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Surfing in Sydney – You’re Never Too Old To Learn
A few months ago, a friend called to ask if I wanted to join her surfing lessons at Manly Beach in Sydney. Two images flashed through my mind as I thought about my answer. My twenty-nine-year-old battle-weary body trying to hang five around the necks of bewildered foreign backpackers and beckoning school kids. And more tellingly, the look on the faces of my settled couple and married-with-kids friends if they knew I was considering the idea.
Having just moved out of the fringe suburbs of Sydney’s Lower North Shore and into the fun-filled Manly Beach, I was already prime suspect against dirty-thirties trying to recapture lost youth. It’s not like I’ve been caught driving a red convertible sports car or acting suspiciously outside a botox clinic. However, I was ushered into a fresco-painted living room and interrogated under the glare of designer mood lighting about alleged mixed touch football games on weekends, bar hopping on school nights and clubbing on any given night, sternly warned that there were no such activities. A self-respecting man of my age should participate in this.
“Sure, count me in,” I replied. There can be no more embarrassing news to the fun police than answering the question asked of every man living in a seaside suburb, “So do you surf?” With a mumbled reply about body beating with a pair of flippers. Besides, a lesson was rarely committed. It was like a speed date. I’d hook up with a few boards, share a few laughs, make a fool of myself, and never be seen again.
The day dawns, and everything seems to be going to plan. Paddle out, throw up like a puppet on amphetamines, catch a wave, try to stand light, fall funny, try to laugh at yourself louder than the people around you, and start over. At this rate, I’d be back in the safety of the pub in no time, telling anyone who asked, “Yeah, I’d surf until I came back from wiping up a drowned German.”
Then the strangest thing happened. After landing a particularly kind wave and landing at my feet, regulation didn’t leave me, sending me crashing to the canvas for the rest of the day. I was still standing, surfing just above the rest of the backpackers, while the school kids hadn’t registered a single bump!
There’s no denying that my giant Esky lid was the size of a QEII and would have remained stationary with the entire Central African government onboard, however, sliding into the water with the sun on my face, salt and sand on my lips. The shorts made me happy in a way that Sunday night happy hour never had. By the end of the lesson I knew there was a shapely piece of fiberglass bearing my name in a surf shop there.
Ever since I was a child, I have always loved the beaches of Sydney. foam-planting on sand bank after catching ‘dumpa’; We have to “sprint” across the hot sand until we find a place to throw our towels; Waiting longingly in the shop line for chocolate paddle pops and pie n sauce with the moist sand under my feet and body scent rubbing salt under my nose; Golden tanned girls who were just walking around being golden tanned girls. My transcendental surfing lesson sitting on HMAS polystyrene left me wondering, “Why didn’t I try this years ago?”
Out of a list of very lame excuses, only one seems to have any validity. fear As a teenager without a car, standing at the local nets watching cricket balls fly into my face or trying and often failing to jump a BMX bike over 5ft ditches, blonde girls dangling me seemed less terrifying. At the beach with mom and dad.
In my twenties, I was building a career, traveling the world and discovering that there is more to a woman’s beauty than the shadow of her body. By this time my parents were allowed to accompany me in public, however, the thought of prehistoric man-eaters licking their lips under my bobbing sea biscuits and tales of 120kg Neanderthals performing surfboard proctology on anyone who accidentally took their wave ensured. The thrill of surfing came to me through the eyes of a six o’clock sports news camera.
After the lesson I realized how irrational these fears were. I see dozens of board riders coming out of the ocean every day. They all still had torsos and very few walked with surfboards stuck to their backs. Never again will I let issues beyond my control stop me from living my surfing dream!
This means I need more tangible fear. The smiling surf shop grommet took my money and approached me as he watched me walk away with eight feet of fiberglass, a rubber suit, two packets of golden tan bikini girl board wax and his sunglasses wrapped around my ankle strap. Maybe my sensible friends were right after all? Maybe I was pathetically holding on to a long lost youth?
Walking gracefully down the beach, I felt the gaze of the sunbakers, knowing exactly what they were thinking. blared over the Lifesaver Club speakers. No one ever understands those slogans, but I heard them clearly, “You, twenty-nine-year-old man in a hysterically fitted wetsuit. Act your age. Put down the surfboard and step back between the flags. Nice and slow.” Just as I thought the game was over, I took one last look at the water and realized I had come too far to stop. Mustering every ounce of courage in my amusing frame, I seized my board by his tucker-bag like a swagman, and shouting, “You’ll never catch me alive,” plunged into the sea, leaving in my wake a world of worthy soldiers for ages. .
I’ve been honing my meager surfing skills for a while now and still find myself upside down more often, but it doesn’t matter. As any golf hacker will tell you, a sweet drive down the middle of a long straight fairway redeems 99 slices into the car park and dribbles off the tee. Just give me a smooth ride on a bright blue satin-sheet wave, champagne froth pouring over my seat, and not a backpacker in sight between my board and the beach, and this middle-aged delinquent will always come back for more. Because the only thing that scares me these days is imagining what life would be like if I never became a surfer dude.
Four things every late starter should know about surfing:
1.Physical studies have shown that surfing is an excellent form of exercise. A Deakin University aerobic fitness study found that competitive surfers’ rates were comparable to Nordic skiers and distance runners, while my study found that it reduced the breasts and flexed arms of novice men.
2. Male surfers are allowed to stand behind the beach and women are allowed to spend at least fifteen minutes longer than other men before being arrested, provided they at least pretend to study the swell in the water. Female surfers have no extra ogling rights over other women because men wish they could do it more often.
3. It is worth investing in a good quality wetsuit. In addition to their heating benefits, they evenly distribute excess body fat throughout the rubber skin.
4. No matter what your mates tell you, a wetsuit with a back zipper should be worn. i promise
Best places to learn to surf in Sydney:
Manly Surf School offers classes daily throughout the year on Sydney’s four northern beaches.
Bondi Surf School – Let’s Go Surfing offers classes all year round at one of Sydney’s most famous beaches.
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