Saturday, June 24, 2006

Nothing day

Today was a waste of time, surf-wise, one of those two-steps-back days.

I spent an hour again trying the popup in the living room. I was able to get up to a low crouch, feeling very unbalanced. My surf goal was to try this on a wave. I have never gotten up in a crouch on a wave. Could I do it?

I never got to find out; there was just no chance. The waves were again small and a bit choppy. I was able to catch lots of waves, but once I did---well, I just don't know what happened, and that's the truth. I just know that before I had enough time to think of what to tell my arms and legs, I was off the board and in the water. I did not get up at all, except once on my very last wave of the day, and I fell off that one in a second.

I am leaning very much toward making "slow reaction time" the reason/excuse why I can't surf and the way I get myself off this hook. And though there may never be a way to test this hypothesis, it may be true. I just can't think as quickly as normal folks, and not quickly enough to make the decisions I need to make to surf.

Days like this are what make the fun-to-work ratio of "surfing" so dispiriting. I have got to, just GOT TO, find a way of increasing the amount of joy, fun or satisfaction I get for all the wasted hours I put in, not just in sessions like today's but in all the commuting time, etc. In other words, I've got to make the "surfing" more efficient, or quit wasting my time and energy.

The high point of today was seeing D. on the beach and catching up with him. We haven't talked in ages. He travels a lot and doesn't usually come out when the waves are small and crappy like today. Those of Grandma's generation, remember that Mary Tyler Moore song? "Who can take a nothing day and suddenly make it all seem worthwhile?" Well, nothing could make today worthwhile (did I mention it's pouring rain and cold as well?) but he made it better.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Hot off the press

Thanks for all the popup tips, and keep them coming, please! They're all going into this computer I call my brain, and one day they may compute.

Today's treat is the freshest Grandma surf report ever, thanks to the fact that I now (temporarily) have wireless internet access at the beach house! I am a mere two hours off the beach, and I'll try to recreate what happened today as best I can. The ideal, of course, would be to write down what happened on each wave as it happened, or perhaps dictate it into a portable waterproof tape recorder, but this is the closest I can get.

Lately I've been practicing my popup on land for at least an hour before I attempt to surf. I did this today. I even videotaped myself practicing in my living room. Today I specifically tried to take M.'s advice not to drag my feet, but to jump up. That is hard as hell, but I can do it. I think. At least I think my feet are both coming up and going back down (got to make another video to be sure). When I do that, I land down in a crouch, which is good---right? With the dragging thing, I just get up pretty much standing up. I don't think I jump very far, but I land crouched down with all my weight on the balls of my feet, heels up in the air. I have seen people ride waves in this position. It's very hard to stand up from it even on land and I am pretty sure I couldn't do it on a speeding wave.

I also practiced what I saw someone do on the beach, that is, bending the back knee sideways off the side of the board just before you take off. I think the point of this is to use the back foot to push yourself up. Doing that, I cannot land down in a crouch. But I can do a little jump, I think, I'm not sure. This might end up a feasible way to pop up. I vowed to try it in the water (but I forgot to).

It was hard to make myself go out, because it was gray and cloudy and I felt pretty crappy physically and emotionally. But I knew I would feel a thousand times better once I got out.

There were as many two foot waves to catch as I wished. I wasn't doing well at first, getting to my knees. Then it occurred to me (and I am not sure this is right, I cannot be sure unless someone watches me or I get it on video) that I am not extending my arms fully before I attempt to stand up. If true, this could be a major cause of my problems. I tried to concentrate on extending my arms and it really seemed to help.

Once, I stood up without knowing how I did it. I was on the wave, actually riding, for about three or four seconds before I fell. Other times, I used my left knee to get up---ouch! It lets me know when I use it now because it hurts! Mostly, I was doing the drag the leg thing because I simply could not fathom how to do the jump as I had on land.

The way I tried to do the jump was to concentrate on fully extending my arms and putting all my weight on them. Then, just telling myself not to use my knees and hoping for a miracle. I still have no idea what parts of the body or muscles you need to use to pop up---if I did, I could concentrate on trying to locate them and using them!

A couple of times it seemed to work; I did get up briefly. And I noticed something completely new: my weight was now on my front leg when I got up. All the other times when I've gotten up and the few times I've gotten rides, my weight has been mostly on my back leg. It felt right to have it on the front leg; is it? I have always slowed down and often stalled out as soon as I got up; it's been like standing up causes the board to slow down or stop, and I don't think it's the wave's fault. That happened today too, but it seemed like it was happening to a lesser degree.

Three or four times, it seemed like I almost had it. The strategy that seemed to be working was this:

1) PLF. Paddle like fuck. (I got this line out of some girls'-guide-to-surfing book; actually. I prefer PLYF. Paddle like you fuck. It works for me.)

2) Extend arms fully.

3) HOP!

I am not sure whether I was doing what I thought I was doing, or whether it was right; I did manage to get my feet on the board without, as far as I know, using knees, and to stand up. But not to ride. I don't think my arms were holding onto the rails, but that is always possible, and there is no way to know.

I might have done better if I hadn't missed the timing on some waves, getting them too late.

All in all, a better session that I expected, and moderately encouraging.

What I really need, and don't have, is someone to watch me every time and either tape me or give me a play-by-play of what I'm doing.

Monday, June 19, 2006

New surf instructor?

No luck getting in touch with Betty---she has gone to Indonesia for a couple of weeks on a surf trip! There's a new surf instructor in town, a woman, and I'm trying to set up a lesson with her. I've gotta have some kind of hope! C. has totally flaked out on helping me learn to surf. Whether he ever meant that he would help or that was just a pickup line is debatable, but he's lost interest in me in or out of the water. What I'm most pissed about is that he made that promise and didn't keep it. That's just a shitty thing to do to anyone.

Nevertheless life must go on. I spent some time speaking with M., the new instructor, on the beach. I described my problems and tried to summarize, briefly, the various things I've tried over the years. Her eyes sort of glazed over by the time I got to "and I flushed three thousand dollars down the toilet at surf camp".

Here's what she told me:

What Ben Sargent* told me is totally wrong. Ben taught me to get up by turning my front foot and dragging it across the board, then putting weight on it to stand up. M. says you never drag your feet or legs on the board.

*Yes, I know, I don't name names here, but this is another exception: so that if anyone by that name ever tries to sell you a surf lesson you know to run the other way.

M. says you have to jump up. Both feet are supposed to come off the board and back down again. I asked her how you do this and she says you use your arms. But she also says people without really strong arms, like women and kids, can surf, which is confusing. I explained that I can only lift about 60 pounds despite my best efforts at the gym.

M. says you never use your toes to push up, which is the opposite of what I was taught at three-thousand-dollar camp. "That's silly---you can't do that on a shortboard, and the popup is the same no matter what board you use." I explained that the surf camp instructors put everyone on longboards and made the very valid assumption that these poufy surf-tourist women would never get in the water again after camp, let alone pursue shortboarding.

I attempted, right there on the beach, to do the little jump rather than dragging my feet, and I could do it; but when I do that I land on the balls of my feet and can balance there only precariously and for a second. I cannot imagine landing in that position and being able to balance on a moving board. She said it's OK to land on your toes like that as long as you then flatten out your feet as you stand up. I wouldn't last long enough to stand up.

M. says never, never get up by going to two kness, because you're doomed if you do that. I said, you see these people who take off with their feet in the air, how the hell do they get up without using their knees?

She didn't have an answer. I asked her if she could demonstrate a popup, on the beach, starting from feet in the air position. She said no. "It's hard." Her explanation was that something about being in the water on a board makes it easier. ?????

Does anyone out there start your popup with your feet in the air? Do you have some kind of super powers, or how do you do it?

M. says it's OK, however, to get up by going to one knee. I asked her which knee it would be for a goofy foot and she said left. That's my bad knee. It still hurts from falling on it three weeks ago. No way in hell I can do that.

"There's no one right way to do a popup," she said. I don't have to find the one right way, I just have to find some way, any way, that works for me.

I hope I can track her down for a lesson. She may not want to do it now that she knows the whole story of how hopeless I am.

In the end she said the one thing I would have paid considerable money not to hear, which made me as depressed as when I realized C. was not going to be any help.

"Just keep going out."

That's like saying, "Just keep doing the same thing that hasn't worked for the past three years." There has to be more than that. There just has to. "Just keep going out?" For how many more years?

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Let's go to the videotape

Sunday was a nice sunny day with little waves. I., who I've just met, was kind enough to make a videotape of me trying to surf. I just watched it it in stop action, allowing me to see exactly how I look out there in painful detail.

It made me tired just to watch it, and to think I've gone through this a thousand times.

Other than how ugly I am and how stupid I look in a wetsuit, I learned about how I'm trying to surf. I am going to break it down for you in painful detail, because though I can describe what I'm doing, I'm still not sure what I'm doing wrong. Hopefully some of you can help.

1) I begin paddling into the wave, in perfect time to catch it. Contrary to what I thought, my feet are not together on the board but seem to be hanging off the sides, meaning I am not, as I was taught to do, using my toes to push up.

2) Having caught the wave, I start to push up with my arms. My elbows are not yet fully extended. At this point my butt is still down.

3) As I push up and fully extend my arms, my butt goes up in the air. Presumably this means I am now on both knees.

4) I bring my right knee forward underneath my chest, foot and knee facing forward, weight still on my left knee.

5) Still leaning forward onto my arms and holding on with my hands, I lift up my left knee.

6) Hands still on the rails, with my right knee still facing forward, I start to slide my left foot up. As has been pointed out to me, I look just like a runner about to start a race.

7) I fall.

8) All of this takes place in 68 seconds.


Thursday, June 08, 2006

A good north wind turns out, is the cure for bad knees.

The waves on the cam looked good today and I just went. Cancelled two appointments. I mean, I had an appointment for a massage today (with someone really good) and I cancelled it.

In addition this was the first time I ever intentionally went surfing in the rain.

It was cold and miserable out and as I was on the train I was thinking: I am either crazy or inspired. I am either going to surf today or I am going to quit.

I got two good rides. I mean, all the way to the beach. I mean, long enough that I even started thinking that turning might be possible.

I wished someone was there to see me, but I was alone (that is, alone with seven other people).
So, instead of jumping up and yelling, I just pretended like this was just another ride, and went back out to try for more.

Monday, June 05, 2006

In search of Betty

I'm on the DL for a while due to a knee injury. It happened in the stupidest possible way (I was walking down the street a block from my house and tripped over nothing) and in the worst possible spot on my bad knee. Both knees are bruised and swollen so I'm out of the water til they stop hurting.

As the fourth anniversary of the day I started trying to surf approaches, I feel a little desperate, out of options. To keep myself going, I'm trying to come up with a plan (other than continuing to go out and flail about).

An old friend told me about this woman, Betty. He knows her from when he used to surf in the 60s. She is still surfing enthusiastically and is older than me. A local woman surfer in her 50s! It's not a legend, she really exists; I talked to her on the phone yesterday. My friend's idea was that as A) a woman and B) a person of age she might be the one to help me learn when all else has failed. I hope so, sure I do, but even more than that she seems like such a cool person I'd like to get to know her. She sounded cool on the phone too. Anybody who's in her 50s and is not only surfing but "in school", as she explained to me, has got my vote.

Frankly I don't know other women my age and I am always looking for someone who's already been down the road I'm going and can give me some directions. Aging is a scary thing for all human beings but especially for women.

I know she'll try to help with the surfing when she can (given her busy schedule), but it may not work. "Surfing's easy," she said in our brief introductory conversation. "Anyone can surf. Just pop up. All you have to do is stand up."

In other words, she seems to be another one of those people who don't think, just do; and people who don't think cannot explain what to do to those who think. Got that? For her "just pop up" I have a million questions which she may not be able to answer. But having the answers is the only way I'll ever be able to do what, for her, is so simple. Or else it will help me figure out why I can't.

Meanwhile, I'll be back out at the beach this weekend, but it'll be a nonsurfing weekend, with more parties etc. In the summer at Rockaway, I'm finding out, every weekend is Memorial Day.