If students have never surfed, he suggests that they sign up for just one two-hour lesson. Once they've tried it and decided they like it, he advises signing up for three more. By the end of four or five lessons, most students are consistently getting on their feet and riding the waves, and are ready to begin the lifelong practice of judging and timing the waves for themselves.
In the midst of my two-hour lesson, I actually manage to get to my feet -- but if you'd been watching and had blinked, you'd have missed it. Zabowski remains patient as I try, try again. Each time, I'm standing for longer milliseconds. So long that a camera with a fast lens could catch my triumph for posterity.
Surfing, I find, takes much more physical endurance than I had expected: Great surfers make it look so effortless. The good news is that it takes less athletic ability than I'd thought; not that it's easy by any means, but it's within the realm of possibility for just about anyone.
Of course it will take longer than a day to get the surfer body. But a mere two hours introduced me to the thrill, and the satisfying knowledge that with time enough, I, too, could be a surfer.
GETTING THERE: Rehoboth Beach, Del., is about 120 miles from D.C. Take Route 50 east over the Chesapeake Bay Bridge to Route 404 east. Surfing students meet on the boardwalk in front of the Henlopen Hotel (311 N. Boardwalk). Surf school owner Peter Zabowski scouts the best wave and tide conditions and leads students to the beach where the lessons are given.
SURFING THERE: Two-hour lessons at the Boarding School (302-270-8103, www.boardingschoolrb.com) cost $60 and are given daily from 8 to 10 a.m. and 10 a.m. to noon through mid-October, weather permitting. Half-day lessons at Assateague Island cost $120. Students must be at least 8 years old and able to swim.
STAYING THERE: I enjoyed my stay at the Rehoboth Guest House (40 Maryland Ave., 800-564-0493, www.rehobothguesthouse.com), near the beach. Rooms are small but pleasantly decorated and reasonably priced, from $85 double. A more luxurious choice, with a pool and spa: Avenue Inn (33 Wilmington Ave., 800-433-5870, www.avenueinn.com). Doubles begin at $169.
EATING THERE: Rehoboth Beach has much better food than most beach towns, with prices to reflect that quality and long waits even on weeknights. The pork tenderloin and garlic mashed potatoes at Cafe Sole (44 Baltimore) were truly memorable. The restaurant also offers pasta, seafood and a daily vegetarian dish. Dinner entrees start at $14. Eden's (23 Baltimore Ave.) offers gourmet American-style cuisine, with entrees from about $25. The Big Fish Grill (4171 Highway 1) is widely considered to have the best seafood in town. Entrees begin at $14. Jakes Seafood House (First and Baltimore) is closer to the beach; entrees begin at $12.95. For cheap eats: Nicola Pizza (8 N. First St.), serving pizza, pasta and sandwiches.
INFO: Rehoboth Beach-Dewey Beach Chamber of Commerce, 302-227-2233, www.beach-fun.com.