By Monte Martin • Photos By Steve Floethe
The ocean has always been a beckoning force in my life for sunning, swimming, and soul searching. A recent Saturday afternoon this year was no different. Surrounded by friends and slathered in sunscreen, we chit-chatted, laughed, and lounged at Patrick Air Force Base Beach, a few miles south of Cocoa. On a dare, and without a wetsuit, I braved the 60-degree water, swam past the beach break and found myself in the surf lineup. I was the only one without a surfboard and a wetsuit. I was also the only female.
Before I knew it I was picked up by a swell that launched me onto a six-foot wave. As I sped toward the shore — in a moment of brilliance or overexposure to the sun — I decided that if it was this exhilarating to bodysurf, then standing on a surfboard, on top of the water, must be perfection. Plus, I thought if guys could surf, then I could, too.
A surfer dude I met that spring day recommended that I take a beginner lesson because “good surf instructors will get you up on your board the first day.” Fun and adventure is always better shared with others, so I found four ladies — Kelly, Amber, Laurie, and Brittney — who were up to the challenge. The five of us decided to step out of our comfort zone and book a surf session with the Groove Tube.
Weeks before our trip, we were thrilled by the promise of standing up and riding a wave into shore, but the big discussion was about what to wear. We decided that getting into the surf lifestyle would make us better surfers, or at least make us look like we could surf! Before our lesson, we did a little shopping at The Groove Tube. A full-service surf shop, they sell clothes, shoes, surfboards, jewelry, music, and surf gear we never imagined.
We expected to find clothes rife with logos and images, but we soon learned the “casual, laid-back surfer” is not a true characterization of surf style. In fact, surf fashion is high fashion! And surf style is more about a way of life that fits each person’s own style.
While shopping, Laurie found a purse she adored. Brittney fell in love with and bought her entire outfit. I deviated from my style with a “Surfer Goth” look. Kelly was way into the shoes. Amber really dug a hat that certainly got laughs out of all of us. Volcom, Paul Frank, Emily Strange, Hurley, Ezekiel, EC Star, French Kitty, Funky People, Dickies — and that’s just the clothes. The Groove Tube has the coolest footwear, jewelry, sunglasses, bikinis, bags, purses, wallets, and other unique accessories not found anywhere else.
A Quest For The Perfect Wave
Ready for our big adventure, we started the day early by watching a magnificent sunrise and grabbing a hearty protein-loaded breakfast before hitting the beach. We were excited and anxious at the same time when we met the instructors at the beach. With the assurance from Groove Tube instructors Dave and Anthony, we soon found our anxiety washing away as quickly as we took off our diamond-studded flip flops.
Surf lessons start out on land with Anthony questioning our swimming skills. There was a little giggling amongst us, and then he got serious.
“The last thing you need to think about when standing on a board on top of a six-foot wave is how to dog paddle or when to hold your breath after falling off your board in 20 feet of water.”
We soon learned surfing takes a lot of endurance, as 95 percent of surfing time is spent paddling rather than riding waves.
Good instructors should know and share tips on ocean safety, how to read the waves, surfing etiquette, and what to do if you see a shark. Anthony explained that the fins on your surfboard are probably more dangerous to surfers being hit on the head than a chance encounter with fins of the biting sort.
Practicing pop ups on the beach tested our strength for sure. As each of us took our turn popping up, we tried hard to be serious, but it felt funny and we all laughed at each other. It was all in good fun and as each learned if we were “regular” or “goofy foot,” it seemed to bond us even more as a group. Goofy foot is a right-foot stance. Left-foot forward stance is called regular foot. Like being right- or left-handed, everyone has one stance that feels more natural.
With an instructor by our side, and in pairs, we started out in shallow water riding the whitewash until we were comfortable venturing further out. Dave and Anthony launched us and our soft-textured board onto a wave that was surging towards shore. Our mission was to leap up from a push-up like position — with knees bent — and surf. Standing up isn’t as hard as you might think, but balancing correctly is tricky and important since the better you can find your balance, the longer and easier you ride the wave.
The advantage of having expert instructors like Dave and Anthony is that they teach the basics of surfing before hitting the water, they will work with you until you stand and ride at least one wave, they are by your side when you paddle out, and as you start to catch each wave are “yelling” instructions about your pop up, stance, or technique. They helped us avoid many of the common mistakes made by beginners by teaching us good basic surfing skills. Plus, when we caught that first wave, they were the best cheerleaders!
Nevertheless, we made many beginner mistakes like “pearling” and “corking” and neither has anything to do with jewelry or wine. Pearling is when the board’s nose digs into the water. Too much weight in the back corks the board and the surfer backward.
“These are the most common mistakes for beginners,” explains Dave. “You have to find that fine balance in the middle to get the maximum speed and minimum drag from the water displacement.”
Both instructors stressed that we pick waves that match our ability. As beginners, we should look for waves no bigger than two to three feet.
But the ocean has a mind of its own. Some days it’s as flat as a lake. Other days, one area can be a foot high and a bit choppy while further up or down the beach the waves can be coming in smooth lines, chest high. Our “beginner” lessons were in chest-to-head-high waves due to a hurricane out in the Atlantic that was moving north. Though the waves were a bit overwhelming sometimes and beat us up a bit, our instructors caught a few to show us where we could be with lots of practice. It was impressive to watch them and dream.
The ocean can look very different, depending on whether you are standing at the shore, surfing a wave, or — as some of us found out — swimming beneath the waves. Some say surfing takes years to master, but we didn’t care. At the end of our day, we felt like we could conquer almost anything.
It was bombin’ surf. We had found new surf sisters. And each of us went home with the confidence that if we could stand on water, we could do almost anything.
Advice from the Surf Sisters
Kelly: “Next time I’ll wear a rash guard over my bikini. That would have prevented sand burn on my shoulder when I fell off my board in shallow water.”
Amber: “I recommend getting used to the power of the waves by riding your board in on your knees or stomach. It makes it not as scary when you first try to stand up.”
Monte: “When you stand, keep low and always look up. If you look at your feet, you’ll fall down.”
Laurie: “To bling or not to bling? Not. I gave back a treasure to the ocean — one of my horseshoe diamond earrings.”
If You Go
The Cocoa Beach Hilton Oceanfront
The Groove Tube