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Baywatch was my favorite show growing up.
I knew the theme song by heart, I loved the dramatic rescues, and after seeing Kelly Slater gliding on top of the water, I wanted to surf just like him.
I finally got my chance when I went to the North Shore of Oahu last month for the Vans Triple Crown of Surfing tournament. After watching the pros dominate some of the biggest waves I’ve ever seen, I decided to try it myself, on a much smaller scale of course.
Monyca at the office (Photo: GoPro)
Brave enough to take on the task of teaching me was pro surfer Monyca Eleogram. Monyca was born and raised in Hana, Hawaii, and has been surfing for almost her entire life. I’ve seen her in action in GoPro videos and on the Roxy Billboard in Times Square, so as soon as she walked up, I knew I was in good hands.
I’m a proud product of a landlocked state, so Monyca decided to start me off with the basics. We went to a lagoon with really calm water, where she showed me the proper way to paddle out and pop up on the board. After a quick tutorial, she shared two important tips with me. First, she told me that using a big board in the beginning is crucial because it helps you with balance and is easier to maneuver. Secondly, she assured me that surfing should be fun and that I shouldn’t worry about looking like an idiot on the board. I would have to keep reminding myself about that second tip.
I think I can, I think I can… (Photo: Brittany Jones-Cooper/Yahoo Travel)
Before I knew it, I was paddling out into the big blue sea with a GoPro attached to my board, positioned to catch my every move. About 60 seconds in, I realized that I had the upper body strength of a toddler. I was already exhausted, and I hadn’t even “surfed” yet! Monyca laughed and paddled ahead, encouraging me to continue and move past the pain.
“OK, let’s catch this one,” Monyca enthusiastically shouted, as I tried to spin my board around and instead tipped over into the water. “Maybe the next one,” I replied, spitting out a mouthful of saltwater.
Surprised that I actually got up! (Photo: Shawn Parkin)
It took a few attempts for everything to come together, and a nearby surf instructor even pushed me into a few waves, which helped me get the hang of things. But then, it was like magic. I saw a wave, I paddled in, and I stood up and rode that sucker. It felt like flying. Even better, Monyca was riding the same wave next to me, so I felt like I was hanging with the cool kids.
Before the day was over, I caught a few more. It was exhilarating. Surfing is something that has been on my bucket list forever, and now that I’ve done it, I want to get good!
As for Kelly Slater. I’m not quite on his level just yet, but I did get to meet him that weekend, which made my first surfing experience feel like one of those full-circle moments Oprah is always talking about.
Kelly Slater is one of the most respected surfers in the history of the sport. (Photo: Brittany Jones-Cooper/Yahoo Travel)