While in Australia, I took a surf lesson at Scarborough Beach which was very different from any lesson I’d had in Florida. For starters, the waves were a lot bigger!
Thankfully, I had Tom from Go Surf with me to guide me through it.
Now, before I share the advice Tom gave me about how to get through an oncoming wave, lets backtrack to a story about how I had ended up being washed about underwater, like a washing machine, after attempting to body surf with my brother-in-law, Ryan, a few months earlier.
It was a beautiful, blustery day at the surf spot in Margaret River and the waves were a good three feet above my head. My kids, my husband and I were having fun attempting to pop up on the board and surf the whitewash (the moving whitewater after the wave has broken) with my sister’s help.
A few hours in I noticed my brother-in-law was body surfing the bigger waves behind us.
I called him over and asked if he might show me how to do it. He said, “Yes, follow me!” indicating to the point on the other side of the breaking waves where, I assumed, we would catch a wave.
I followed him, swimming through the whitewash and towards an incoming wave. Now, this wave was a few feet over my head and as the wave came toward me, I remembered my sister’s advice – take a breath, duck down, belly near the sand and count to four, then pop up. I did as she said, but being in the the wetsuit my feet floated up a little too high behind me and the next thing I knew I was being washed around in what felt like the spin cycle, underwater. When I came up for a breath I only had time to see another big wave was about to crash on me and duck down again.
Round and round I went again and this time when I came up my brother-in-law was beside me prompting me to swim towards the shore. I did.When life gives you waves – turn sideways and lean into them. Click To Tweet
Needless to say, that experience scared the bejeepers out of me and when I returned to Australia to visit my sister and her new baby, I was hesitant to sign up for a surf lesson. But after being upfront with Tom about my “big wave” experience, he took the time to really explain what to do when a substantial sized wave is coming towards you in the water. It was so simple, but so profound for an ocean newbie!
Tom says that when people are learning to surf and they have not spent a lot of time in the ocean, they usually have the same response when they see a wave coming at them: they freeze and look like a deer caught in the headlights.
But when you freeze, you lose precious seconds when what you really need to do is make a quick decision!
Tom explained there are really two options when facing a wave:
- If the wave is coming at you at eye height, turn to your side, lift your arm up and lean into the wave – like a sideways, superman.
- If the wave is higher than eye level, you need to go under the wave. So, you take a breath, turn your body sideways, extend your arm out in front of you towards the incoming wave, dig your feet into the sand and lean forward – as if you are superwoman stopping an on coming car with your bare hand. Lean in!