Dude, I’m surfin’.
Details, Carlsbad, Calif.
There are worse places to be in the summer than Carlsbad, Calif. About 35 miles north of San Diego, the beach town has bright sun, good bars and restaurants and oh-so-tasty waves. It doesn’t get much more SoCal than this. The weather is about 75 degrees, the water temperature about 70. If you want to learn to surf, this is the place.
This was an end-of-summer vacation with my wife and two teenagers. A four-day surf camp promised good weather, physical activity and maybe even a remedy for a midlife crisis. Surfing lessons are cheaper than a Mercedes convertible and safer than friending your recently divorced high school flame on Facebook. And it rocks. Just ask Rusty, Keenan or Evan.
They were our surfing instructors. We met them on the beach across from the hotel. Thick of hair and bicep, they were young, animated and good-looking. I hated them on sight. Well, I wanted to but just couldn’t. They were enormously energetic, encouraging and likable. “You rocked that wave, dude.”
Did I mention Rusty’s abs? Never mind, my wife did. “Are they a four-pack or a six-pack?” she wondered.
Surfing is harder than it looks. As is the case with most things, the younger you start, the better you adapt. My son and daughter were standing on the board after about 15 minutes in the water. My wife and I are in our 50s — though I’m on the wrong end of the decade — and it took us a lot longer. But I was determined to be a Surfer Dude and turn my wife into a Surfer Babe — at least for a week.
It’s worth it just for the coolness quotient, like learning to talk and act like a Surfer Dude. To wit: A few years ago we went to San Diego for a few days. My son mentioned this to Keenan and asked whether he liked the city.
“SD rocks, I do PB on the reg,” said Keenan. (Translation: I enjoy San Diego and I go to Pacific Beach — one of the city’s main beaches — often.) Keenan then asked us if we were going back.
“I don’t know, Keenan,” I said. “Not sure if we can get to SD or PB because we’re planning to drive north through the OC to spend a day or two in LA.” Nailed it.
The first day, we learned basic technique. You lie on your stomach, with your toes touching the end of the board. If you’re a beginner, you first get up on your knees, then stand with your feet about three feet apart, knees bent. Instructors launch you into a breaking wave. You have to learn to stand before paddling to catch a wave.
The first lesson lasted two hours, and that was enough. As is true in much of California, the waves in Carlsbad come in sets. So you tire quickly trying to cut through them to get back out to the break point.
Learning to snow ski, you start with short skis. It’s the opposite with surfing. Beginning boards are 9 to 10 feet long and hard to handle. “It’s the stability, man. You need that buoyancy,” says Rusty.