Travel Moment: Overcoming Fear and Surfing Waikiki

Surfing lesson in Waikiki

I mentioned on my previous diving post that I am terrified of sharks. It’s a stupid fear, but so are most fears.

I can dive, swim and snorkel as long as there is clear visibility and I can see the bottom of the ocean. Drop me in deep or murky waters and you will most likely see me have a panic attack. If I think long and hard about where this fear comes from, I can pinpoint a few moments that are stamped in my memory bank forever, like having algae and fish touching my legs in murky waters, a moray eel that swam between my legs when I was seven and was, shortly after, murdered by adults like it was the most dangerous thing out there (which made me fear it even more), a water moccasin snake that swam beside me in a lake in Texas and a few close encounters with marine life with big teeth that meant me no harm, but still made me want to loose my lunch.

The fear also stems from being aware that I am slower than pretty much anything with teeth and over 4 feet long in any body of water.

I have never been attacked, have not met anyone who has or who knows anyone who has been attacked by a shark- oh, wait, now I have. Someone who died actually… but never mind, my point is, I am not uninformed, I know that shark attacks are rare and that I am more likely to die in traffic or be attacked on the street by some thug than by a shark. I am a conservationist. I believe that shark killing, hunting and harvesting is wrong and cruel, BUT I still fear them.

Being over informed just fuel my fears even more. I know sharks attack from the bottom, I know their favorite prey, that their coloring and cunning allows them to camouflage and slide just under the surface without being seen. I also know they are so damn fast and effective as predators, that the likelihood of surviving a shark attack without any major damage are pretty slim. Oh, and there is that totally unprovoked Tiger Shark attack on a German snorkeler in Maui that ended up dying.

So I fear them, and it’s not just any shark. I fear specific ones, big ones, with serrated sharp teeth. I have seen Nurse and Wobbegong sharks in dives up and close. I don’t fear them or reef sharks. When it comes to sharks as a species, these are my homies!

The ones that creep me out, are the usual culprits of shark attacks and that don’t seem to think too much about taking a bite at something just to taste it – bull sharks, tiger sharks, great whites and any shark really that would be prowling for a round, delicious five feet turtle or sea lion – because that describes me in a nutshell. 

So surfing, has always been something I have shied away from when presented with the opportunity.

The first time I came to Waikiki, I watched as travelers went into the waters and had surfing lessons, and when I returned home, I regretted not having tried it. To me, a cardinal rule in life is to have few regrets, so this time around, I would not leave Hawaii without surfing Waikiki, the place once reserved for royalty and the birthplace of modern surfing.

Still my unconscious mind had me holding out until almost last minute. With only a few days before I returned home, I took the plunge and took a lesson with Hawaiian Oceans right on Waikiki. It cost me US$60 for an hour instruction and included an additional one hour board rental, that unfortunately I wasn’t able to use due to exhaustion and motion sickness.

My instructor was a great dude name Winfred, that went by Winnie the Pooh. No, seriously! And Winnie was awesome! He was Sargent like, nicely yelling at me to get on my board and paddle, even when my shoulder muscles were burning and waves were erasing all the ground I gained just 10 mins earlier. When I made it back to Winnie, short breathed and ready to quit, he would yell at me again to paddle and catch the next wave. I got my money’s worth for that one hour in the water!

Surfing in Waikiki

It was the perfect tough love instruction that I prefer and I was pleasantly surprised that I was able to get up and ride waves right at first try. I was also surprised that the waters were so shallow I could touch the bottom and see my feet most of the time (hence my fear of sharks decreased a little) and that I enjoyed it a lot more than I expected.

Surfing in Waikiki
Getting up on my first wave…yeah!

 

After an hour in the water, my body started showing symptoms of a newbie. My shoulders were on fire from paddling, my mouth salty and dry, and overall, I was starting to feel nauseated from sea-sickness and from early onset dehydration.

Those surfers make it look easy…

BUT, it was awesome! I faced my fear and I surfed for the first time in Waikiki. How cool is that?

Unbeknownst to me, Hawaiian Oceans had a photographer take our pictures while we were on the water and I was able to buy them all in a CD documenting my great feat, insurance in case the pictures that Mr. GoodLife took didn’t come up (he wasn’t sure the focus was right). But he did great! All the pics in this post were taken by the hubby.

After looking at the pictures, I realized the waves were so baby-sized. In the water, they looked much bigger. Oh well, I will still count that as surfing Waikiki…wouldn’t you?

So have you ever surfed? What was your first time like? Any fears?

Happy Xploring!

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