• Theresa Fersch

Learning to Catch a Wave

Another great day of classes. I woke up feeling well and refreshed. Surf lessons were at 10am so we made our way down to the beach a bit early and had some espresso to perk up. It was very cold this morning and prior to the espresso, I was dreading squeezing into another wetsuit and plunging into the cold water. After the 90 cent expresso, I was ready to go! Everyone joked that I was so energized that today I would be the one yelling at our instructor Servano. “Tell me what to do!!! Let’s GO!!” Kris told us they weren’t planning on telling us but that Servano was genuinely hurt when Sarah, Yin, and I didn’t show for our 3rd lesson the other day. She said he was afraid he had been too hard on us and ran to the bar to ask us to at least get in the water with him. We were already on the beach though so I guess he didn’t see us. Even if he had, I felt bad he was hurt but I needed to take care of myself. 

Nevertheless, when we got to the surf shop, we explained to him that we had a photo shoot yesterday and we needed to be rested for it otherwise we wouldn’t be able to do any of the moves we learned. That seemed to catch him the right way and he said that was a wise move. His wife also poles so he knows how much power it requires. He also remembered for the last pole camp that he gave surf lessons for a few weeks ago, the students didn’t rest and it made their photo shoot very difficult. 

The water was frigid today! I had a lot of fun but it was a difficult day for me. Since I skipped the previous class, I missed instruction on how to catch the right wave and get the appropriate timing. So unlike the first two lessons where Servano was right by my side, pushing me off into the best waves to set me up for success, I was on my own while he filmed us from the shore. Most of the other girls have taken surf lessons before so they picked it up quickly but I struggled a lot in the beginning. Servano called me out of the water to give me more guidance before sending me back in. Not surprisingly, he said the board is a bit large for me so positioning my weight just right is even more important, otherwise, that’s why the board pops up in the air and throws me every stinking time. At that point, I decided to start closer to the shore and just work with the smaller waves. Yin, who has had lessons before and is really good, was also surfing the smaller waves and she had many great rides. I finally started to make some progress towards the end of the two hours but quickly hit that point where my body got too tired and my form began to shake. 

Following class, we met Servano in the bar where he made us watch our videos over and over and told us how we can improve tomorrow. We watched intently as we drank our freshly squeezed orange juice. The others, despite all his critical feedback were riding waves to shore. I only had two good rides and neither lasted long. I wasn’t too discouraged though. Considering it was my first time surfing alone, I thought I did pretty well. Sarah has decided surfing is not for her. She compared it to snow skiing and explained when you ski, you can at least work on the bunny slope until you become proficient at the basics. She said she felt like we were forced to learn to surf on the black diamond of waves. That made me giggle because that’s probably a fairly accurate analogy.

Jailan asked how we were all feeling before we began what would be our fifth pole lesson this week (FYI I usually only train 3-4 days a week and they are NOT 2 hour sessions). Everyone complained that they were really hurting. one had lower back pain, one had very sore biceps and another had splitting pain down the tendons in her arms. Surprisingly, I felt great. Even with my unfortunately overly sensitive back, I had nearly no soreness or stiffness. I really feel like all the extra stretching, foam rolling, and self massaging with my lacrosse ball (thanks to my PT’s recommendations!) helped me maintain this week. I felt broken the first two days but it seems I’m already adjusting to the physical demands of our schedule. I think that’s one of the many big takeaways from this camp. I’ve learned so much about how to care for myself which allows me to push myself even farther.

After surf and pole were over for the day, Carla called a masseuse to come to the beach house and we all got one hour massages for only $30!

While I waited for the others to get their massages, I walked to the grocery store and asked for a box I can use to mail my beach clothes home in. Carla said she’d take it to the post office for me tomorrow while I’m surfing. 

While the others wanted to relax at home, eat leftovers from last nights massive meal, and just enjoy the aftermath of our massages, Yin wasn’t interested in hanging out. She was eager to go. So the two of us took a walk to the island and watched the sun set over Pineche. Eventually we found ourselves in a classy restaurant that appeared to be made of all glass. The tables and chairs were transparent and each table had a water glass and wine glass at each place setting. There were also massive beautifully maintained aquariums on each wall. What made this place feel even more fragile was that shortly after we were seated, a tourist walked by and knocked a glass over, shattering shards of glass everywhere. So while this seemed like the last place you’d be comfortable drinking several glasses in wine, that’s exactly what we did. We started with a “vinho verde” green wine which is actually a white wine but with a very young grape grown only in northern Portugal. It was good but were only interested in the novelty of it. We quickly moved on to vinho tinto, red wine. I ordered the octopus stew which blew my mind. I was expecting a nasty bowl of mush but actually, I was presented with a plate of finely diced veggies, octopus, some red tomato sauce, and potatoes around the edges. So fantastic. We finished off with dessert and by that time the other girls were texting asking where we were, so we headed home. 

We spent the late night laughing hysterically and telling horribly terrible jokes about our messages that I won’t repeat here. I am so thankful for this great group of women and I’ll miss this when it’s all over. Even Gabriel, the poor surfer dude who somehow accidentally booked a bed in this hostel during our camp hung out with us. I used my Portuguese translator to apologize for taking over the entire house. When we’re taking lessons, he doesn’t come into the house. During the six hours worth of massages today, he found somewhere else to be. The poor guy doesn’t even sleep in the bed he paid for. He’s been sleeping on the uncomfortable couch in the living room. He was very kind though. He just laughed, said he’s glad we’re all having so much fun and that he doesn’t mind making room for a house full of women. As a piece offering, we gave him all of our amazing leftovers from dinner the night before. 

Brian and Vegemite are having a blast together. He sends me lots of pictures of colorful castles. When I explained my complicated plans for getting to him in Porto he told me not to worry and that they would come to me!! So I asked the girls if they minded if the guys come to visit tomorrow and they all said it was fine! So tomorrow Brian and Vegemite will take a bus here from Lisbon and they rented an Airbnb just down the road from my house! I don’t want them here for our final day of Pole and surf lessons but they will get to meet everyone at the end of tomorrow when camp is pretty much over. I’m so excited to see them both! And I talk about Brian all the time so I want my new friends to meet him! 

I told the guys the best way to get here and offered them phone numbers and addresses to make the trip easier. I made a few mistakes along the way that I’m hoping my guidance can help them avoid.



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