I Didn’t Need that Toenail Anyway

2nd May 2012

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.)

32 thoughts on “I Didn’t Need that Toenail Anyway

  1. Melanie

    You just made me laugh before I’ve had coffee. Quite a feat. Not because you were physically attacked by ocean things, of course. Just your writing. :)

  2. Sabine

    I really, really love how you write. You’re writing style is so funny, I wish I could phrase my texts like this.

  3. ElJay

    If they don’t use those first two pictures of you in their promotional materials they are fools. Also, you are brave.

  4. jen

    Blue Lizard Sunscreen. It is amazing. It works. The stuff is like glue though, and you really have to work to get it off at the end of the day. No nasty chemicals. It adheres to much more stringent Aussie sunscreen standards. Great stuff. We bought a gallon from amazon and it lasts a really long time.

  5. zan

    Surfing lessons was one of the most frustrating, exhausting, humiliating, and AMAZING things I’ve ever done. It was the only activity I’ve ever tried where failure made me one hundred percent want to get out there and try again. I never *really* got up on the board, but I loved it so much, and my body hurt so much the next day, and I caught a horrible cold (it *was* Ireland, after all) and I absolutely can’t wait to go do it again.

    Also, aren’t surf instructors the DREAMIEST?

  6. Sophia

    Good for you for giving it a try. I tried surfing once, about 10 years ago. It gave me such an appreciation for those folks that make it look so easy.

  7. Ellie

    You rock! Awesome pix!
    I learned to surf, though I was terrified. Rocked it… until the board smacked me in the face too, broke my cheekbone and yeah, black eye.
    That’s it for me.
    I feel your pain.

  8. dunsany

    Grew up on Oahu… lemme tellya, Surfing on the North Shore, I’ve been tossed up breathless onto the beach with my swim trunks around my ankles.

  9. hrl

    OMG, this made me laugh so hard. “While paddling I resist the impulse to lay down on the board and take a nap. So far so good.” Lol…

  10. Mary Burk

    This made you my personal hero. I will worship at your battered and broken feet.

  11. a.

    picture number 3 is fantastic. it needs to be the new logo for the mighty summit. it kind of already is the logo for the mighty summit, just horizontal.

    true love.

  12. Kara

    I can sympathize, having also been the victim of a reef attack. In my case, an unexpected wave smacked me back against the coral while I was snorkeling, and I ended up with bloody abrasions all down my back. It does indeed hurt like a mothra fockra.

  13. Jan

    You are sooo much braver than I would ever be in that situation. My knees are down to about 15% of their original warrantied functionality and I want to make that last.

    I admire the fact that your initial concern was to avoid being the inadvertent cause of international tension. Such is your love for your fellow man.

  14. Auntie Yolanda

    I can see that “Flea” Virostko doesn’t have anything to worry about.

  15. Auntie

    I tried surfing when I was a teenager. When paddling out I could never get past the breakers. So you win.

  16. Martha

    I am such a chicken. Whenever I read about your awesome sponsored tropical trips, I then think about how you have to do dare-devil things and how I do NOT do dare-devil things and that I will just continue to save up money so I can do my tropical trips in my own style. Congrats to you, Maggie. I’m impressed.

  17. Justine

    I would love to learn to surf. But the sharks…oh the sharks. Course, I really only have issues with bull sharks. Do bull sharks like the taste of surfboards?

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