“I think I’m going to throw up.”
I clutched my stomach and groaned. Leaning back on the bed, I closed my eyes and began to writhe in pain.
“I can’t do this. I feel so unwell. I really do”, I whimpered, sneaking a glimpse at Dave.
I felt my stomach sink as he rolled his eyes in response. Damn it. He had grown wise to my tricks. Too many times he had seen me book a diving lesson and wake up that morning having developed some kind of mysterious, severe, and yet surprisingly short-lived, illness.
“I can’t do this”, I repeated pathetically. Leaning over, I showed him the webpage open on my laptop as a last attempt.
Common Causes of Death in Bali
I began to read it aloud, but stopped after a few seconds when I saw his eyes glaze over. It was no use. There was no getting out of it.
I was going surfing.
With thoughts of jellyfish, sharks, pollution and my impending doom filling my mind, Dave had to practically force me through the doors of Odyssey’s Surf School, where I could do nothing but whimper softly as I dragged my wetsuit on. Why are my legs still exposed? Surely they’re most vulnerable to jellyfish? I can’t believe I’m going to get stung and have to pee on myself…
We made our way down to the beach and as we were being instructed on what to do I struggled to concentrate, frequently glancing towards the ocean, turning floating plastic bags into jellyfish with my overactive imagination.
After just a few practice attempts at lying on the board and leaping to our feet it was time to take it to the water.
I felt extremely unprepared.
I cautiously waded out to sea, nervously scanning the area for any dangers and squealing whenever something happened to touch me. I let out a sigh of relief when I was finally allowed to clamber onto the board. I was safe now. There aren’t any jellyfish up here.
I tightly gripped the edges of the board, wincing as the rough surface dug into my fingertips. I was surprised to feel my panic and terror melt away and be replaced with a new sensation. Determination.
I can do this.
At that moment, the sound of children laughing on the beach, the screams of the surfers and the whine of the nearby traffic all faded into nothingness. All that was left was the sound of my heavy breathing and the sensation of my heat beating in my throat.
I focused straight ahead as my board and I became one.
Before I even had time to think my instructor was suddenly shoving my board forwards.
“GO! GO! GO!”
The speed of the wave took my breath away as I hurtled towards the beach at what felt like 100mph. I let out a strangled cry and instantly forgot everything I’d just been taught. I cautiously climbed onto my hands and knees, where I remained for a few seconds, before wobbling violently and tumbling off the board with a scream.
That was embarrassing.
As I swam back up to the surface, narrowly avoiding being knocked unconscious from the five hundred surf boards charging towards me, I had the biggest smile on my face.
I was no longer afraid. This was so much fun.
Over and over again I would push my board back to the instructor and attempt to gracefully leap to my feet only to smack right back into the water.
Within minutes, my eyes were burning from the seawater and my throat felt raw. My fingers were bleeding from gripping the board so tightly, but I couldn’t give up.
I could feel myself gradually improving as my instructor told me to focus at one thing at a time: “Look up, don’t look down. Keep your arms out. Bend your knees.”
It was putting it all together that was near impossible.
Surfing has to be one of the most frustrating and physically draining things I have ever done. You know exactly what you need to do but just can’t get it right.
And so you fail.
Again and again.
Taking a short break, it was clear to see that Dave and I were absolutely exhausted and incredibly frustrated. Having a drink and comparing injuries on the beach, we just had time to have a few more practice attempts before going back in the water.
I returned feeling rejuvenated and confident.
I could do this.
And I was right.
Something inside me clicked, and on my first attempt I somehow managed to put everything together and stand upright, perfectly balanced and racing towards the beach.
I was surfing!
It was the most amazing feeling.
The final hour was spent mostly wobbling for a few seconds before tumbling into the water, but occasionally I managed to ride the wave all the way to the shore, and that felt incredible.
I could feel myself improving with every go and I felt like crying when the instructor announced that our time was up. I was devastated when I realised that I wouldn’t be able to surf again for months. I wanted to do this every day.
For the next few days all I could talk about was surfing. I couldn’t stop talking about how amazing the lesson was, how much fun surfing was and how I needed to surf again soon. My fingers were covered in blisters and sores, the skin of my thighs and knees had been mostly rubbed off, and I could barely move for the next week. It was so painful, but it was so worth it.
I’ve spent most of my life being too scared to get out of my comfort zone and too frightened to try anything new. It just goes to show that when you force yourself (or someone else forces you…) to do something you don’t want to, you can end up finding something you really love. And I love surfing.
Disclaimer: I received a complementary surf lesson from Odyssey’s Surf School. All opinions expressed in this article are, as always, my own!