Friday, November 21, 2008

Best.Surf.Ever ... (or best yet anyway!)

This morning was awesome ... your first time always is .. right!?!
I stood up on my surfboard ... woo hoo!
I had a lesson at 10 am at Umina beach (fyi, pronounced you-mine-ah).
My instructor Kelly had given me a surfboard to try a of week or so ago with the idea that I'd buy it. It's a 7'6'' foam and epoxy board & it's purple, so very girlie & cute. It's a bit beat up as it's used, but it rides nice & light in the water. I'd been out twice with it & sort of went "meh" ... I was just as bad on it as the 8 ft I was borrowing for lessons, so maybe I'll get it.
Last Wednesday (extra day off after our trip to Brisbane), I tried it out for an hour or so at Umina & the surf was almost totally flat. I got a lot of paddling practice, but I didn't catch a single worthwhile wave. As I was leaving I passed a group of school kids coming down to the beach & overheard this one little kid pipe up "Oh, those waves are crap!" Wiser words have never been spoken young surfer dude.
Then on Sunday I met the WowGirls (a group of women I've joined who gets together & surfs ... oh & also bellydances, drums, kayaaks & yogas, etc ... an all-around very cool group of people) at Shelly Beach. It was brutal. It was a full moon high tide, ie. very high & the wind was blowing straight into the beach. The waves were breaking right at the beach & there was tons of them & they were huge. I was thrown up on the beach so many times I was carrying perhaps a pound of sand in my wetsuit & about half a pound in my left eye. Again, not a great test of the board, except to find out that it can sure take a beating.
But today ... I was like Goldilocks ... it was just right!
The waves were big enough to be challenging & small enough to be managable even by a spazz like me. They came in groups, so if you missed one you could catch one of the next ones & with short flat time in between the wave groups to paddle back out. They also broke well before shore ... overall, sweet. I got up on the second wave I caught ... granted I looked like Kermit the frog when he announced guests on the Muppet Show ... you remember, flippers in the air waving around, skinny legs juking, mouth wide open ... well, that was me. Standing up sure helps control the wipeouts, you just kick the board out front when you lose the wave & then fall back or to the side. Beyond the intense saltwater sinus flush, it's a good way to go.
I ended up staying for another hour and a bit after the class with a couple of the women in my group. We couldn't stop ... it was too good, despite the raw knees & elbows ( I really should have bought a full wetsuit instead of a shortie). I probably would have stayed out a good deal longer but my board decided to show me how sharp it's fins could be. Somehow I fell forward off a wave & my board got behind me & sliced my big toe as it sailed by. Actually, it was more potato peeler than cheese grater so it was quick & clean. Despite the stinging pain ... Yesss! ... my first surfing injury! So big smiles as I limped over to Brian on the beach.
We then got to meet the lifeguards as we asked to borrow a bandage. Most of the lifesavers here are volunteers & set up like a family day at the beach, including picnic baskets & their kids, etc. They were pretty bored at the time, so three of them attended to me & laughed at the silly Canadian with the goofy grin stuck on her face. Their kids were all oohing & ahhing over the blood as it was being washed off. I made so many people happy today. No stitches required even, who could ask for more!?!
Oh, needless to say, I now own my own board, so I will be terrrorizing the beaches up and down the Central Coast from this day forward.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008


On Saturday (November 15th) I woke up early and realized I had to finish reading a book as it was due at the Gosford Public Library & I couldn’t renew it as someone had a hold on it. Oh, I felt so powerless having no public librarian pull at all … Anyway, after speed-reading one third of one of those huge fantasy door-stoppers and picking up major plot points, snippets of dialogue & absolutely no scenery or descriptive prose, I was ready to trot down to return my book.
It was a nice day & Brian was up for a walk so we headed out. Partway down Showground Road a car came towards us that was notable. It was covered with lights, garlands & writing. It also had a floppy ragdoll Santa Claus precariously perched on the top of the windshield. The driver gave us a wave as they drove by & we waved back thinking … hmmm … interesting … they were awfully excited about the holiday a month and a half away & do we know them!?!
We continued towards town & as we got closer we saw a couple of people wearing matching clothes & carrying instruments. There often are events in the centre of Gosford on the weekend so we assumed a band had shown up to play for something or other. Then we saw a few more people also carrying instruments and wearing different colours. Then we saw a whole group of people carrying instruments & wearing complete Asian headdresses & costumes. One person handed us a Falun Gong pamphlet (a block after the Jesus pamphlet guy got us), so perhaps the costumes were Chinese, but they looked kind of Thai or Indonesian with the intricate & ornate headdresses. It was like being in a musical version of the Warriors … all the gangs were out, dressed in their colours, packing tubas and ready to rumble.
Finally, we got to centre of town & our questions were answered … it was the end of the Gosford Santa Claus parade & we were entering the surreal. There was a big stage set up and there was quite a line-up presented. First there was the local Town Crier dressed in full on Ye Old English wear. Next to him was Santa Claus visibly suffering in the humidity. Then there were 3 or 4 more of the elaborately costumed Falun Gong supporters. Peering from behind them was what I thought was a large blue bulb of garlic, but Brian supposed it was a creepy drop of water. For a mascot, he actually had a bit of a sinister look about him as he scanned the crowd from behind the line of peaky gold headgear. We actually saw the blue lump on the ground later with a sweaty young man wearing bright blue tights sprawled out beside it. We asked him what he represented & it turns out Brian was right, he was Whizzy the Waterdrop. Water conservation is a pretty big deal here, so he was there to browbeat the public into turning off their taps. Well, I was sold.
Here’s a picture of Whizzy in better days.

I’m not quite sure what contributed to his decline, but the change was quite remarkable. The Whizzy we saw that morning had developed an over-bite with large, elongated front teeth, his eyebrows were bushier & closer together thereby increasing the intensity of his gaze quite a bit & he was much faded in colouring. Quite sad really … perhaps a doomed affair, leading to depression & a few lost years at the bottom of a bottle? Who can tell?
Oh, there was also a full marching band playing while a large koala mascot in a Santa hat was dancing around.
It was all a bit much to come across by chance. As we walked around a bit I spied … nooo … they are packing up the outdoor griddles … we missed a pancake breakfast! Argh … will there ever be any other outdoor breakfast event I enjoy more? Never! We did scoop up some left-over free juice boxes though.
We decided then to head to the library & have some lunch at a nearby cafe. By the time we finished lunch, the town square was virtually empty. If the bouncy castle had not still been set up it would seem to be just a humidity-induced hallucination. So this is Christmas in Australia so far … interesting!