thing for the surfing community. But either way, I think it needs investigating.

But one thing is for sure. Surfers say a lot of things that have nothing to do with global warming, and they usually begin and end with ‘Dude’. The rest is a rich and hilarious concoction of colourful expressions… Here are some of my faves:

1. A growler: big, hairy, scary wave. Does what it says on the tin. Closely linked to ‘Knarly’, and the opposite of ‘Ankle busters’,  smaller waves  (where people like me prefer to hang out)

2. A grommet:  Beginner, and therefore very annoying to have around. Similar to ‘Speed bump’ and related to ‘Butt crumb’ – a wannabe surfer. Difference being that a grommet actually gets out there and tries.

3. A hot-dogger: Flashy rider.  Closely related to ‘Big Kahuna’, best dude on the beach. Except Kahuna’s usually have the shorts, the body, and most of the girls.

4. Pimpin’ the wave: Similar to ‘Shootin’ the pipe’ and slightly different from ‘Powning the weasel‘ which sounds rather similar to something you should probably be doing onshore somewhere private.

5. A ‘ding in his doggers’; a dude with a hole in his shorts. Could be considered quite cool, depending on the location of the ding.

Suffice to say, I will be ‘Jazzing the Glass’ again.. Am already looking at the surfing website Magic Seaweed.com for tips on Grommet-friendly beaches and wave conditions in Costa Rica…

Something to aspire to…

Shootin' the Pipe. This is not me (yet)

But in the meantime, I leave you with the best that surfer talk has to offer….Check this one out! This is what happens when your head fills with salt water..permanently..


2 responses to this post.

  1. It must be the year for 40 somethings and surfing…. I too took to the waves, courtesy of a similar “dude” who promised I would be standing at the end of my first lesson. Having done the “washing machine” = surf lingo for drowning, and endured the horror of the wet suit, I can honestly say, “seen it and done it”. Never EVER again…. Next stop naked bungee anyone?


    • M… I think naked bungee is something for our joint 50th birthday – need to build up to that one. Whaddayathink? Do you think there is a Dude for that sport too? Or will we be our own Dudes by then?


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