“This is the best day of my life,” Joy said as we hauled our surfboards up the beach. I knew exactly what she meant because surfing changed my life, too. It’s hard to put into words what the simple act of riding a wave can mean to a person, but I’ll try.
Surfing is a metaphor for life. Many people say, “I’ll be happy as soon as…,” and they finish the sentence with “I get a raise, buy a house, lose some weight” and so on. The truth is, the pursuit of those goals is the reward. Surfers always talk about the perfect wave, but some of the most enjoyable rides come in less-than-perfect conditions. Besides, a good ride lasts less than a minute, but the pursuit of a wave can take all day – and what a great day it is because you are at the beach.
I could tell that Joy “got it” when it came to surfing, even though she was only ten years old. When she first stepped into my surf shop you could see it in her eyes. She was stoked.
Her mom came up to the counter and said rather dejectedly, “My daughter says she wants to learn how to surf. I’m not happy about it, but I’m going along with it because I know it’s just a phase.”
They say the customer is always right, so I didn’t dare correct her and tell her the truth. Surfing is not a phase; it’s a lifestyle. I should know; I own a surf shop.
I took the time to show Joy all the surfboards that would be a good fit for her, as well as some of the accessories that went with them. As I did this, something occurred to me. Here I was cooped up in my shop and this girl was going surfing. That’s when I blurted out, “How would you like a free surfing lesson?”
“Really!” Joy replied.
“For free?” her mom asked.
“Yes,” I said. “With each board you buy you get a free surfing lesson.” I was making this up on the fly because I wanted to get out in the water.
“We’ll take it,” the mom said.
“Can we go now?” Joy asked.
I looked at the mom and said, “Absolutely.”
In my mind, there is nothing better than spending the day surfing – except teaching someone else how to surf. I was a little nervous conducting my first impromptu surf lesson, but once I realized I had been surfing since I was ten, it seemed like this was meant to happen. The first thing I did when we got to the beach was point out the different colors in the water and what that meant – a sandy bottom creates a lighter coloring while a reef leaves the ocean looking darker and so on. We talked about what makes a wave break and where to be in order to catch it. We spent an hour in the sand (the classroom) before we even got in the water. Joy loved every minute of it.
We waded into the shallow water and spotted a stingray and leopard shark nearby. “Shuffle your feet,” I said.
“That was so cool. I saw a shark,” Joy gushed.
I wondered how she would react to the dolphins that ride the waves at this particular spot.
It didn’t take long. “Did you see that?” she said as two dolphins darted in and out of a wave not more than a few yards from us.
“Those dolphins have it made. They get to surf all day,” I said.
“They are so lucky,” Joy replied.
So far my first surf lesson was going great. All the time I took explaining how waves broke and how to paddle over, around, and under them had paid off – Joy had made it out past the surf with ease. Once we were beyond where the waves were breaking we were able to sit on our boards and talk. “Are you ready to ride your first wave?” I asked Joy.
“Oh yeah, but I kinda like just sitting here, too,” she said.
“I know. It’s peaceful,” I pointed out.
Joy then began telling me about everything going on in her life.
As luck would have it, a great wave was approaching us. “Joy, are you ready?” I asked. She nodded. “Okay, start paddling for this wave and stand up once you’ve got it.”
Joy not only caught the wave perfectly, but she rode it all the way to shore. I caught the next one and rode it in. Joy was jumping up and down on the sand, screaming with excitement.
“That was so gnarly!” she said.
“Great wave,” I replied. “You can now surf.”
We spent the rest of the day surfing together, and when we were done I knew Joy was hooked. I also knew I was hooked on teaching people how to surf.
So when Joy said, “This is the best day of my life,” I answered back with, “Me, too.”