At the cave tour in Carlsbad Caverns we met a young couple on a similar trip as us, only headed the opposite direction. On their recommendation we decided to take surfing lessons in San Diego and headed there from Joshua Tree.
Our first evening there we took a night-time walk on Mission Bay path to see the Pacific Ocean for the first time on our trip. We last saw an ocean, the Atlantic Ocean, from Acadia National Park in Maine five months prior. I took my shoes off and waded in the water, relishing the moment of arriving at the opposite coast.
John had scheduled a 90 minute semi-private (the two of us with one instructor) surf lesson for the following afternoon. Our instructor, Matt, started with a very brief introduction on the shore where we practiced “popping up” on the board. To catch a wave, you lay belly-down on the board and paddle with your arms, but once on the wave you need to “pop-up” to a standing position. For those of you more familiar with yoga than surfing, the movement is: laying on belly -> up-ward facing dog -> low lunge -> standing similar to warrior 2. You would think that my years of yoga practice would make me good at this, but maybe it was a hindrance because up-dog to low lunge is not a transition I have ever practiced. I was slow. Even on the stability of shore, Matt noted that I was slow. But he took us out to the water anyway.
Matt the instructor led John and I into the ocean, walking deeper and deeper in as large waves crashed on our legs, then our torsos, then over our heads. One wave really wiped me out, at which point my confidence faltered. I couldn’t believe he expected me to catch one of these enormous waves. I stood there coughing out inhaled sea water and said I needed to catch my breath. Matt said “hop on the board”. I insisted I needed to catch my breath. He insisted even more that I hop on the board. So I did, and he launched me on a wave to shore where I could rest.
While I was on shore convincing myself to go back out there, John took to the sport immediately. He popped up on his first try, quick and balanced. Over the course of the lesson he even caught a couple of sizable waves. He is in love with surfing. I got nervous that he was going to abort the trip to continue living in the van, surfing full time. This is common dream for surfers and rock climbers, to live in a van and indulge in the sport full time. It was clear driving around San Diego that many people do indeed live in RVs, and also in cars. I am sure some of the RV-dwellers are these surfer types that chose to move into a van. There is a free dump station at a boat launch in the city, so it is easy logistically to live that lifestyle in San Diego.
I did get back in the ocean to give surfing an honest try. Realizing now that I was not comfortable in above-my-head waves, Matt kept me closer into shore and launched me on smaller waves to practice popping up. After many, many tries, eventually I did finally stand. One time I even rode the wave all the way in, and twice I stood but was off-balance. So maybe I could learn the sport, but I have no interest in being lashed around by huge waves with a huge board strapped to my ankle. So I don’t think I will be trying surfing again.
After surfing we drove to the boat launch to use the dump station, and had dinner in the parking lot by the bay. Walking around near the water we saw many bunnies hopping around the shore looking for their own dinner. Bunnies are about the cutest animals there are, with their big ears, big eyes and little cotton ball tail.
Our last day in the city we biked down the Mission Bay bike path, where we had the opportunity to watch people and wildlife. At the end of the path in a small park overlooking where we had surf lessons, a man pointed out a pod of dolphins out just beyond the surfers, and the pelicans following them looking for a free lunch. We even rode the roller coaster in the amusement area. One of our first dates was to Cony Island to ride the Cyclone, so we have a special fondness for wooden roller coasters.
The previous night down at the boat launch John went for a skateboard ride and discovered beautiful Fiesta Island. We had dinner by the beach on the island, then John went for a walk while I washed dishes. As he walked out the door he promised that he “wouldn’t go far”; half an hour later he called me because he was lost. John can’t help himself around RVs…he saw a group of them and walked over to check them out, losing track of where he came from. Once I sent him the GPS coordinates of the van he was able to make his way back home.
We enjoyed our time in San Diego, tasting the beach-bum life. Personally I think the city is too spread-out and car-centric to live in full-time, but I think John may just try move there and become a surfer!
March 22-26, 2014