Learning to Surf in Sayulita

At over 30 years old, somehow I found the courage to give surfing a try in Sayulita, Mexico about 45 minutes North of Puerto Vallarta. It is a quaint little town with tonnes of restaurants and boutique shops along with a great tourist market. Not to mention a beautiful beach with great (small) waves for learning to surf.

My friend and I paid $400 Mexican Pesos each for a 15-minute on-land demonstration, 1 hour with the instructor in the water with us and then we could use the board for another full hour on our own. For about $35 USD, I figured that wasn’t too bad.

We suited up with ‘rash guards’. They are shirts that cover your tummy and sometimes your arms so they don’t rub up against the rough surface of the surfboard and give you a rash. Hmmm, I didn’t know that! I thought they were either used to keep you warm if you are surfing somewhere like Nova Scotia (like a wet suit) or to protect you from the sun while you are on the water for hours.

We were paired up with our boards, popped them on top of our heads and headed to a flat area of beach close to the water’s edge. Here our instructor demonstrated the importance of staying in the centre of the board along with two different ways to stand up on the board.

The first way was very similar to doing a burpee, but slightly sideways. A pushup to a jump with your feet to plant them on the board, then keeping your knees bent, stand up almost straight.

The second way was more like a yoga move where you would move and plant your dominant foot, go into a position close to plank and move your non-dominant foot through and to the front where you would then balance and stand up similarly to warrior pose, but with your feet sideways, not forward.

We then repeatedly tried standing up in the right positions with our boards on flat, stationary sand. Easy enough, right?

Keep in mind that you start by laying down on your board on your tummy and paddling with your arms, then you do a push-up motion, plant your feet, gain your balance before you stand up. Before we ever entered the water I had lifted and carried my board to the water and then I had done about 12 push-ups. That may not seem like a lot, but when you don’t work out regularly, 12 push-ups is a lot for a girl and likely for some men too! I was fatigued before ever getting in the water.

The water in Sayulita is quite shallow with small to medium-sized waves. Nothing extravagant, but excellent for learning. We walked our boards out about 500 feet before hopping on them. Getting on the board is a task in itself. It is sort of like getting in a kayak or canoe when you are in the water rather than on a dock. The difference being that you are aiming to lay on your tummy instead of sit on your bum. Once again, this requires a push-up style motion and upper body strength as you lift your body out of the water to lay on top of the board. Once in position, we were about to paddle out further to catch our first waves. While paddling, when a wave is coming toward you, if it is going to crest as you are approaching, you do a push up on the board to raise the nose over the top of the wave. Ah yes, more push-ups!

The time had come for me to give it my first go. My instructor put my board in position and stood, watching for a good wave. As one approached he told me to paddle, then as it got closer he gave the board a good push, there was a rush of power from the wave along with a bit of adrenaline and then he yelled ‘Up!’, so I slowly started to get in position. It felt like it took five minutes to anchor my dominant foot, plank, move my left foot forward, get my balance and stand up. Somehow though, however slow it was, I managed to get the right position, stand up and ride my very first wave all the way into ankle-deep water.

Shari Surfing in Sayulita, Mexico
I was absolutely beyond amazed at what I had just done. I was pretty sure it hadn’t been pretty, but nonetheless, I caught my very first wave and it was exhilarating. I didn’t know at the time that there was a photographer capturing the whole process to later sell us the photos, but I was glad he was.

It got worse toward the end as I got more and more tired. Sure was lots of fun though!
You’re never too old to try!

White woman and black man having fun learning to surf

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