I’ve been wanting to learn to surf since I knew surfing existed, well, atleast since I was a freshman in high school, so when Daryle and I started planning our year long adventure, we worked in a month in a beginner-friendly surfing location. Sayulita, Mexico.
Since surfing isn’t on Daryle’s agenda, it helps that Sayulita is also just a great little beach town with a relaxed vibe. Its a great mix of Mexican village and expat community with quite a lot of tourists thrown in the mix as well. This town of 4,000 still feels like Mexico in a way that the much larger city of Puerto Vallarta, down the road 25 miles or so, does not, in my opinion.
Whether you come here to surf or not, you can’t miss that surfing has made the town what it is today. There are countless surf shops and schools and the water is pretty constantly filled with beginners from 9-5. In the evening, on days when the surf is especially good, you can watch the pros catch the waves.
Learning To Surf
My mission upon arriving in town was to decide who would give the best surf lesson to get me started. Between TripAdvisor and some local recommendations, I settled on Lunazul Surf School, located facing the ocean in the middle of the South beach. I was very pleased with my choice (see my TripAdvisor review here) and not only got a few great lessons, but felt I made friends as well as I came in most days to rent a board.
While it seems now that I was up and catching waves in no time, that’s not exactly how it felt at the time. I had an initial lesson and got the standing up part pretty well or so I thouhgt, but then I had days that were frustrating and discouraging, where it didn’t seem like I was improving. I’d have a decent day and then a mediocre day and then a day where I just got pummeled by the ocean for a few hours until I felt like I must have forgotten everything I thought I’d learned. Some days it seemed like I wasn’t going to learn to surf after all.
The weird thing now, looking back, is that I can hardly remember those feelings. I wrote them down, so I know they happened, but once I did start catching my own waves, the frustration and doubt were all very quickly forgotten.
This is me during my second lesson, a little over a week in, which I consider the turning point for me.
In this lesson, my instructor taught me several key things I needed to do (and the next day, I caught several of my very own waves!):
1) Chill Out – Relax and just enjoy yourself, you are sitting in the ocean on a beautiful sunny day, there is no reason not to relax and enjoy. Probably you should not need someone to teach you this, but some of you who know me are not surprised this was the first lesson I needed to learn.
2. Recognize a good wave – In order to not miss the good ones, you need to know what a good one looks like and then be focused. Don’t run after every little possibility, you are waiting for a really good one. (If its taking a while, see #1).
3. Recognize the right spot to be and stay there – You figure out where you need to be, set markers on the horizon that will help you recognize your spot and then you stick to it. You might get distracted talking to a friend or watching some fish, the current might gradually pull you away from your spot, but you have to keep checking your markers and make sure you get yourself back to that right spot or you’ll never catch anything.
4. When you see a good wave coming and you’re in the right spot, you turn around and paddle like crazy…and you catch it, and it feels amazing. Its simple really, not easy, but simple.
I don’t think its a stretch to say, the essential lessons I learned for surfing are also basic lessons for life, about recognizing the right opportunities and being where you need to be…and in a lot of cases, just chilling out and enjoying the moment.