I Didn’t Need that Toenail Anyway
Trip lead: “Do you want me to sign you up for the surf lesson?”
My brain: “Uhhhhhhhh. I burn pretty easily and doesn’t the reef have a billion kinds of bacteria that will kill you if it cuts you plus I had knee surgery so it sometimes hurts to stand from a kneeling position that’s what she said and what if I don’t know the surfing etiquette and I smack into someone from a prominent family and a surfer kid from the wrong side of the reef defends me and I’m accidentally the catalyst for bloodshed which sharks can smell in the water from like 100 miles away?”
My mouth: “Sure.”
My brain: “… Bring to me all of the rum.”
There are three hours between the decision to surf and the actual surfing, so I order a Mai Tai with my burger. And then they bring me another one. Probably because I ask for it. When the trip lead comes to get us, I order a glass of wine and drink it like it’s a beer can with two holes punched in the bottom.
By the time we make it down to the lesson, I am not drunk per se. I am illuminated. I am prepared to be at one with the hungry sea. I am no longer considering faking a seizure to get out of this. Because that would be wrong.
On land, each of us tries our surfing stance in turn.
OK, this is going fine. I am a land surfing champion. Maybe this will be okay.
While paddling I resist the impulse to lay down on the board and take a nap. So far so good.
This! This is working out! I am on my feet on my first try! The ocean and I are at one!
Whoa. The hell, Ocean? You’re kind of being a dick.
But whatever. I almost stood up! I roll off into the waves feeling okay about it, and I’m relieved to find that surfacing is no big deal. That is until the board cracks into my nose and throws a handful of glitter across my vision.
OW! Et tu, Surfboard? Ow.
Well, now that I’m insta-sober, let’s try this again.
Oof. Again the ocean betrays me; the surfboard greets my nose with enthusiasm a second time. And then a third.
Finally, I tell the instructor that I’m getting clobbered and he says, “Whoa. Really? That almost never happens. Wait for your cord to get taut so you know the board isn’t near you, and then surface with your hands above your head.”
This absolutely works. I wait for the cord around my ankle to go taut, then give a kick… and bash my foot into the reef. Mothra! Fockra! It’s like stubbing your toe against shards of glass.
As I injudiciously paddle out for a fifth wave, the booze completely clears my system. My foot and face throb with every heartbeat. I decide to paddle in, passing a four-year-old local and her dad on their way out. “Oh!” I say. “She’s so awesome!” “Thanks!” her dad says. But the girl just paddles toward me scowling with concentration. As she passes, I hear her yell back at me, “PADDLE! PADDLEPADDLEPADDLEPADDLE!!”
Right. Thanks, kid.
(Thanks also to the Hans Hedemann Surf School at Turtle Bay Resort for the mortifying photos. No really, you guys. Mahalo.)