“Anakin, I’m taking you out back. Come with me,” Griff said. Anakin is my nickname at my most beloved Star Wars inspired surf camp in Portugal and Griff is one of the instructors working there. Our location of the day was Vale Figures, my favorite beach.
Now, it’s not that I had never been out back before. This being my second time staying with the surf camp, I was mainly out back (beyond the impact zone that is) at this point. However, today was different – the waves were huge. And now I don’t mean huge like Laird Hamilton huge, but for my beginner self they were in fact HUGE.
Earlier in the day I had attempted getting out back myself, but after getting smashed time after time I eventually gave up and decided to stay in the white water and work on perfecting my pop-up instead.
With Griff persuading me into the deeper water I decided to go. Through the white water, up on the board and paddle, paddle, paddle. All of a sudden we were out back, and I hadn’t been smashed once. I guess those 15 years of experience does make a difference.
Sitting out back on this particular day have to be one of my most treasured memories. Vale Figuerias is located in a national park. The cliffs here are absolutely stunning and the mist from the ocean on this particular day made it look like a fairytale scene from a National Geographic movie. If you look the beach up on Wikipedia the words “outstanding natural beauty” are used to describe the place, so I will leave it at that. Seeing it from the water while sitting on my surf board just took it all to the next level. The entire time I was focusing on taking mental pictures so I would never forget just how beautiful it was.
Griff had caught a wave in to the shore so I was just sorta hanging around out back. Once in a while a wave that I would personally classify as a tsunami would roll in, so I’d paddle as hard as I could to make sure that I would get over it instead of being squished under it. It worked every time and a new favorite feeling of mine became just making it over a massive wave before it breaking. Fear filled my body by the thought of potentially getting caught in the impact zone under the wings of the massive wave coming at me, so every muscle in my body would give its all to paddle and get over the wave. Actually getting over a creature like that is the feeling of extreme relief, plus it’s a fun ride sliding down the back of it too.
The line-up out back on this particular day consisted of 5-8 men and inexperienced little me in my neon orange wetsuit. Except I really wasn’t in the line-up, I was much further out. With each massive wave that came in I paddled out further so the chance of getting smashed decreased. I’m pretty sure every man out there was asking themselves what the heck a newbie like me was doing out there.
“Are you heading back to America?” Griff asked jokingly when he eventually came back out. “Get back in here, you’re not going to catch any waves out there” he said. So I paddled back. Sitting next to Griff on my board he gave me a few tips on reading the waves, and we decided that my best bet would be going for one of the smaller ones. “Smaller” on this particular day still meant a bigger wave than I had ever ridden, so let’s maybe call it medium sized instead.
So a medium sized wave started to roll in towards us. “This is it Anakin, get in position, I’m gonna push you.” Griff got off of his own board and came to me. I laid on my stomach and looked over my left shoulder where I saw this beautiful wave take shape as it was heading straight toward me. I started power paddling for the life of me and with the help of the push from Griff I caught the wave. There was no time for thinking “1, 2, 3” as I did my pop-up while sliding down the face of the wave, but luckily my muscles had the movement memorized so I somehow managed to get up on my board.
As I got up I heard the guys cheering while one of them uttered a surprised “SHE GOT IT,” “HELL YEAH I GOT IT” is all I remember thinking. I looked behind me and saw the most perfect wake breaking. In front of me it was all green. For the first time I was riding along a legitimate green wave, and not just going straight towards the shore. As the wave started breaking from both sides I managed to do a turn to move forward and then another turn to go back along the side of the wave. I road that thing all the way in to the beach before I ripped off my leash and started running towards the local surf dog.
“COOKIE DID YOU SEE THAT?? DID YOU SEE THAT COOKIE?” I screamed as I was intensely petting the confused puppy that definitely had not just seen my badass wave.
After what felt like minutes, but realistically had probably been 30 seconds, of intense focus, I was finally able to react to what had just happened. The most intense feelings of joy, accomplishment and just plain excitement was floating out my body like I had just taken my first steps, and the only living creature on the beach to share it with was a dog, so there I was jumping up and down in my bright wetsuit like a complete fool.
The best way I can explain the feeling I had is compressing a month of having just fallen in love in to a few minutes. I was on a very intense cloud nine and in that second I understood the extreme addiction that many people develop to surfing.
I will never forget that wave. I got it.