It’s my last day visiting Martin County, Florida. I wake up, throw a swimsuit on and race to the car where Nerissa, tourism manager and host, meets me and drives us both to Stuart Beach. It’s a short drive so there’s no time to stress. Brett from Ohana Surf School meets us on the sunny June morning when I give surfing school a try.
One of the things I love most about writing is the sheer ability to learn every single time you write a story or a post. Sometimes that’s a small lesson about a product. Other times it is a big lesson about life and parenting, sparing the environment, or finding new technology that changes your lifestyle. And then there are the epic adventures that come along with travel writing. Taking a turtle nesting walk was one of those big travel experiences. Learning to ski a couple of years ago was a massive travel experience and now so is this. After today, Stuart, Florida will forever be the place where I went to surfing school.
My surf instructor. This was amazing. Surfing schools runs all Summer here. Ohana surf school. Loved trying this at Stuart beach More later. #love #Lovefl #travel #familytravel #happy #summer #fun #discovermartin I would return to do more lessons. Tonnes of fun. Kids from age five and up come from all over to try. #healthy living #activity #sports #water #travelblogger #thisis40something
This past month I took a trip to Indian River County and Martin County Florida. In Indian River County I tried paddle boarding and kayaking. In Martin County, I am talking swells and popups. Learning the language of surfing.
We meet the instructor at the walkway to Stuart Beach. Earlier this week I was here scoping out this pristine little corner of heaven. Stuart Beach was calm then, as it is now, except for a group of children who have traded in school classrooms for the ocean and a surf board. This strip of white, sandy beach is decorated with the most perfect seashells you will ever find, anywhere you travel. A day or two ago I bent to gather some for photos and souvenirs….just a couple of immaculate shells…and one or two tiny ones with a pin prick hole already beneath the lip. I know my teen will make this into jewelry and appreciate it more than anything I could buy. I pocket them, take pictures and then move on throughout the area, exploring for my last two days.
I follow the instructor to the beach and he tells me a couple of quick things about what to expect before we wade out. It is gentle here and the waves are not overwhelming. Sometimes paddle boards are used for the surfing school because they work as well as surfboards when you are learning. Ohana surfing school supplies the equipment needed. You bring the bathing suits, lunches, and sunscreen. The only other thing you need is an ability to try, to learn and to have fun. Ohana Surfing School summer camp is about $200 a week and it is recommended for ages five and up. Ohana is not the only surfing school in the county, but it is the one I am talking to today.
A few weeks prior to this when I was getting ready to travel and write about Martin County, Florida I was asked would I like to try surfing lessons? YES!! OF COURSE, I said. The I started to think about the idea of surfing lessons and I freaked myself out a bit. Despite having a pool and knowing how to swim, I am not a strong swimmer.. So surfing school?
I figured surfing would be a great physical challenge for me. I also figured WHY NOT? In fact, why not is the filter through which I now weigh most of my travel opportunities and adventures. If not now, when and – why not? I was immediately a bit terrified, so of course I said yes.
Ohana Surfing School
Step 1: Getting on the surfboard in the water, which moves. The waves are not huge but you can see in the photo above that they are there. The water undulates and hits your legs and sometimes almost knocks you over walking so, how on earth? Now imagine that you are putting a surf board down on the water and you need to hop onto it. It took me a few moments to negotiate how to do that one and then I was on the board. Seated.
Sep 2: Lay down flat on your stomach. For a person who is still not a massive fan of getting her face wet, that required a small amount of faith and trust.
The morning we did our lesson, the campers trickled in. Once they are all present, they have what’s called a family meeting. A pep talk, followed by some of the expectations and newsy announcements of the day.
Back on the water, I am resting on this board comfortably.
Step 3: Establish dominant foot for stance.
Brett asks if I snowboard. I do not. I ski. But skiing doesn’t really help much here, although it has helped my core and leg strength. I stand up, wobbly and we determine which is my dominant foot. He shows me how to space my feet about shoulder width apart, one slightly in front of the other and then he tells me to lay flat again.
Step 4: Practice laying on the board and peeling off sort of like cobra pose. I practice this prone on my stomach, to knees, to almost plank position as he holds the board and then up to stand. And again. We do this probably 15 times while he holds the board. That’s the popup. We haven’t even added waves yet.
Once I feel confident in the popup without waves, then we wait for the waves in the ocean. This I discovered is something I could do all day. I am resting on my stomach facing the shoreline. Brett holds the end of the board and searches for small waves. It is relaxing, like being on a boat on a sunny day. I could picture falling asleep out here waiting for the waves to come. I can also easily imagine how exhausted the kids are when they leave this camp. For sure my girls would sleep well after this much water activity.
When a wave finally comes, he tells me get ready and practice paddling. He gives the board a shove and I paddle my arms as much as possible, before he tells me: Now popup. I wish I could tell you I was a natural. But I was not. I made it to standing eventually that first time about four feet from shore. The movement, and the series of tasks while the board was flying over the waves, was challenging. Then when it stopped, that presented a new issue. How to get off the board? Well I opted for the run and jump off the first time. The second time I flailed and fell in and the third time I just lost my balance and fell off to the side. That final fall was a kicker though as the board hit me gently on the head and went right over top of me. I shoved it out of the way and emerged from the water not so gracefully. Never mind. Grace is overrated.
The thing about surfing I think is that it’s a bit like skiing. Practice makes perfect. So, move to a spot where there’s lots of water and great waves and keep trying. Take a lesson or two, go to surfing school and eventually you will improve. Frankly the kids in surfing school summer camp pick it up fast. Brett said even the kids who come to camp indicating they will NEVER try that, typically end up happily chasing waves within a couple of days.
The Ohana surfing school summer camp is the coolest summer camp I have ever seen in action. In fact, people fly their families in from out of state so the kids can have a chance to learn this incredibly fun water sport. By the time I am done my lesson, I am mentally adding up the potential costs of getting my kids to Stuart Beach so they could learn to surf with Ohana. The feeling of being able to balance while flying over the water is more than worth the effort involved in learning.
I was a guest of Martin County and Indian River County while in Florida and have been working with them to tell these stories. I have received perks, accommodations, tours, flights, meals and other compensation. My opinion is all my own and it is truthful. Many thanks to Nerissa for taking pictures while I tried to surf.