Surfing the White Wave

I started surfing at the age of 38, and took to it with all the enthusiastic lack of prowess I’d exhibited since the age of four when I couldn’t hop on one foot without toppling over.

Despite this, it didn’t take long for me to stand up on my first wave. Maybe it was because the wave was no bigger than a small hump, and I was atop a surfboard longer than a door and almost as wide. A giraffe would have had similar success. 

Since then I have enjoyed many a pleasant ride on little waves, many of which were photographed by my long-suffering husband. He'd stand for hours with his eye glued to the camera, waiting for the 3-second ride that could come at any moment. Or not. 

I made friends with the waves over the next few years: the roaring, frothy pounders that were too fast for me to stand up on. I was just glad to be deposited alive at my husband’s feet as I slid off the board, breathless and exhausted.

Then there were my favourite waves: the tidy, gentle ones that would allow me to swivel my hips, do a little jig, and change direction. What a feat!

The only thing is... these were all white waves - broken waves that would whip me along with little effort or skill on my part. I suspected that these were not the waves that the likes of Kelly Slater and Shaun Tomson were taking. A quick Google search did indeed reveal that I wasn’t quite ready to enter the next Billabong national championships.

My new goal, according to Google, was to conquer the blue wave - that shimmery, sleek, ephemeral wave that appears out of nowhere, and is the eye candy of surfers worldwide.

To be a proper surfer, the helpful surfing website explained that the trick was to keep my board angled towards the blue part of the wave, and to chase the blue. The writer added, rather crushingly I thought: 

“Let’s be honest, if you haven’t yet surfed an unbroken wave, well, then you haven’t really surfed.”

So this past weekend, I went to Piha beach to trial blue waves. Despite the perfect weather and wave conditions, I was slightly nervous.

I paddled out. Like a proper surfer.

My first blue wave started out as a vague bulge. Then it started to lift and shimmer in the sunlight - my cue to start paddling like crazy.

I shot towards the beach at an electric speed. My first attempt at taking a bluey had worked! But instead of jumping gleefully to my feet, I was glued to my board in terror. The problem was that I was perching on top of the crest of the wave, suspended one metre in the air. I saw the ocean far below. I clung to my board for dear life.  

Now one metre is really a teensy wave, but to my mind, there was no way I would attempt to stand up. A fall from up there could seriously hurt. I could hit my board and fracture my skull in 7000 places.

My only aim was to get down from that unsettling position as quickly as possible. I managed to slide sideways off the board, and watched miserably as the wave rolled away from me, breaking into the beloved white foam that has carried me on so many happy journeys to the beach.

My second attempt was even worse. 

Again I caught the wave easily, and again I was stuck perilously high in the sky. I spent a split second clutching my board, in complete bewilderment as to what to do in that position, and how on earth it would be possible to surf from up there. Ever.  

It was at that point that my board dipped forward and down the steep bank. My imagination went haywire. I could picture the next moment perfectly. The board would slip right under the wave, catapulting me head over heels. I would roll with it in a wave, and get bashed not once, but 10 times by my board, the sharp fin slicing my neck with every roll. Forget the blue wave; all I could see was the red water reminiscent of Jaws.

I was not having any of it. I clambered off in disgust.

So, to end off, I can say I find blue waves a bit much. The infamous “drop” that I am meant to enjoy is as enthralling as riding the triple loop roller coaster. It’s just not for me.

I have decided to acknowledge a new form of surfing: one for the middle-aged lady with poor muscle tone, a history of not doing sport since the age of four and a superbly morbid imagination.

To anyone else out there who wants to give white-water surfing a crack, I put together a list of useful surfing tips you really will find nowhere else on the Net.

How to be the Uncoolest White Water Surfer Ever:

  1. Walk out into the waves, surfboard in your hands. It saves energy on paddling, and after all, you do want to catch at least one wave today.
  2. Once you reach the waves, at about waist height, turn your board in the air, and position the nose towards the beach.
  3. See a wave you like? Turn around and throw yourself onto your board with every ounce of strength you have. Now, I know you're concentrating, but do not put your tongue between your teeth while attempting this plunge, as you will hit the board with considerable force.
  4. Hang on to the board, close your eyes, and pray the wave takes you.
  5. If you hear a tremendous roar, and feel as though you are riding on the Victoria Falls, this is your time to stand up. Now numerous surf teachers have tried to teach me how to stand up in one or two elegant moves. It's not for me. Definitely try the shuffle forwards, and then clamber up into position. If you manage this in about 10 manoeuvres, you have passed the test. 20 steps make you a real winner.
  6. Once you are standing, the field is open for trying anything. There really aren’t any rules. See below. 
Note: These on not my photos. They are not me. I do not look like that.

A head stand on a miniscule White Wave

Downward dog on a flat White Wave

Alpaca on a White Stutterer

Muso on a White Pounder

And finally....  eyes on the White Wave everyone.