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Tue, July 16

Around the Bluhmin' Town: Catching a wave brings exhilaration, introspection

As with life, surfing is best when you’re prepared, and you let yourself go with the flow.

Thinkstock<br> As with life, surfing is best when you’re prepared, and you let yourself go with the flow.

I am a surfer. All right, I should clarify: I have surfed. Yes, Dear Readers, I caught one wave, hung ten and went on the long board. In other words, I spent a couple of days in La Jolla and have figured out the art of paddle, wait, stand and pray. Oh yeah, and I got to wear a wet suit. Which, in my opinion, is the ultimate "outfit" that makes everyone look fabulous.

I was walking on the beach and a woman in her mid-50s had a little sign that said: "Surfing lessons for women only." I stopped to chat. Her name, Bella Splash, intrigued me. She was wearing a bikini, charged $40 for an hour lesson, and had several surfboards and wet suits to choose from. I have surfed over the past 20 years, mostly with grandsons who ended up mastering the sport. But I usually paddle out, stand up and fall off the board. I never took a lesson. What did I have to lose? (Except my life).

It all started when my husband, Doug, signed up for kayaking. Going with a group from La Jolla Shores, they paddle out to underground caves. He asked if I wanted to go with him. No! After 35 years together, I think me sitting in the back of a kayak and trying to synchronize my movements (paddle right - no left) is not my idea of harmony. In fact, the kayak company says that many a couple has bopped each other on the head with their oars because they cannot paddle in unison. So that is the dirty little secret on why kayak companies make you wear helmets. Because spouses are knocking each other on the head! Ouch.

Getting back to my surf instructor, Bella Splash, it seems she lived most of her life in Des Moines, Iowa, happily married to a doctor till she found out he was having an affair with his office nurse. So the former Betty Brown did something amazing. She left Des Moines, went to a beach, learned to surf, changed her name, and now teaches surfing and yoga to "empower" women. Evidently she thought I needed a lot of empowering, because she spent two hours with me for her usual hourly rate. I must say again that I did find the wet suit the best thing I have ever put on. Cellulite? Covered! Bulges? Gone! Nothing like a sleek, black neoprene suit to make you feel wonderful!

Bella showed me how to stand on the board. She says most woman fall forward. Standing, balance and "being centered" is evidently everything. Oh, and catching the "right wave" is crucial. Not powerful enough and you do not get the right "send-off." Too big and you will certainly crash. Bella said since it "takes years" to pick the right wave, just follow her lead. Okay, I can do this. Out we go. Lots of surfer guys were huddled around. Just waiting and talking about current affairs. ISIS, Ebola, stock market, football, all things to consider. I tried to make conversation and asked if anyone was afraid of sharks. That went over like a lead balloon. I guess it would be like asking a group of people at a bar if they ever worried about cirrhosis of the liver. Not good! I quickly changed the subject.

Oh, before I ever entered the water Bella had me stand on the board. Lie, kneel and stand. We went through that drill dozens of times. Hmm, I have not taken the technique seriously! Where you stand up on the board is important. How you place your feet is key. Bella was a wealth of knowledge and could not stop talking. She said if I catch "one good wave" I will experience the "ultimate" in freedom. Gliding on a wave, no other thoughts but the present moment, pure joy and exhilaration, is what she was selling. I was skeptical.

And then it happened. Bella shouted, "This is the one!" And all of a sudden we were paddling back toward shore as a giant wave came rushing in. A small miracle occurred that day. I paddled, got on my knees and, with Bella yelling "Now!", I stood up, riding on the top of a shimmering wall of water, for one blessed minute, I became a surfer. No worries, glimmering beach, blue ocean below and flying on the edge of a wave heading into shore for a smooth landing is about as good as it gets.

I left the beach pondering "Bella's Rules" (for surfing or life?). Choose the right wave wisely. Once you do, commit. Keep moving forward. Don't look back. Stand tall, chin up. Don't be afraid. Never let age stop you. Embrace the moment. Feel the joy. Seize the day. Enjoy the ride.

Judy Bluhm is a writer and a local realtor who lives in Skull Valley. Have a comment or a story? Email Judy at


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