Everybody's Going Surfing

February 23, 2007
Day 513

Brazil's main attraction is its beaches, and one of the best activities to do on the beach is to surf. Being from an area that's more known for its frozen lakes than its sunny beaches, I had never tried surfing. I decided it was about time I gave it a shot and took a bus back to Praia do Futuro.

It wasn't hard to find a surf school on the beach. Near the "surf school" sign, a bunch of guys were sitting around, and one of them named Kakou was willing to give me a lesson right away. He was probably a legitimate instructor, but he was overweight, not the body of someone who goes surfing every day of his life. I wondered how much help he'd be if I started drowning.

I walked down the beach awhile with a surfboard under my arm and already felt like a real surfer. We did a brief stretching session and got started with the lesson. Kakou showed me how to paddle with my arms while laying face-down on the board, we walked out as far as possible, and he began swimming next to me. I paddled as hard as I could, but it soon became like Chinese water torture. I'd paddle for about fifteen seconds and move five meters, then a huge wave would come and throw me back four meters. This process kept repeating itself until I was exhausted.

I looked back toward shore and saw that I'd hardly made any progress at all. In fact, Kakau was standing next to me at that point, so maybe I actually was closer to the shore than when I started! I didn't feel like much of a surfer at all at that point. The worst part was seeing a ten-year-old kid who was also learning how to surf paddle right past me and out into the ocean, seemingly unaffected by the waves that were continuously pounding my head in.

Kakau probably saw my frustration because he turned me around and told me to hold on tight. While I was still on my belly, a wave came and pulled me all the way into shore. That part was actually fun. We repeated the process of paddling out and getting sent back in two more times and my lesson was over. I asked Kakou about standing up and actually surfing, but he said I'd have to learn that part later. Then he revealed some good news: I was using a short 6'8" board, which is only a few inches taller than I am. On my next lesson I could use a long board, which should be much easier to paddle. When I asked why I didn't start out with the easier board, he told me that my first lesson just had to be difficult for some unexplained reason. Maybe he's just a sadist.

I didn't drown, so in that regard, my first surf lesson was a success. My back and neck were sore from the waves slamming me backwards, but it was still an alright experience. Maybe I'll try another lesson with a long board before I leave Brazil.

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