When I found out that I would be representing M.I.S.S. at ASR, the surf and skate trade show, I questioned my worthiness. The only skating I do is rollerskating, and even though I’m a California girl, I’ve never been surfing. Ever. So when I had the opportunity to take a surf lesson with Surf Diva the day before ASR, I decided to hop on the wave and give it a try. It would, after all, give me a little more street, I mean, surf cred when speaking with all of the labels. In other words, I was hoping that this surf lesson would rid me of my kook status.
I was totally stoked to hit the water. I literally wore my swim suit under my clothes during my flight, and straight from the airport, I hit the road to La Jolla, a short ride down the freeway. This town screamed beach culture, with sunkissed skins strolling down the streets and yes, Daisy Dukes with bikinis on top. I’m sure when others imagine California, La Jolla is what they see, not some cold and gloomy, foggy city where I just came from. Even though the calendar said August, I was completely over dressed in a scarf, a sweater, and jeans. I stripped off my clothes, threw on my Roxy board shorts, and walked right into the Surf Diva shop in my swimsuit.
Surf Diva is nestled down the street from the beach in a cute strip of other surf shops and restaurants where more people eat outside on the sidewalk. When I first walked into the boutique, I knew that this place catered to the ladies. Surf Diva is the world’s #1 surf school for women, and the boutique might was well be the #1 surf shop! But I was there to surf, not shop, so I ventured to the back so I could check-in.
I stood in line behind a dad signing up his little boy for lessons, so I tried to brush away any feelings of nervousness. The beaches in the Bay often have signs telling you that people have died there, and not to even go in the water, so I have always been a little weary of the ocean’s power. But if a little boy could do it, I can too; I would just have to be as fearless as him and suck it up. Surf Diva might be the #1 surf school for women, but it’s also an excellent school for children.
I was signed up for the Party Wave, a daily 1.5 hour co-ed small group surf lesson. Surf Diva takes care of the dudes too! I signed a waiver and met with Natalie, and who kindly made sure that I had everything I needed. She sent me on a short walk down the street and down the beach, where I observed people in helmets and life jackets braving a kayak, families on beach blankets lounging in the sun, and my favorite, tanned and toned surfer dudes effortlessly carrying their boards.
I spotted the Surf Diva tent where I met Whitney, my instructor. I couldn’t wish for anyone else to be my first teacher for a surf lesson. First off, she looked surf business with red surf instructor top, long, sun-bleached, and athletic frame. Plus, she’s been surfing since she was little so that experience always helps! Her laid back energy immediately made me feel more comfortable, and when she expressed how much she loves her job, how much she (and everyone else) loves the company, I knew this wasn’t just a job for her, but a passion.
“This is the best place to work. Everyone here loves the ocean.” – Whitney, Surf Diva Instructor
After the rest of the Party Wave peoples arrived, Whitney started with the on-land lesson. We did a little ice-breaking and got to know each other, and then it was down to business. Whitney went over important safety tips, like spreading out like a starfish if you fall off the board, and some etiquette that added some surf lingo to my vernacular. I learned there are no tea parties on the water (don’t sit and chat with others while waiting for a wave), no tail gating, and I shouldn’t be a board caddy for others. We learned a little about waves and currents, and since we were beginners, we’d be chillin’ on the inside, because the outside is out where the waves aren’t broken yet, where the more advanced surfers go.
She mentioned that this beach is a great place to learn to surf: the sandy floors and forgiving waves make it easy for any beginner. But, like any beach, there are dangers to watch out for, like sting rays, jellyfish, and the rip current. She demonstrated by drawing in the sand how to find a rip current, and how to get out of a rip current. Some surfers use the pull of the rip current to go to the outside, but I had no intentions of getting anywhere near a rip current or even going to the outside.
After that, we learned the parts of the board. We were provided with foam boards, the safest board to learn on. It even had a rubber fin, the brake of the board. Whitney showed us how to get on the board and toe-tickle the plug so we don’t pearl, or nose-dive, into the water. She then demonstrated how to paddle strong and deep to be at the same speed as the wave. After that, it’s the pop-up, where you push yourself up and land sideways in one swift and graceful motion. I highly recommend working on your upper body strength for the pop-up, because you’ll need it!
After the 20 minute land lesson, we were ready to hit the water. Whitney showed us how to carry the boards on our heads as we headed to the water. Thankfully, the water wasn’t freezing, so I didn’t need to rock a wetsuit, only a yellow Surf Diva rash guard over my tankini. I attached the leash to my back leg and went into the waves.
The water reached to about my waist and as I bounced over the baby waves, I anticipated when I would flip my board around and take what I learned from the shore to the surf. After I saw someone else in the Party Wave ride his first wave with ease, I timed the waves and hopped on board. After a few strong paddles, the wave crashed in, gave me a push, and I popped up! Cowabunga! As a natural klutz, I couldn’t believe how easy it was to balance on the board and surf! I rode it out until it slowed down then I hopped back into the water, ready for my next one.
The next hour I spent trying to ride my next one. So sad, I know. I started off so strong and just couldn’t get it right after that. Some waves I would hold the rails, the sides of the board, before the pop-up. Other times I either popped up too soon, didn’t paddle fast or deep enough, or just couldn’t pull my weight up for a pop-up. A few times I rode into other Party Wavers, or pearled into the water, or fell off because I popped up crooked and imbalanced. But no matter what, after each crash, I pulled the leash to retrieve the board, and headed back out to find my next wave.
Nearby, the surf camp kids were catching the hang of things, while I was simply trying to hang. The salty waters kept knocking me over, the board would flip, and I’d somehow end up out of the zone that Whitney had established for us. But I was determined. Whitney watched me as I waited for my wave, and she’s cheer me on as it came up. “Paddle! Paddle! Pop-up!” she’d call, but my timing or balance must have been off because I’d just plop over. She’d come over and let me know to ride up a little more on the board, or to paddle two more times before the pop-up, and I’d take her advice and repeat it over and over again as I went back in. Her coaching helped me immensely, but I just wish I could make my body do what she said!
After an hour in the water, we head back over to the surf tent. I was still feeling high from the adrenaline of being in the water, but I wondered how I would feel the next day. Whitney warned me that I’d be sore, and she gave me some pointers on how to stretch. She advised me to eat a good meal and drink a ton of water to hydrate myself. I definitely worked up a hunger and was ready to grub on some carne asada fries and a California burrito. This was San Diego after all.
I walked across the hot sand to the cement and put on my sandals. I still couldn’t believe that I surfed (or at least tried to). Real surfers might still regard me as a kook, a beginning wannabe surfer, but I don’t care because I had a totally awesome time! It was an exhilarating experience that I know if I had more time and practice, I’d get the hang of it. Perhaps if I ever visit Costa Rica, I can go to Surf Diva there!
Back at the Surf Diva boutique, I bought a pair of Havianas with the 20% discount that surfers get. I knew that once surfing was finished, I’d have to fill my fashion fix!
Special thanks to the Coco, Natalie, Whitney, and the rest of the ladies at Surf Diva for making this experience happen for me, because now I can cross “surfing” off my bucket list (but now I have to add “surfing in Costa Rica”). If you have an itch to try out surfing, make sure you go to no one else but Surf Diva!
Photos by Ryan Baladad
Image edits by Feesh
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