The Surfing Lesson


March 2012

Well, I can hardly walk today or lift anything with my arms.   My feet seem a long way from my hands and putting on my knickers is quite a challenge.   Despite the vigorous work out, there is no  visible sign of a six pack either, and standing up requires focus.


Saturday was my long awaited surfing lesson.    Organised by Anna Smallwood, our gifted yoga teacher and  her partner, Liam, who also created a spectacular vegetarian luncheon.     Pam Burridge, Australian Olympian Surfer, was our instructor, and along with her was her team of expert surfies to support our learning.     26 of us from Anna’s yoga groups attended, all but one were female, and all in varying stages of surfing experience.  There are no other sixty plus year olds. 


We watched Pam leap on and off her board on the floor in the surf club, and amid much laughter, practiced.   I cannot believe I actually thought my ballet background would give me an edge, after all, it can't be that hard, can it - little kids do it! - isn't it all about balance?  My first humiliation was the wetsuit.    They gave me the smallest one, and the thickest one, no doubt feeling compassion for the old girl I suppose, and it took three people to pummel me into it, literally, as the apertures for feet and hands were about 3 inches round, and once zipped up, its vice like grip on my chest made breathing a bit of a problem.  


Then there was the small matter of carrying a surf board from the car park down several steps on to the beach, as my arm was not long enough to hold the board under my armpit, as others were doing with such grace,  and they jogged nonchalantly and tousle headed, seawards.   I took one Granny step at a time down the steps, and had to stop several times to rest the heavy board and my arms.


The tie thingie that goes around the ankle is also a bit of a problem I discovered, it can create all kinds of difficulties like getting tangled around others people’s thingies.  When I finally started off the beach to head to the water, I discovered I was connected to another girl’s board.     It also can bring the board back unexpectedly in the waves to crash into one quite painfully.


Pam Burridge was, I must say, very encouraging, but I failed to master the Eskimo Roll, the Hang Ten, and a clutch of other manouvres the young ones were practicing.   The best I could manage was getting to my knees, which thrilled me no end, and then my Big Finale.  I once actually did make an upright position for a split second, only to fall immediately into the surf, terrified of knocking myself out on the many surfboards around me, or knocking others out, as I had absolutely no control of the board.    Pam clung to the rear end of my board with great focus on several occasions, but sadly, there were others who required her expertise.    Not as desperately as I required her expertise of course, but I understand the need to share.


A young woman in front of me had an incident that resulted in some blood and a suspected broken thumb, and when she was hurried off to Shoalhaven Emergency, I decided enough was enough.    After 1.5 hours with Pam in surfboard traffic, out of control and battling the board and the waves in Culburra, it was all I could do not to collapse on the sand in an undignified heap.   It was pouring with rain and freezing cold, so I decided against that tactic.  If I succumbed, I may not be ever stand up again.


Getting the surfboard back up the steps to the car park was my next challenge, but mercifully, Liam came to my rescue, and jogged effortlessly upwards with it.  Whilst the others continued to audition for roles in a revival of Hawaii Five O and gain mastery over the boards and the waves, I experienced the humiliation of being the only one driven back - very sedately, I might add - to the surf club.  Liam and Anna clearly had concerns about my well being,  maybe thinking I would cark it right then and there.  Liam thoughtfully made no attempt to talk on the short journey back, perhaps understanding my need to preserve my energy levels.  


The final indignity was discovering myself alone back at the surf club, unable to get out of the wetsuit, and bursting to wee.     A wee problem, you could say.   I discovered a wet wet suit is even more difficult to deal with than a dry wet suit.   (The things one learns in the pursuit of adventure, knowledge and fun.)    A lone man appeared out of the rain, about my age unfortunately, and rather good looking in a surfy kind of way.  I swallowed what was left of my pride, trying for dignified and undesperate, asked him to assist me to remove myself from the wet wet suit.    I sat in various positions, on the floor, on the chair, against the wall, whilst he tugged and pulled, once with his foot on my abdomen, and his hand clutched around my upper arm, I fully expected bruising.     He did pause to ask, somewhat anxiously, prior to the removal, did I have bathers on underneath?    After he extricated one arm, and then the other, he began to wrench the top of the garment down, whilst I fervently hoped my bikini top would stay in place. We were after all alone, and in a somewhat compromising situation, so I attempted to keep it up with one hand, whilst the other helped him unpeel me, somewhat ineffectively.   Then the difficult question of the knicker part of the bathers arose, as I tried to hold them up, all simultaneously occurring as I tried hard not to wee, whilst he pulled and rolled the wet, unmanageable, unbelievably TIGHT thing off me, inch by inch, one leg at a time, with his nose about three inches from my crutch.


When it finally lay, limp, sandy and bedraggled on the floor, like a four legged  beast, I felt as if we had wrestled a dragon and won, I whooped and kissed him.  I had to resist the urge to stamp on it and scream a war cry, along the lines of Braveheart.  I walked off, with that ‘clenched bum trying not to wee way’ in my bikini whilst Ron (understandably, we are on first name terms ) shook his head in wonder, wearing a bemused smile, saying “I have never done that in my life before.”  Then his sense of humour kicked in, as believe me, as amusing as this may be to read, it was not at all amusing in the moment – he said with a grin “Perhaps I could help all the other girls when they come back?”   


So, you will be pleased to hear, that I upheld the dignity of our generation for the rest of the day, obediently followed the agenda.  I had a hot shower, and a cup of chai, before tackling a 1.5 hour yoga class.   As I had done the same yoga class with Anna  the day before, you would have thought I had more sense, but no, vanity prevailed.    

The 45 minute journey home was accomplished, drooping.   I briefly entertained the thought that I too, may need a visit to Shoalhaven Emergency.   But after a hot shower, I went to bed, slept for two hours, and then climbed carefully into the spa my Beloved had lovingly prepared. After two large glasses of wine I was in bed at 8.30 pm.    


I currently have no plans to take up surfing on a regular basis.    But I have the photos that I gave it a go.  And with an Olympian.





Sandra Groom

17th March 2012

Sandra GroomComment