When we first moved back to Southern California in the late 90’s I thought about learning to surf, but working 12 hour days, six and seven days a week did not leave a lot of extra time. Then the long crazy commutes began. More time out of a day and surfing and the beach slipped from focus. I was burning up any time I could get away from work and family riding motorcycle track days. All to say, twenty years later, retired and moved to a beach town I discovered Endless Summer Surf Camp. Then Life and Covid pushed the adventure off for a few years. This winter once Endless Summer announced they were opening the camps again, I grabbed a spot. The Camp is only 5 miles or so from my house so an easy commute. That was back in January of 2022. Then as the date neared I got an email detailing more.
Last October I reinsured a shoulder I’d torn up a few times in my youth. The first time was playing high school football. A shoulder separation and torn rotator cuff. That shoulder had dislocated a few more times over the years, the last was lifting and carrying a lot of heavy gear for camping. I basically stopped using it because I couldn’t do much above my waist with it and even picking up a coffee cup for a month or so was painful. Just as it had gotten to where I felt pain free, I rolled over on it one day and pushed it out of place again. That got me to call in the doctor and x-rays then PT thankfully no surgery. At 69, I’m a bit heavier than I want to be and have not done as much cycling this winter/spring as I’d planned and not enough weights and work for upper body strength. But there is less than a week now to the first day of camp so, here I am.
The emails continued and part of my preparation was to find a wet suit. Nobody really talks about how to get into or out of one of these things and even more importantly how to size a suit for an older person’s body. I found a few YouTube videos and after talking to my neighbor who is a great surfer and had been talking to me about learning for years, I got some pointers. Then off to search stores. Definitely not a piece of equipment that lends its purchase to online outlets. The first shop sized me up and put me into three suits to try. In a humid, nearly sealed and tiny changing room getting into a wetsuit is near to impossible. I managed to get two different rear entry suits on and off again. The third chest entry was a no go. Even a size up was not a chance. A few days later we tried another larger store we had not been in for maybe twenty years. Jacks Surf Boards in Huntington Beach. Great place. The help was perfect. Again I got a range of priced suits all in back entry and in the correct size after quite a bit of internet reading and watching videos. And with the help from Jacks. Of the three suits the first and most expensive at $400 was a bit easier to get into, but not $150 easier than the middle priced of the three. The lowest priced suit was harder to get into and fit much larger, so I chose the middle. Plus getting into and out of three suits in succession, even in a well ventilated and roomy changing room is a full body workout. Think full body resistance band.
I ended up with a Rip Curl Dawn Patrol 3/2 suit. I got it on once so, here’s hoping I can repeat that feat.
With the motorcycle fueled, I sorted packing. My rollmop Ortleib dry bag will serve to carry the wet suit, towels and the Touratech Zega Pro’s will carry everything else. These will serve as organized and secure storage at the camp.
Camp – Day One
Monday morning early I woke to load up and get down to camp. I took the Tesla because I didn’t know how everything would work. And I figured I’d be really tired and the car would be more relaxing. And less stuff to keep track of.
We had big surf all week for learning. Very hard to paddle a nine foot foam board out for a new to the sport old man. But, the staff are amazing .Strong and helpful. I got great feedback and a lot of help.
We got organized once parked and checked into camp. A brief talk inside the tent/lounge. Camp is a set of two to a tent, tents the lounge tent and two staff trailers. There is also a mess tent.
Once we were oriented, we headed down the hill to the beach.
This is a long walk that gets warm in the sun. The restrooms are at the parking area along with showers, so any needs of that variety will require around a half mile walk with a good deal of elevation gain. Good FitBit stuff.
Once down at the beach we find chairs in shade. Sunscreen is applied and re-appiled every time you exit the water. Nobody got burned.
Getting used to walking across those rocks to the water and climbing back up again took me all week. My instructor/coach, Ethan offered his forearm to steady myself, which I happily accepted. Exiting the water exhausted to the point of shaky legs and arms, it always took me a few minutes to catch my breath and let my muscles recover enough to move and balance. A couple of times I was very wobbly, hence the required third party stability requirement.
This first day I tried to hold my excitement down and pace myself, knowing I had five whole days. The first days surf was big for a beginner and rough. Paddling that 9′ board out even with my own one-on-one coach/instructor, Ethan shoving the board ahead and guiding me and tipping the tail down so the whitewash would wipe me off the board, it was an exhausting workout. There were times when I needed to pull that front leg up and through and my body just said, “Nope.”. And I’d tip into the waves. I managed to get up on top of the board on that first day, though it was only a moment and my feet were not set correctly and I was not anywhere near balanced, in control or comfortable. I managed to burn off 2,500 calories in the morning according to my surf workout on my watch. I did another couple of short sessions in the afternoon and called it a day. I was glad I’d driven the car because I was beat.
They have a tub of water to rinse the wet suits in and bars to hang them to drip dry. I got mine up there and that took care of not needing to haul a wet suit home and figure out where to hang it to dry overnight. Since I was not camping being only six miles away or so, I had the advantage of a long hot shower waiting me and my own bed. I needed to stretch and work out some muscle soreness before bed.
I’ll end this part here and take up the rest of the weeks action in Part II.