It was my second day surfing Narunui Beach in Raglan. The day before I had taken a lesson with Zen and Debs, local pros who liked to pass on their love for surf by teaching eager young learners the ropes. Under their expert tutelage, my big foam board glided through the crashing whitewater and I popped up on my first wave. Stoked.
Day two was much the same. Slightly smaller board, but still foamy and ultra-buoyant. Easy to catch little waves cruise to the shore, stumbling back and forth trying to maintain balance, arms akimbo like some spastic toddler on a balance beam.
Early in my session, I wiped out, and the wave sent my board hurtling towards the shore until my attached leg strap tightened up and bungeed the board back in my direction. Like one of those children’s toys with the paddle and the little rubber ball attached with a short elastic string, my giant learner’s surfboard was the paddle and I was the little rubber ball – about to get smashed.
And smashed I was.
The board caught me in the head – luckily it was a softish foam monstrosity, but it struck a dizzying blow, none the less. Still reeling, the board was now pushed back in my direction by a rumbling wave and I caught it full on and sideways in the chest and ribs.
That was my cue to take a break, and it was two weeks before I would get back in the water. I tried once, but the pain was too sharp. I couldn’t even lay on my stomach, let alone get throttled by an onslaught of waves, trying to paddle past the break.
This type of pain was all-too familiar to me. I’d cracked a rib a few years back when John Murphy gave me some kind of crazy sideways hug with far too much vigor. The pain lasted for a month. This time was much the same – the pain was sharp and excruciating whenever I moved the wrong way. I hated getting out of bed in the morning because the first thing that would go through my mind was, “fuck. That hurts.” Just Breathing was painful and I can’t even describe to you what it felt like to sneeze, but each time, I’d be left curled up in a fetal ball, trying not to laugh at my ridiculous situation because yes, laughing hurt too.
A week later, I ran into Debs who suggested I see the local Chiropractor – she had dislocated a rib once before and thought I might have the same problem. Turns out I did. Jeff the Chiro popped my rib back into place and told me that it was probably also cracked, along another rib that was giving me some trouble.
The next day I felt %80 better. It was like magic. I took another few days off to let my newly adjusted rib settle into place and I’ve been back in the water since then, struggling to catch waves on smaller boards (I took out a 7’6’’ yesterday) and having an awesome time.
I still suck at surfing, but I think I’m starting to get it. I’m at that point where it is awesome and incredibly frustrating at the same time. I feel like I’m just on the edge of really surfing. I can catch the little whitewater waves all day, but the real waves are just past that, and they still seem to elude me. I get sucked out by the rip and paddle hard to catch good sized waves but they usually end up catching me and sending me crashing back to the shore… and still loving life..