Every non-surfer has a preconceived notion about what it is like to go surfing. Some imagine that it is like an episode of Gidget (Google it) and other think more along the lines of the movie Jaws. Most people that I talk to imagine it is really difficult to ride a wave, when in fact, if you educate yourself with some basic information it is actually a lot easier than you may realize.
Then there are some things that non-surfers could never imagine happening. Some are uncomfortable, some are painful, and some are gross. But all are part of the most amazing experience on the planet… surfing. For fun, here are just a few:
Sand Gets Everywhere… I Mean Everywhere
One thing that is absolute truth is that sand is magical. Once you go surfing you will find it has the power to appear anywhere and everywhere.
No matter how hard I try, my car always has sand sprinkled everywhere inside! Go into the home of any surfer and I can guarantee you will find sand in every room in the house.
Finding sand in a surfer’s car or home may seem like something to be expected but the one place you may not realize it hides is on your body! I am not talking about right after you get home from surfing. I am talking about several days after surfing, sand will appear in your ears, in your hair, and in your private places that you could have sworn you washed thoroughly. Sand is like nature’s glitter… omnipresent.
Get Rashes in Weird Places
A lot of rubbing that happens when you surf. Laying down on a board, your chest, belly and legs are constantly rubbing against your board. When you pop up on your board, your knees rub against the wax on the deck. If you wear a wetsuit, the neoprene rubs the area around your armpit every time you take a stroke and rub between your legs as you are walking.
With all that rubbing going on there is bound to be some irritated skin. For people with sensitive skin, a rash guard is an essential piece of equipment but I am always amazed at the weird places that rashes will develop on my body.
Use Muscles That You Never Knew You Had
There are very few activities that use the muscles required for surfing. The closest thing is swimming but surfing uses a much more diverse set of muscles.
The biggest surprise is how many back muscles are required for paddling around. You need to arch your back, lift your head up and contort your spine sideways to move your board around. Those motions also require a lot of core muscles so you may be surprised that you will have sore muscles deeper in your body than you realized was possible. And speaking of sore, your ribs are going to be hurting from that pressure of laying on the board while looking for that great wave. Embrace it! By your third day in the water, you won’t even feel it.
The good thing is that use of those muscles will get you in the best shape of your life! (Here’s how to stay in good shape when you can’t go catch some waves.)
Water Gets Stuck In Your Nose
It seems pretty obvious that surfing gets you wet. But one thing that is surprising is how much the Ocean acts like a Neti Pot. The seawater will wash out all the junk from your nose while surfing, which although can be gross, is actually a beneficial thing overall.
The weird thing about that is that given how much water gets into your nose, it can stay in your nasal cavity for a while after you surf. Don’t be surprised that later in the day when you bend over to tie your shoes, that a waterfall of salt water comes flowing out your nose!
You Plan, Paddle and Wait Much More Than You Surf
Since most people only see pictures and videos of surfers riding waves, there is the assumption that much of the time spent in the Ocean is standing up on your board. This is the furthest thing from the truth.
The majority of surfing is spent on land figuring out when and where to surf. That is a part of the reason why surfing is a lifestyle and not just an activity. Once you actually get to the beach, there is also time spent studying the waves and the lineup from the beach with the hopes of maximizing the number and quality of the waves you will ride.
When you paddle out don’t expect to catch a wave right away. You have to not only get out past the inside but then also position yourself in the lineup to be in the right spot in order to catch a wave. Once you finally find yourself there… you wait for the wave. And wait.
If a set comes once every 5 minutes and there are three waves per set, then there are only 36 waves in an hour. That is 36 waves that are not always going to be good waves and that you have to share with everyone else in the lineup. I have had 2 hour sessions where I have only caught three or four waves.
But when you do finally catch those waves… it is magical!
It Might Just Change Your Life
There was a famous reality show on MTV a long time ago that featured the contestants traveling to Costa Rica and spending a weekend at the Witch’s Rock Surf Camp. In that episode, I gave the group a personal surf lesson. As the contestants of the show were walking from the hotel onto the sand for their first surf session, I said, “Be very careful… this just might change your life forever.” And I was serious.
Although surfing starts out just as an activity, it is so unique and engaging that it can quickly become integrated into your daily life. As it does, the weather takes on new significance and more time is spent reading wind maps and buoys then checking social media. Arguments about politics are replaced with arguments about the tri-fin versus a quad set-up. Sick days are taken from work to catch a pumping swell. And eventually, you find yourself moving as close to the beach as you can afford. For some people, it is hard to imagine how surfing can find its way into every aspect of their life. For people who have caught the surfing “bug”, it is hard to imagine life without it.
If you have never surfed before, don’t be surprised about some of the little unusual things that happen when you paddle out in the Ocean. Expect the unexpected but also know that your experience is going to be unique and amazing… albeit it with some uncomfortable and gross moments. So grab a board and get to the beach because it just might change your life forever.