Fun fact: I have never tried surfing. I’ve lived in California for twenty-two years — in Los Angeles for six and a half — and have never even stood next to a real surfboard. When I saw those huge waves crashing along the Poipu shore in Kauai, I decided it was time to learn.
We met our instructor bright and early at Boss Frog’s, a surf shack a few miles up the road in Koloa. This is where we would begin our practice: in a grassy field behind the parking lot.
I feel horrible admitting this, but I can’t remember the instructor’s name. My brain refused to remember any of the Hawaiian words or phrases that I encountered throughout our trip. This was especially problematic while I navigated my husband around the island in our Jeep; the names of roads would vanish from my mind the moment I looked up from our GPS. It was as if my brain didn’t want to believe any of the words were real. “Nope, that’s not a real word. Better not remember that.” I do remember that our surf instructor’s name started with an “L,” and that it sounded incredibly Hawaiian. So I’ll call him L.
Once L had walked us through the fundamentals of surfing, he watched as we tried the moves ourselves, offering pointers and correcting mistakes. It was easy enough on land, with the boards completely stationary. Now it was time to head down to the water.
The rest of the lesson would take place on Poipu Beach — the beach we could see from our hotel balcony. We reconvened in the parking lot, pulled on bright blue “Boss Frog’s” rash guards and water shoes, hoisted our surfboards overhead, and made our way down the beach. I got the lucky green surfboard — my favorite color!
Obviously I don’t remember the first time I stood up on my own two feet; I was much too young. But as I tried to stand up on that surfboard I wondered if the experience had been like this. My brain was telling my legs what to do, but they were having none of it. I shakily fumbled my way up, my body facing right, but my right leg attempting to slide forward rather than my left. I wobbled awkwardly, my legs crossed, for a few moments before toppling backwards into the water.
With each new attempt, I improved. My footing got a little more stable. My legs stopped shaking. Finally, finally, I pushed myself off the board and felt my body find balance. My feet planted themselves and became one with the board. I smiled triumphantly as I soared over the waves towards land. This was thrilling!
I resolved that I’d have to get more practice back in Los Angeles, then pulled my board up the beach to watch Eric’s last few attempts from the comfort of the warm sand.