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My First Wetsuit
I've Had A Lot of Firsts
I've had a lot of "firsts" in my lifetime. First birthday. First time I was embarrassed. First time someone punched me. First kiss. First Bar Mitzvah. First sexual experience. First wedding. First baby. First divorce. First gall bladder surgery. First time I smoked pot. First time getting arrested. First time I was put on high blood pressure medicine. First bout of diarrhea. You name it, I had a first, it seemed, for everything.
My point is that no matter how old you get, you will still be getting a succession of "firsts" right up to the first time that you die. Most of the firsts in my life was totally expected. It was a part of a normal progression through each stage of life. It was part of living and growing older. Some firsts were a bit unexpected and not such happy events like getting arrested for smoking pot or getting divorced, but most of the other firsts were exciting and positive.
Pacific Ocean: It's Freezing
If you had told me when I was a kid living in South Philly that one day I would get a wetsuit, I would say that you're crazy. Who needs a wetsuit in Philly? A cheesesteak, maybe, but a wetsuit?
As my life and firsts progressed, I moved to California. Then I managed to meet a California girl who lived by the coast with its majestic blue waters. She liked to surf and bodyboard. But the first time I dipped my feet into the Pacific Ocean, more specially, Santa Barbara, I froze my bleep off! I jumped back to dry land faster than a jack rabbit running from a snake
It was the first time I ever experienced the water being so cold. I used to go to the Jersey shore in the summer and it was warm and comfortable. I made several trips down to Florida and the water was like being in my own tub where I controlled the temperature. My vacations in Mexico and the Caribbean spoiled me to such an extent that I expected that the ocean water be warm everywhere. Not the Pacific, I quickly learned all too well. The water temperature where I live in California ranges from the mid 50s in the winter to mid 60s in the summer, if you're lucky.
I Think I Need a Wetsuit
The first time I was up close to a wetsuit was when my girlfriend put one on.
It looked really tight, especially around the neck. It had a zipper in the back that seemed to make no sense at all. It was like a rubber straightjacket.
It didn't look easy taking off, either. You had to struggle, suck your chest in, and hope for the best. All in all, it seemed like one big hassle.
I had a decision to make. I could either buy one (wetsuits are not cheap) or sit on the beach and watch my girlfriend enjoy jumping waves and riding the curls while I'm getting bit by sand mites.
I chose the wetsuit, mainly because my girlfriend insisted.
Get it Off of Me
I don't think I will ever forget the first time I tried on a wetsuit in the dressing room. It was like fitting into a real tight wedding dress. I came out of the door like I was on Say Yes to the Dress and my entourage was sitting there, namely my girlfriend and this strange, gnarly dude who said he was a surfer.
All I could think was how am I ever going to fit into this thing? It was so damn tight and was cutting off the blood supply in the neck. I felt like a rusted-out tin man needing a can of oil.
When I first put on a wetsuit, I realized how disgustingly fat I was. The rubber suit was so skintight that every curve and bulge of my body stuck out like a sore thumb. I never realized how massive my belly was until I tried on a wetsuit. How am I going to parade on the beach looking like this? They'll rush me to the delivery room or worse yet, give me a C-section.
"Dude," the sufer said. "You look pretty brutal."
"Thanks for the vote of confidence," I replied.
I think that he meant that the large size was too tight and that I needed an extra large, at least. Well, back to the dressing room to try on another dress, err, I mean wetsuit.
It was my first time changing into my wet suit on the beach. I had a large towel wrapped around my middle while I took off my shorts and socks. I then slowly rolled up my wetsuit from my feet to my waist. It was literally like rolling on a condom but only ten times worse because the rubber material of the wetsuit was a hundred times thicker than the condom. I worked up quite a sweat. I was breathing heavy by the time I got the wetsuit over my hips and I needed a rest, and some oxygen.
I did my best to ignore the fact that my belly was so huge. Initially I sucked my belly in but after a while, I stopped fretting over it. I'm not the center of the universe, I thought. People were not focusing on my appearance, they're too busy being self-conscious about their own hangups.
My girlfriend helped me with the rest, especially the zipper. When I was ready, I got my boogieboard, hooked it to my wrist, and waddled over to the ocean like a pregnant penguin.
The ocean was calm. There were no sharks to be seen, no bubbly undertow, and not one sting ray underfoot. All clear.
The Seal with the Full-Length Beard
I looked like a humongous seal with a full-length beard. I'm glad no one threw me a fish.
Once I hit the water I could feel the cool ocean liquid enter my wetsuit. It inched up my back and to my neck. I thought it would be cold but it wasn't bad. The wetsuit worked. It was a miracle. I was in the water for hours and did not feel cold at all. In fact, I forgot that I had a wetsuit on and started to enjoy the ocean. I was floating on the board, catching waves, and being driven by the breakers all the way to shore. Besides getting a mouth full of salt water and being wrapped with seaweed like a mummy, I was having a ball.
My girlfirend smiled at me. She saw that I was finally having fun and getting used to the wetsuit. I lost myself in bodyboarding, swimming over, under and around the waves, taking in the fresh, salty smells, and loving it. I ceased to be a self-conscious big-bellied 60-year-old who was wearing his first wetsuit. I ceased being a big seal with a full-length beard. I was just a guy having fun in my new wetsuit.
Tips for Wearing a New Wetsuit
"Buy a wetsuit from a surfer shop, they really know their stuff."
"It feels tight at first, but once you use it in the water it will eventually loosen up."
"Put some Vaseline around your neck to protect it from chaffing."
"Wear the minimal under you wetsuit."
"After you're done surfing rinse off your wetsuit thoroughly."
"Don't hang up your wetsuit. After it dries, roll it up in a ball for storage."
"When putting on your wetsuit, go slow, don't yank it on, roll it up from the bottom."