Sunday, November 13, 2005

Standing Tall

I've been incommunicado for a few days, as I've been off to surf camp. I'm glad to say I'm still alive, although I'm in pain, tired, and about ready to fall asleep for two days.

There were so many bad omens to start with. We were supposed to depart Scubar in Sydney at 6:15. We didn't get going until 7:30. We arrived in Gerroa, a small town two hours south of Sydney on Seven Mile Beach, and got settled into our bunks before our guides were to bus us to a pub. About 50 metres out of the driveway, the bus broke down. We ended up walking a steep hill to the only pub within Gerroa - the Gerroa Boat Fishermen's Club - only to find it closed. We did, however, luck out when the pub managers agreed to sell us several cases of Victoria Bitter, Carlton Cold, and Toohey's New. 72 beers for 24 of us to drink in the "party park" nearby. Not a bad deal.

Everyone took it easy on the beers (more leftovers for me!) as we had to be up and at'em at 7:00 the next morning. This was easy, as thanks to the storm in the evening, our cabins' temperature was down to an arctic chill. By 8:30, we were all in our highly unflattering wet suits and ready for our first lesson. By 9:30, I achieved something I simply could not before: I was standing. Brilli-fucking-ant.

Within the first hour of lessons, I'd already achieved the grandest goal of my whole trip. Now everything is icing. Mind you, despite the speed of the success, it didn't come easy. After innumerable falls, gallons of ingested saltwater, and numerous bangs and bruises, our inflated egos and hearty lunch were well deserved.

The second lesson continued on from our successes, and with the pleasure of high tide we had deeper water, larger waves, and a whole lot of fun. Unfortunately, at one point I fell on my board with my ribs, breaking one of them in the process. Now, I've done this a couple of times before on a snowboard and a mountain bike, and each time I got up and kept going. This was no different, as I wasn't going to allow a damn rib to impede my progress. And I didn't. It still rocked. We then went back to camp to analyze our photos and get further coaching on our technique and stance, and we were all very happy with our results. The following barbecue and beers were highly necessary, and despite the pain, I felt great. Pain trumped by success... It certainly felt weird that I was happy despite the breakage, but not as weird as our evening.

We walked up the hill again to the Boat Fisherman's Club, got our temporary memberships, and were overjoyed to find that drinks were cheap and strong. But that's not the great part. No, the joy of the evening came from watching old people dance to Missy Elliot and the likes. I mean, really old people. One of my camp roommates, Justin (from Kentucky), decided to ham it up and dance with them. Did I mention the drinks were cheap? He then went up with Ciara (from Ireland) to perform "Twist and Shout." Hilarity ensued.

Being a 550-person town with one pub and a lot of old folks, it wasn't surprising that we were shut down at midnight. No worries. After everyone else went to bed, Justin, Tom (from Yorkshire) and I decided to take a stroll to the party park to settle down enough to go to sleep. On our way back, a car pulled up and out walked a fat, drunk Aussie gal named Katrina with no shoes and a bottle of Jack Daniel's. We gladly shared this bottle, and reluctantly entire too much stupid conversation with "Treen" and her brother Adam, learning that she's a receptionist in a brothel, that her familly hates and wants to kill all "Wogs" (Arab immigrants) and that there is a Jerry Springer constituency in Australia. Lovely. Treen then asked me to walk her to the park bathroom (I guess a big girl like her doesn't feel safe in the dark) and subsequently cornered me and started the flattery... which wasn't very flattering coming from a girl a blind man wouldn't touch with the proverbial 10-foot pole. I somehow changed the topic of conversation, which led to her telling me that her uncle is in prison for raping his daughter. I kept pressing the imaginary panic button in my pocket, and my prayer was answered when Adam honked the horn as a plea to go. I later found out this honk was initiated by Justin and Tom, who figured what was up and needed to save my ass. Now those, I say, are good mates.

The ordeal (and the JD) that evening took it out of us the next day, but we were still out on the waves bright and early for lesson 3. I wasn't so bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, so I wound up with a board a foot shorter than the day before. If you're unfamiliar with surfing, this means less buoyancy, less stability, and more falling over. It was like day one all over again, maybe worse. But by the time the lesson was over, I was standing and riding. Although I know I'm not a good surfer yet, I will indulge my ego and say that progressing down one foot in board size is pretty damn good for one weekend's work. Lesson 4, on the other hand, sucked as we were dealing with low tide and crossing currents on the shore, that were making everything a big old mess. I called it a day. You always get hurt when you try to pull a last wave, a last ski run, or whatever - you're tired and you screw up. I was already beaten, battered, and bruised. No reason to push my luck.

On the way out of town, we stopped at a surf shop in Gellengong, which is basically surrounded by cow pastures. I'm assuming that no matter where you go in Australia, whether it's to a farming community or the outback, there isn't a surf shop far away. I took the opportunity to make an investment in my first piece of surf equipment (a rash shirt) to ensure that I commit - at least a little bit - to the sport.

Hopefully I'll catch a few waves in Queensland.

'Til I get there, I'll be recovering with a mellow night and a few cold beers here in Sydney.

1 comment:

  1. awwwwww.. i'm so proud of you!!
    That's AWESOME!!