What better way to celebrate turning 60 than by surfing? Although I am so out of shape, and the "barnacles" growing on my spine make my shoulder hurt. Then again, at my age, who doesn't have something falling apart? And if that girl in the Soul Surfer movie can surf with one arm after losing the other one to a shark, I should be able to muster what it takes to catch a wave with mostly two.
It's not like I've never surfed before. I grew up with the Beach Boys and taught myself how to surf when I was only 12. A 40-year break is quite a gap to bridge, however, and it is definitely not like riding a bike. First you have to get the board on or in your car and then carry it to the water. Paddling out is a major aerobic challenge. With whatever you have left, you paddle hard to catch a wave and somehow magically spring up from a prone to a standing position or else go straight to the bottom. I can't even handle that in my yoga class. What am I thinking?
Then again, if I can somehow succeed, my children will be sure to take a picture for my online dating site. What guy could possibly resist a surfing senior? So I put the back seat of my car down, slide my preowned Hobie classic longboard into the trunk, and head for the water hoping to find a place to park.
Pacific Coast Highway (aka "PCH") parking is never easy when the surf is decent, but it is my lucky day because a guy signals he's leaving. I have no qualms about blocking the right lane of traffic to score the spot despite the honking of the 18-wheeler behind me. The exiting surfer takes his sweet time to change and rinse off before loading his board into his pick-up. I stare while this teenager, young enough to be my grandson, unabashedly strips off his wetsuit down to his waist and wraps a towel around himself to take the rest off before putting his shorts on. How often does the towel fall off I wonder? Certainly just that thought qualifies me for the dirty old woman club--cheap thrills for the aged.
Finally parked, I head to the water and wax the board in circles thinking my physical therapist will be happy to know I'm doing some form of my assigned exercises. Then I paddle out between sets and though winded, I'm feeling OK. Actually catching a wave, however, is another story. Why do the waves look so big out in the water when they seemed so small from the shore?
A perfect wave finally comes and I whip my board around to take it remembering how competently I did this as a teenager. Before I can even start paddling, the board slips out of my hands and I fall off. How embarrassing! What happened? It used to be so easy.
Thankfully I try hard but manage not to catch quite a few waves given the 6 months of traction that would most likely result from "success." My body is telling me that I've had enough, so I paddle in between sets. On the way in, a newcomer asks me if there are any sharks. I realize we're exactly in the spot where a great white shark was spotted breaching last year and paddle faster. Not to alarm him, I say something like "No worries, they like to dine much earlier."
Safely on shore, I regain my confidence, but my tired arms feel like cooked pasta and my board 20 pounds heavier. "Would you like me to carry the board to your car for you?" says a surfing Boy Scout watching me fumble. Too ashamed to accept his offer, I hoist the board atop my head looking like a poster for the Endless Summer movie. If Guatemalan women can carry heavy bags of coffee this way, why not a heavy surfboard? Soon I am stepping deftly ahead--before the kid feels compelled to call an ambulance.
A young woman passing by remarks how the water must be warm because I am wearing a shorty instead of full length wetsuit. "Back in the day," I say, "no one wore wetsuits in the summer. You all are a bunch of wusses!" She laughs and says, "See ya in the water!"
I make it home safely, although I leave the board in the car, overcome by the thought of lifting anything, ever again. Regardless, I am filled with pride that I had managed so well. I had a great workout immersed within the sights, sounds, and smells of the glorious Pacific Ocean while undoubtedly providing entertainment for the pelicans. This was definitely not a good day to die.
Perhaps 60 is the new 30, although right now I'm thinking it's more like the old 3, because as soon as I finish my cookies and milk, it will be nap time!