Story | How I Learned Surfing with a Hawaiian Surf Legend
So here is the story of my first surf lesson ever, in Newport Beach California.
I had only one day to spend there on my way to Venice, coming from San Diego. I heard Newport had a great surf community so I decided I would learn to surf that afternoon.
As always, I didn’t plan anything or look up a surf school before arriving. I kind of gave up on planning things simply because every time I plan something – I never follow the plan. I arrive in Newport beach’s parking lot and see many surfers changing by their cars or just casually chilling in their wetsuits.
That moment was special to me because it made me realize how these people live such a different life than we do in Eastern Canada. Most of them surf every day, they’ll go during their lunch break at work, go catch a couple waves and watch the sunset on their boards before going home for dinner and so on… I found it somewhat beautiful to see so many people passionate about surfing and thought to myself their lifestyle must be amazing. In Canada, I snowboard, but it's bit more complicated to hit the slopes as I live in the city. Most people will go on weekends and that’s only in the winter… In Newport Beach, it’s an everyday thing and people are IN SHAPE.
Trust me, you realize it why when you try surfing for the first time. It’s definitely the most physically demanding sport I’ve tried in my life.
no surf school to be found
Surprisingly, I walked the whole boardwalk looking for a surf school with no school to be found, and even though I was hungover and tired I had one mission that day, and it was learning to surf! I end up walking into this tiny hotel with no one at the front desk. I ring the little silver bell and a lady shows up. I ask her if she has any surf school recommendations and she tells me she doesn’t know of any.
How can it be this hard to find a surf school in Newport… As I am walking away she says:
“Let me text my coworker Sarah, she surfs.”
We get an instant reply suggesting to call Richard.
With no expectations, I call Richard. He tells me he just left the beach and seems hesitant to meet me. He asks me a bunch of questions, my weight, height, if it’s my first time etc, and then asks me where I’m from. When I tell him I’m from Montreal he get’s pretty excited. He tells me people in Montreal call him “Loup Garou” because he drinks lots of beer and goes to bed late at night – or early in the morning... I’m like “Hey, I drink lot’s of beer too!” and there you have it, we become friends. He gives me a meeting point by this big rock on the beach between lifeguard station 21 and 22 and says he’s on his way.
the hawaiian surf instructor
I sit there, anticipating who this person is. I’m thinking, I’m gonna suck big time at surfing because I’ve been told it’s really hard. I wait half an hour, stretch , do a few yoga poses and Richard shows up. He is clearly Hawaiian, probably in his 40’s. He is super friendly, gives me a wetsuit and then does something really special…
He put’s his hand on my head and starts talking in Hawaiian…For like 2 minutes. I’m thinking, wow this is so cool, but super weird, I have no clue what he is saying and we JUST MET. Once he is done, he’s tells me :
“OK get on that board.”
“Wait, what did you just say?”
He tells me,
“I gave you a blessing because the ocean will kill you.”
I’m like, okkkk GREAT !
the (Crazy) hawaiian surf instructor
This is when Richard (which is not even his real name because people can’t pronounce his real Hawaiian name), turns into a monster (sorry Richard) When we started practicing the basic steps in the sand, he started yelling and swearing at me.
Of course, I kept fucking up the basics because I’m ADD and I have a sneaky Hangover. You know the ones where you wake up totally fine but it creeps up on your as the day progresses? Anyway. I’m not putting my feet at the right place, touching the rails which you’re not supposed to do etc. He’s yelling:
‘’WTF MAX – ARE YOU FUCKING LISTENING TO ME ? START OVER.’’
‘’FUCKKKKK YOU’RE DOING IT AGAIN – DON’T TOUCH THE RAIL.’’
If you’re wondering why he’s calling me max, it’s because he didn’t get my name even though I told him 5 times. It seems really hard for the English speaking world to pronounce Magali right. So I just accepted that Max was my name for the day.
At that point, I’m not even in the water yet and I think to myself : What is wrong with this man ? Is he a surfing psychopath ? I’m actually thinking about getting off the board and yelling back to him:
‘’WHY ARE YOU SO ANGRY ? I’M DONE !’’ and run off. But I didn’t.
So we go in the water and I actually catch a huge wave on my second try. As I come back out, surfer’s start clapping because they can see it’s my first time and as I was riding the wave, I was so focused on not falling I didn’t realize the wave I caught was huge, so I guess they were impressed. Haha, yeah so I’m all proud and shit but my surf instructor doesn’t sound proud at all. He basically keeps yelling at me the whole time, telling me how out of shape I am, yelling to NOT TOUCH THE FUCKING RAIL or MAX WHAT THE FUCK ARE YOU DOING?
He did tell me one thing during the lesson that kept me going though :
‘’Remember that teacher in high school you hated so much because he was such a pain the ass, but with whom you learned the most ? Well the ocean will kill you, and I am here to teach you well, and teach you right.’’
Did I mention how intense surfing is ? I thought I was gonna have a heart attack. I’m not even kidding and that’s coming from a person who runs two times a week and does a lot of yoga. Let me tell you, you think you’re in good shape until you start surfing.
It must of been 50 minutes through the lesson, I finally tell Richard I had enough because I’m super exhausted yes, and I’m pretty sick of hearing him yell at me like I’m in the military. I swear, people on the beach were looking at me thinking to themselves poor girl.
At the end of the lesson, he tells me he’ll evaluate my performance. Because of the way he acted the whole time I’m expecting an F or something, even though I personally think I did pretty good for my first time. He writes down the grades of various people he taught to during the Day. F…C…D.. A- … and then he writes down in the Sand that I get a B! He then tells me how great I did, and starts morphing into a nice person. He tells how sorry he is for being so intense but he acted that way to make sure I learn properly and I'm safe when out in the water...
We decide to go get a beer together, because you know, we both like beer and I realize everyyyyone knows him in Newport. We go to this little bar by the ocean and start talking…I learn about his story and he shows me a post a woman wrote about her experience on social media…This is when I find out he’s a Hawaiian surf Legend from the 1970’s. We talked for hours, drank 6 pints each, took a couple shots, became buddy’s and watched the sunset together. This day, was probably one of the best days of my trip.
I highly recommend this teacher if you go to Huntington beach or Newport beach. He is worth the detour…Just remember one thing: your best high school teacher wasn’t the nicest. Be tough. You’ll learn like a champion with this amazing person full of great stories and if you’re lucky he’ll pull out his ukulele out of his camper van and play you a song while the sun sets.
Make sure you hit him up when you’re in the area.