CATCHING A WAVE: I started surfing when I was 15. I used to boogie board and saw some people surfing and said, "Oh man, I want to do that!" A friend let me borrow a surfboard, and I tried it myself. It was almost the same as boogie boarding -- paddling out and trying to catch a wave. But instead of staying on your stomach the whole time you had to stand up.

BATTLES AT SEA: I didn't start competing until last year. I saw a contest was going on, so I signed up and placed fourth. Competitive surfing is cutthroat -- you try and cut people off on the waves. I wasn't used to that. Had I known, I would have done better. I decided to surf competitively throughout this entire year and joined the Eastern Surfing Association. Everyone in the contests is from Ocean City or 10 minutes away -- I think I'm the only person more than an hour from the beach.

SURF AND TURF: I'm a Metropolitan Police Department officer. When the schedule for the surf season comes out, I try and schedule my vacation time in advance. If the surf isn't up on the day of a contest, they postpone it. For me that's hard, because only so many police officers can take off during certain days. It's hard to get new days off.

SCHOOL OF HARD KNOCKS: If you're new and you think you're gonna go out there and just start ripping up waves, then you're in for a humbling experience. It's not as easy as it looks, and it takes a lot of patience and time. You should also watch out for other surfers. There's a pecking order. If you're a beginner and you see guys catching waves left and right, you have to wait. If you've been respectful of the scene, they'll give you waves.

FIRST MOVES: The first move you try to learn is a bottom turn: You paddle and you "cut" (sink your board into) the wave, then you pop up on your feet and you ride down the face of the wave. Once you ride to the bottom of the wave you'll start losing your momentum if you don't bottom turn and come back up the wave. If you put too little or too much into your turn, you either die out at the bottom or you turn so much that you go straight back up the wave and fall back.

BAD BREAKS: Wiping out is one of those things that's going to happen. I had one wipe out that spooked me, because I got held down for so long. I was caught in the break zone and every time I popped up another wave would crash on me. You hold your breath and hope to God the waves push you out so you get a chance to pop up and swim out of the area.

SURF CITIES: My perfect surfing spot is the Indian River inlet in Delaware, which is better than Ocean City just because there is less of a crowd, and it's a longer stretch of beach you can surf. During tourist months, Ocean City only allots one block for surfing. If I have time, I go to Cape Hatteras in North Carolina, which is definitely the jewel of the East Coast. It's the outermost point of the East Coast shoreline and has miles of beaches that are exposed to straight breaks. You have a lot of rippers on the East Coast such as Kelly Slater and Lisa Anderson. So for anyone to say the East Coast isn't that good compared to the West Coast, they'd have to be crazy. East Coasters are better surfers than West Coasters just for the simple fact that we have to learn in the worst type of surf.

RIDING HIGH: There's this feeling of tranquility you get when you're surfing. The wave is rushing underneath your feet and you're just riding. It's being one with the earth. You're riding something that you can't really tame. I taught my little sisters and my girlfriend how to surf. I push it on everybody because I love it. Once you learn how to surf that's it. It's kind of like going in the mob, where once you're in there's no coming out. It hooks you.

As told to Tony Sclafani

Jorge Alma slices through the surf on the Eastern Shore.