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Learn something new: Surfing

Updated on November 1, 2010


Learn something new : Surfing

I consider myself as an adventure buff. I love the great outdoors and am game for anything that’s adrenaline pumping. I’ve tried rock climbing, diving, kayaking and even the marathon! However, living in the urban and dense jungle of Singapore does limit one’s opportunity for an adventure sport. For instance, if you want to dive, you need to take out the travel map and perhaps head up north to Malaysia for a good and worthwhile session. One thing is for sure; learning something new is always an adventure in itself. So no matter how old I get, I’ll always try to learn something new.

About 4 years ago my wife and I decided to take a short holiday and go to one of the most hyped travel destination, Bali. I am not a surfer and have not even seen an actual surfboard in my life (hey, I live in Singapore!) and I was intrigued by the advertisements on learning how to surf. It is after all, a premier surfing destination. All I know about surfing is ‘Quiksilver’ and the ‘numerous times’ surfing world champion Kelly Slater, that’s it. I decided to give surfing a go and was also pressed by my ever supporting wife. I signed up at a surf school and was told to be at the school the very next day.

I took a private session. I want to absorb as much as I can on my first day. After the safety brief by the school’s chief instructor, I was introduced to my personal instructor. He was a skinny Balinese chap who probably weighed half my size and was shorter than me by about a foot. He began showing me on the equipments (surfboard, leash and a rash vest) and how to prone, paddle and stand on a 9’2 foamy longboard. All this was done on the sandy beach of Kuta. He demonstrated to me the basics followed by yours truly. That should be easy I thought he’s half my size and if he could do it, so could I. Well, not quite. We headed for the water.

The waves of white water were rushing onto the shore. Once in the water with my 9 footer, I began to feel a little bit daunted. The waves were ‘bigger’ when you are in the water I thought. I had to paddle against the oncoming white water and its no easy feat. You have to be physically fit to beat the pounding of the white water or be very experienced to know when and where to paddle. I had neither. I could either push myself up on the board to let the white water flow in between me and the board or ‘turn turtle’. That was a tough job and I’m not even in the line up yet!! After what felt like an eternity, I finally was in a position good enough to catch the 2 feet of rushing white water. I begin to position myself on the board and paddle as hard as I can only to notice that I was hardly moving. And so, enveloped by the white water, I wiped out. (I was told later by my instructor that I was lying to far in front of the board. So as the laws of physics prevailed, I nosedived). It was a quick washing-machine-tumble-dry spin beneath the waves but boy, what a rush!! I pulled myself up, get up on the board and head out straight towards the oncoming waves. It was a couple of tries later that I finally got it right and was finally standing on my foamy longboard. All the hard work for about 3 – 5 seconds ride back to the shore. I have not felt anything as comforting, peaceful and yet thrilling at the same time.

It was that combination that I yearn for that I keep going for more and more surf trips. The funny thing is that you can have numerous wipeouts on a session but that one time you caught a beautiful wave will make that session worth it. Like they say, when you surf, the food tastes better, you’ll sleep better and you’ll feel a whole lot better.

Now, I have my own 8 footer custom fiberglass mini-Malibu and am planning to buy a ‘fish’. I keep track of all the spots and beaches near Singapore where I can get a decent swell and surf. Surf, swell and wind forecasts are now a regular application on my IPhone. It is not all the surfing mind you but it is also the idea of going on a surf trip. It is the idea of getting away, going to a new place or just a renewed sense of adventure. For those who do not surf, it is all jargon and may sound odd at such an idea and I would not have understood even what I was writing back then when I just started out. It’s a selfish sport I must add because when you are surfing, you are the only one paddling, the one riding the wave and ultimately, you are the only one feeling it. It’s all stoked if you ask me.

I suppose everyone would reach to a point in their life and say, ‘what’s next to do?’ You have a good career, a loving family but you need something to perk yourself up like that first cup of your morning coffee. My personal take is, try everything and anything new you can. It’ll give you new meaning to life and if you are lucky enough as I have, to find something so rich and enthralling that I giggled every time I hit the waves like a 5 year old kid. My new found deep appreciation and respect to the ocean and the Polynesian King Kamehameha’s tribe for showing us ordinary human the humility of understanding one another and appreciating mother nature’s grace.



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