I have to admit, of all the activities on the trip, surfing was the one I was looking forward to the least. Growing up, I always wanted to be a surfer chick, back when I was shopping at Pacific Sunwear and wearing puka shell necklaces. Then I got older and actually tried a lesson. Turns out, surfing was way harder than it looked on TV! It wasn’t as easy as snowboarding, which I’d picked up in about a day or two. Surfing hurt. The first lesson I took was on a real fiberglass board, so I ended up with a lot of scratches and bumps from getting tumbled around underwater. Oh well, I’d just have to choose another life path besides surfing.
Another issue: when I was younger, I liked swimming in the ocean. I’d body surf and boogie board without any concerns for safety, but somewhere along the way, I lost that fearlessness and began to prefer staying closer the shore. Sometimes I’ll swim out farther, but I’m usually very cautious to go underneath the waves and, when it’s time to come in, I’ll swim or walk quickly to shore without letting any of them interfere.
I left for El Salvador feeling excited about the yoga and the waterfall jumping but pretty half-hearted about the prospect of catching waves. I thought might be able to stand up once or twice, but I probably wasn’t going to enjoy it. I was teaching on the retreat, though, so of course I would still join in and set a good example.
Two days later, we were lined up on the beach getting our first lesson from Marcelo, the founder of Puro Surf and the head instructor of their Academy Program. He led us in a breathing and stretching warmup that felt a lot like yoga. He broke down each of the steps in a simple way that we could repeat every time.
Something about his instruction must have stuck with us, because we all stood up in the water on the first day, and the next, and the next. The ocean was crazy warm, and the waves were small but powerful—perfectly manageable for beginners, which the majority of us were. By day three, I was really getting the hang of it. I noticed that when I was out in the water, I didn’t think about anything else besides reading the wave, feeling it push me, and following the steps to get up onto the board. My mind felt completely clear for the first time in a while. Surfing was a lot like yoga.
If the weather was sketchy or the waves too big, we would have our instruction in the hotel gym, just to make sure we were prepared for what we would see on the beach. One day, we even learned how to turn by riding skateboards outside the gym. I certainly never expected that at 31 years old I’d be rolling around a skatepark in El Salvador, but I guess there’s a time and a place for everything.
By the end of the trip, I had fallen in love with surfing. I wasn’t getting tumbled as often as the first two days, but I liked Marcelo’s main message. We were all going to get tumbled by the ocean at some point, so we had two choices. Choice number one: freak out! Choice number two: relax, stay calm, enjoy a little massage, and keep surfing. You can guess which option we all chose.