Surf’s Up, Grama

From Chicken Soup for the Grandma's Soul

Patricia Lorenz

Surf’s Up, Grama

The purpose of life, after all, is to live it, to taste the experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for newer and richer experience.

Eleanor Roosevelt

My forty-five-year-old daughter, Sue Ellen, had been surfing for a couple of months, trying to entice me to go to the coast to try it. I kept putting her off, thinking, Why would they want their almost seventy-year-old mother tagging along on this younger person’s junket? “It will be a great girls’ weekend out,” Sue Ellen coaxed.

The plan intrigued me . . . and scared me half to death!

I kept being wishy-washy about the possibility, hoping Dad and I would follow through with our plans for a fall trip and I’d have a good excuse. When this didn’t seem to materialize, however, I reluctantly penciled in the date on my calendar.

My forty-one-year-old daughter, Diana, and two grand-daughters, ages eighteen and twenty, were all psyched up to go as well. But Diana kept saying, “You’re nuts to try this, Mom; even I’m afraid of getting hurt.” Sue Ellen, on the other hand, was saying, “Go for it, Mom. You can do it, and you’ll always be able to say that you surfed for your seventieth birthday.”

Well, that did it. My better judgment took a back seat, and I was determined. My husband just rolled his eyes and said, “I hope you know what you’re doing!”

In the weeks to follow we all did our exercises and lifted weights to strengthen our wimpy muscles. One day when I stopped at Sue Ellen’s, she motioned me into the dining room, where she had tape on her hardwood floors marking the foot placement on a virtual surfboard. She demonstrated the “pop up” procedure, where with one motion you pop up from a flat position on your stomach into a crouched position on the surfboard. Next thing I knew she had me on the floor doing a paddling motion with my hands and arms, then shouted, “Pop up!” Well, let me tell you, I felt like a newborn calf trying to stand!

The actual day arrived and, with gear and food packed in the car, we drove to Cannon Beach on the Oregon coast. We headed for the local surf shop to get outfitted—wetsuit, booties and gloves first. Next, a surfboard to suit one’s size and ability. A short board is for the more experienced surfer. The long board gives a longer surface to manipulate, which was more my speed. This whole idea was becoming more of a reality every minute.

The surf coach we hired met us at the shop. Tony, a rugged, blond surfer type, was very laid back and comfortable to be with and seemed to enjoy our little group.

We followed him a few miles down the road to North Beach, which was in a more protected cove where the wind wasn’t as strong and there were not as many rip tides with their strong undercurrents. We each unloaded our surfboards, strapped on a backpack, and hiked a mile or more down a trail, through the woods to the beach, pairing up to balance two surfboards between us.

It was a beautiful, warm, sunny weekend, and the area was crawling with funny-looking people in form-fitting wet suits. We donned ours there on the beach and draped all of our clothing over huge driftwood logs that had rolled in.

Tony was very safety conscious and spent a lot of time on the sand teaching us safety measures and surfing techniques. We learned how to lie on our boards, pop up to the crouch position and do a little two-shoe shuffle to balance and stand upright.

The waves were four to six feet high that first day, so I opted to stay on the beach and video the others. The second day, the waves had subsided to two to three feet high and I was ready. “You’ll be up and surfing in no time!” said Tony.

He led us out through the surf and into the swells and held my surfboard while I got on. Lying on my stomach, I started paddling like mad. He gave me a push just as a big wave hit me. I remembered to pop up into my crouch position and I sailed like a bullet in a big whoosh of water toward the beach. I squealed with delight that I was still on my feet—that is, until the fin on the bottom of my board hit the sand, landing me right on my rump. I came up sputtering and coughing like a wounded pup, still leashed by the ankle to my board. Sue Ellen was on the beach filming me coming in. The girls and Tony were all clapping and cheering me on as I limped back to the beach, stifling my sobs of pain.

Gingerly, I perched myself between two logs so I wouldn’t have to sit on my tailbone, which was steadily pulsating and throbbing. After collecting myself for a while, I thought the cold seawater would help, so I very slowly made my way across the beach and back into the water.

Standing sideways to the waves so as not to jar my posterior, the cold felt good on my bruised bottom. Just about then, Diana came sailing by on her board, thrilling to her latest ride in on a big wave . . . on her belly! “Diana,” I said, “I can’t bend over to get my board, but if you can get me headed right in the waves, I bet I can do that! I didn’t come here to sit on a log all day.”

I caught a few good waves belly-boarding, then was happy and proud to leave it at that. Tony said he was surprised that I’d gotten up the first time and stayed up that long; many of his students didn’t even make it up the first time. A little praise did wonders for my bruised ego, if not for my bruised bottom.

After several hours of fun in the surf, it was time to leave. We trekked across the beach, up over the rocks on the bluff, and hiked the mile through the woods. It hurt to lift one leg up over the moguls, but with Sue Ellen giving me a pull from her end of the board, we got to the car and were mighty glad to be there. Those pillows for the ride back to Portland felt mighty good.

After about a week of a painful posterior, I checked in with the doctor. “Just badly bruised,” he said. I’ve had a lot of fun telling the story, from my doctor who said, “You did this how?” to the nurse at the injury clinic who said, “At your age? Wish I dared to try that!”

A sensible senior perhaps I’m not, but in spite of having to sit on a pillow for a couple of weeks, I’m glad my good judgment temporarily took a back seat, that I took the challenge and had this fun “senior moment.” I read somewhere that “Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well-preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out and loudly proclaiming, ‘Wow! What a ride!’”

It certainly was a ride to remember with daughters and granddaughters. They’re each ready to ride the waves with gusto at the slightest mention of “Surf’s up, Grama!”

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