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I started off this phase of the adventure at Endless Summer Surf Camp for adults, Part I, Part II. Then I rented a foam board from Used Surf and headed to Doheny State Beach at Dana Point for some soft waves. I primarily want to focus on paddling, balance while paddling and waiting on the board and watching the waves and water. I need to build a library of experience from near nothing. It takes time in and on the water.

So, my first session of this was on Tuesday the 14th. I rented the board the evening prior with the idea I’d head out early. Well, that plan was tipped upside down when I slept through to after 8am. That would leave a tight schedule to get to the beach and back clean up and be back in Dana Point to pick up our grandson from school at noon. The getting into and out of a wet suit is a good workout and takes time. Cleanup after surfing takes even more. Then packing up, driving back home, unloading, then a quick clean up and change out of drying boardshorts to street clothes and back into the car all takes time. Right now I’m at about 45 minutes to get into the water from the stepping into the car at home with about twice that to get back out of the water, home and rinse the wetsuit fully and hang it to dry, then clean myself up and dry off and ready to go at home. So, I figure I need to be at the parking lot at the beach around 7am to make all that happen with some cushion. Eventually I’ll be able to walk to surf near home and my wife will be able to go get our grandson on her own. That’s a way up the road right now.

So, once I got the rental board back to Used Surf after my afternoon session, I came home and finished that clean up. Then ordered a Costco surfboard.

My first session with the new Costco board went fine. I got a late start, and didn’t get in the water until 8:30. The surf at Doheny was good for working on my paddling and balance. Balance is no small thing. I didn’t tip off the board, but nearly did twice. Balancing in nearly free space is about as close to balancing when skydiving as you can get without skydiving or indoor skydiving.

Several missed waves, only two caught, one on my belly and one on my hands and knees. All that paddling my arms were too tired to lift me. That calls for more exercises. It was good though. My routine takes about two and a half hours to complete with set-up and tear down. That is getting into the wetsuit and sunscreen then after rinsing off the board and myself, then getting the wet suit off. Then opening the car, drying off the board and getting it inside without making a huge mess. The wet suit goes into a dry bag for transport home and I head back to the shower and restroom. Once back to the car and dried off, my board shorts are usually very dry, only my wet hair is dripping down my back, requiring a towel on the seat for the drive home. The Tesla Model Y works well for an eight foot foam board or smaller. I fold the rear armrest/center section and wrap the nose and middle of the board in old towels after drying. This keeps the wax and any stray water off the car. I’ll eventually get a bag for the board. A bag is around $80 and the Sea Sucker roof rack is about $400. A no brainer there. If I can progress to a 6’2″ fish board, that will fit easily by folding down half the rear seats. I figure a couple of years before that happens. One of the unique aspects of the Tesla over other cars is the “keycard”. This is a credit card sized card that operates as a key. In normal use the Tesla interface is through an app on a smart phone, but for surfing only the card and my license need be carried. These I slip into a small freezer sip-lock bag and fold into the zippered pocket of the board shorts. The drawback to this is I have to remember to lock up the car, prior to pulling my wet suit all the way on and when done surfing and back to the car, there is a good deal more time involved to peel the suit off to where I can roll the whole thing down far enough to get at the pocket. Once the weather and water warm enough later in the summer, I won’t need the wet suit and will rely on the zippered pocket.

I find the fore and aft, side to side balance while sitting on the board the hardest part so far, other than standing, aka “popping up”. I think this is very good exercise for anyone, but especially good for older folks. In fact, the whole paddling position and action are more body involved than simply swimming. The arch of the back to keep your head up and push the weight back along the board, then centering your balance down the board with each stroke is quite a workout. Add keeping your feet clear of the water so the board has a clean glide and you have a great full body core workout without a gym. Once I’m walking down the street to surf, the car will be out of the equation other than trips to Old Man’s beach or elsewhere. With walking to surf, I’ll get a mile walk and about 180 feet of climbing back up from the beach.

One other aspect of surfing for me regarding frequency and timing is there is nothing saying I can’t surf in the early morning and again in the afternoon. Well, beyond exhaustion of course. Very much like having a season pass to ski and living on the ski slope.

I found room above the garage door to store my board, so made a run to Lowe’s for some plastic pipe and got busy.

I miscalculated a bit with the rear mount position. I may move it in the future, but for now it works.

Got out for another morning over at Doheny, aka DoHo. Good times. A bit bigger surf, and was just about to stand up on a wave I caught when another surfer came across my bow, so I sat and let the wave go. The two big highlights of the day were first being able to balance on the board sitting outside waiting, the second was seeing a sea turtle about arms length from me swimming along the surface. We both made eye contact then he dove as I turned the board away. Big turtle being about the size of my torso or so. Nice mellow morning though it was crowded. I am very sore after nearly an hour of paddling and missing several waves. Progress. I’m beginning to feel more comfortable on the board.

One more day at Doho. I manage a few more minutes than the last time with a lot more paddling. I’m inching closer to feeling when the board is being pushed and I can try and stand. I am tired enough after an hour on the water to call it a day and paddle, glide in. This session I managed hands and knees board board my way into the beach and step off into thigh-deep water. I picked up the board, then dropped it with the next way. This covered the board with gravel so I needed to rinse the board a lot before stepping under the shower myself.

After a rinse at home with the hose and squeeze out the excess water, my wetsuit hangs on a special hanger I got from Amazon. The suit hangs in the shade, from a strap suspended from the above deck railing.

I’ve found I am sore and stiff after one day on the water, so for now, I’m figuring to alternate surf days with rest or cycling days. I have been practicing dry-land pop ups on the play mats we put down for our grandson to play on in our driveway. I can do two of these pop ups in a row that are good form. The third is a little off balance. A fourth is very off balance and timing is off too. My fatigue and lack of fitness in my core are evident. These exercises highlight poor form, so I correct and repeat. I think this is a great practice and training tool. It points out to me where I want my toes on the boards traction pad. That in turn positions me on the board better. Trickier is getting my feet to move in order. I want my back foot to move first to that nearest position it will have, then using my hands and that back foot to balance, move my front foot into position. This is not so much a pop up or jump into position move, but rather pressing and moving my body in balance. My feet will move to across the board positioned with my right foot, (rear foot) ahead of the traction pad and pointed across the beam of the board with my arch over the mid-line of the board. My front foot will end up a bit wider spaced than my shoulders and toward the front of the board and likewise across the midline at the arch of the foot.

Watching young surfers while we enjoy a sunset hour meal at Fisherman’s this maneuver from laying on the board to standing is almost too quickly deformed to be seen in detail. I watched one guy time after time, from seated on his shortboard, turn away from facing the wave to his back take two paddle stroke and stand, bending his front knee and pushing into the wave to force the wave to catch him. Amazing agility and balance.

Well, my last surf day in June was a short one. I cut my foot on a shellfish I hope in the rocks. Low tide surf, closer to the jetty than I’d been before. Busted up the tops of some toes and the back of my hand. I noticed the back of my hand while sitting outside waiting on the next wave. I happened to look down at my watch, only to see a pool of blood on my board, leaking from the back of my left hand. Old guys sometimes get thin skin in that we brush up against anything or knock an arm or back of the hand for an instant leak. I decided at that point to paddle in. Though I did go ahead and try for a wave anyway. Body boarded the last bit to the beach. Once at the shower, I found the toe damage. Later at home in the shower scrubbing my feet with soap, The third toe on my left foot, the underside sliced nearly the entire length, front to back.

The damage will keep me out of the surf a few days while everything heals over well. I will keep up my walking, but will need to keep the wounds clean.

All in all, it has been a good start to learning how to surf. I’ll get some more days in as July unfolds. Summer vacations and other duties will reduce the number of days out, but the trend I’ve begun of slowly increasing the duration of each session will continue. My strength is improving as is my reading of when to begin paddling and when to begin standing. I see my biggest weaknesses as upper body strength and core fatigue. My aerobic capacity is fine thanks to cycling. I still need to drop a stone or so to be fit enough in my mind. I’ll be buying a pair of booties soon too. Next month, I’ll continue the work.

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