• Theresa Fersch

Getting Better at Surfing!

Wow. Another amazing day. I woke up this morning so stiff and sore that I struggled to get out of bed. My first thought every morning is to text Brian but it was only 3am his time so I refrained. Some of the others were already awake and talking in the kitchen while eating breakfast. My first task was to stretch and warm up a bit. I go to PT regularly for my messed up back and this kind of physical activity requires a ton of maintenance. I didn’t mention it yesterday but I pulled a muscle in class yesterday, it’s a reoccurring injury so it’s easily aggravated with overuse. I spent too much time inverted yesterday and was really disappointed, thinking my remaining three pole classes would be wasted. I never should have doubted my instructor though. Today we worked on totally different things, working on different muscle groups so there were few things I couldn’t do. We were all dragging at the end of the two hours though. 

Our surf lessons were scheduled two hours earlier today compared to yesterday’s schedule and we assumed it was because a couple people really cold in the early evening yesterday. This gave us less time to rest between classes but the temperature would be a bit hotter than it was during our 4-6pm class yesterday. I wasn’t affected much at all by the temperature but one of the girls was freezing and in fact, yesterday after class, she grabbed her bag and ran into the restaurant attached to the surf school. Kris and I had our clothes in the bag though so we were standing outside shivering. When Sarah didn’t come back out as we expected, we walked up to the restaurant window and saw her all bundled up and drinking hot tea. We started banging on the window, “Sarah! Give us our clothes!” It was quite funny. She had no idea.

After Pole class, we quickly changed and grabbed lunch at a restaurant down the road before heading to surf class. No one said it but I think we were all dreading surf class a bit. This schedule is insane. We’re all having a lot of fun though.  

Surfing was awesome again. Somehow we mustered up the strength. We pulled on our wet suits and then were told the reason our lessons were two hours earlier today was because the hurricane was creating larger waves by the hour! It had nothing to do with the heat! Our instructor told us we would take lessons on the other side of the island where the swells weren’t quite as high yet. So we had to walk our massive boards over a fence, down a staircase and about a quarter of a mile down the beach. Yin, the Korean from London is also under 5 feet and we struggled to carry our boards the whole way. We bonded over being the last ones to show up to class already completely worn out!

When we got there, our drill Sargent warmed us up on the beach and jumped into the cold water, calling for us to join. We all walked in a bit timid, watching the huge waves topple the more experienced surfers. As we walked farther out, holding our boards, I could overhear each one of the students under their breath saying “Ohhh myyyy God.” The waves were much larger than yesterday and they were coming fast and hard. Sometimes 2 and 3 waves, one after the other giving us no time to recover. Meanwhile, our instructor was shouting that we needed to listen to his commands. I learned quickly that you should never allow your board to be in between you (or anyone else) and a wave. I got smashed in the ribs hard with my board and when I could finally make my way to the surface, my instructor was yelling at me that I was putting everyone around me in danger. I tried to explain that I was struggling to control my board in all the waves but I knew he didn’t care about my excuses. Eventually, we became accustomed to the waves and became very skilled at ALWAYS looking behind us. We’d stand near the instructor and one by one be would line us up for the best wave, set us off, and shout numbers indicating when we should enter each surf position “One! Two! Three!”

I quickly learned the moves and was up and surfing in no time! It was SO exciting. I started by moving very slow through the three moves and then sped them up as I got more proficient. Whenever one of us enjoyed an extended period of time on the board, everyone else would cheer until they collapsed. today we shared a class with a German named Maggie who was with us yesterday too and a very young boy named Thomas. 

Eventually, I got very tired and I was grateful the two hours was over. Not only was I physically run down but the waVers were getting noticeably rougher. Each of us was at a different skill level, some learning faster than others, but we all stayed together in the water and wore matching shirts over our wetsuits so we and the instructor could find each other.

Following, our epic lesson, some of us left early. Sarah, Yin and I began walking the 1/4 mile back to the rental place because we knew it would take us forever and there was lots of silliness along the way although I felt like we were fully exerting ourselves. We joked that this trip feels like boot camp sometimes and we can’t believe we  actually paid people to do this to us. 

We had to cross the man made road attaching the island to the mainland but at that point, I realized I dropped the T-shirt I wore over my wetsuit so I asked Yin to hold my board while I ran back down the beach, as if I had energy for that. When I came back I realized I left her with two boards and cars were driving down the one lane street and she had to drag both massive boards off the road! Then, the cord that attaches to Yin’s board kept dragging behind so I had to carry it. We joked that it looked like I was leading a camel through the dessert as we trudged through the sand. 

Kris and our pole instructor Jeilan arrived at the rental place at the same time as us and we started 5 minutes sooner! After peeling off and rinsing our wetsuits, we all met inside restaurant for drinks. 

Oh! Coolest thing!!! They make their straws out of spaghetti!!! It’s perfect because it’s better for the environment and they don’t disintegrate after time. The five of us talked about our surf lessons and tattoos in the afternoon sun until we decided we should begin thinking about dinner. With such a big group, it takes forever to do anything together. The old house we’re staying in has a small hot water boiler so we decided Jailan and Kris would head back for hot showers while Sarah, Yin, and I waited behind for an hour. So the three of us took our drinks out onto the beach. There are no open container laws and they wouldn’t let Yin buy a glass of wine so she purchased the whole bottle for $10 and brought it down to the sand.

The three of us hung out in the afternoon sun getting to know one another.  Yin is a hip 42 year old Korean who was adopted and lived her entire childhood in Holland but now lives in London. Sarah is a beautiful young Italian scrub nurse living in Brighton. It was so nice to spend time with them and share what we love about poling and world travel.

Eventually, we began the walk home and stopped at a grocery store on the way. I realized at that time that I hadn’t had any solid foods beyond a hard boiled egg and a slice of cheese for breakfast. I attempted to order a power smoothie for lunch before surfing but the bartender did not speak English and I don’t speak Portuguese, so I couldn’t be too frustrated when they gave me a cup of milk with some puréed strawberries. Ugh.

When we arrived at the house, the others were ready to go to a taco and tequila place. I couldn’t wait!! I was STARVING. Also, Gabriel, the guy who Kris and I were told we’d have to share a room with arrived tonight. I introduced myself and he seemed very kind. Immediately, he walked over to Carla and they started speaking swiftly in

Portuguese. After, he said goodbye to me and headed out for some sunset surfing, Carla told me he was worried about making us uncomfortable and offered to sleep on the couch instead of sharing the tiny room with Kris and me. But Carla runs a very tight ship. Beds must be fixed, all your belongings must be in place, so I wasn’t surprised she told him no to sleeping in the family room. But I was ok with it because he was clearly respectful of our time and space. 

They all quickly realized they speak multiple same languages including Spanish, Portuguese, Dutch, and German. I felt like the dumb American in the room. Their preferred shared language was English though so I was able to get most of the jokes. We all finished the evening at a taco and tequila place and then walked all the way back home. We stopped at another bar on the way back but didn’t realize until we got to the counter that everyone was actually too tired and dehydrated from today to be interested in drinking.  So we just headed home.

Today was awesome and I actually feel in better shape now than I did after the first day. But I’m absolutely exhausted AND I just learned that we have FIVE lessons each of pole and surf. Here I was celebrating thinking I survived halfway!

I may or may not post so much of my remaining days at camp before I start hiking since it’ll probably just be several more days of “this is so much fun. everything hurts but I’m so freaking psyched.” But if anything different happens or I just need the time to reflect on my day as I do each night, I’ll post something. For now, it’s midnight and I have to get up early. Goodnight!


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© 2019 Theresa Fersch

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