We LOVE to travel and 95% of the time have a pretty darn good time while doing it. With the abundance of social media, it’s quite easy to form an impression that we’re floating on clouds all day long eating fresh huckleberry pie on the side of a mountain. After seeing many of our post and pictures you might think that we are just care free lucky ducks with not a problem in the world. Just like anyone and everyone else, we have our problems too. We take these little speed bumps along the road in stride but thought we would start a monthly series to shed some light on the not so glamorous side of long-term travel. We’re sharing some of the lessons we’ve learned over the past few years so sit back, relax and enjoy the mishaps!
One of the major reasons we went to South America last winter was to surf. No, we didn’t know how to surf. No, we hadn’t really surfed before. No, we didn’t really know what we were getting into. Surfing is no joke; its a beautiful sport but it is serious business. Having years of skate, snow, and longboard riding under my belt we figured surfing would come naturally. We were going to fly to Peru, hop on boards and be ripping 6 ft waves within a few days! Instead, we caught a long ride on the noobie train. Truth is, surfing felt as foreign as could be.
We chose one of the worst places to learn to surf. Huanchaco, Peru is known for it’s strong lefthand current. This means that as you’re paddling out, you’re not only fighting against the waves breaking on top of you but you’re steadily being pulled toward the ominous pier. In addition to the powerful waves, we were dodging thousands of sea urchins that peppered the sea bottom. On our second day of riding I went out to catch some waves with an Australian man named Joel. We had met in our hostel a couple of days back and was happy show me some skills.
Becca was back at the hostel in bed with a bug so she didn’t get the joy of getting crushed that day. I flailed around in the water for an hour or so with Joel while he cruised 5+ footers with ease. Eventually he went in to work at another hostel but I stayed out determined to ride. I finally caught a good wave but only lasted seconds before I fell and got rolled under water. When surfers are getting tumbled under the weight of all the water pushing down, all sense of up&down is completely lost. The only lifeline to the top is the tug of the surfboard leash as the board pops above water again. The leash jerks at the surfers leg and then one can start kicking for the top. Without the leash, a surfer could get tumbled over and over again without any idea where the surface of the water is.
As I’m doing cart-wheels under the surf I feel my board leash rip from my ankle. At this point I knew at that I had some issues. I broke the surface, looked around, and saw my board floating away much to far for me to reach. “Hope that doesn’t get snapped, …keep it together Alex don’t let these waves take you out,” I thought while I started back floating and calming my panicky nerves. At this point I am a good 7 minutes from shore with no board and a steady, consistent set of waves coming in. I was not having fun anymore, I was actually pretty scared having never been in such a pickle. Fortunately, I was able body surf the waves and back float into shore without too much trouble. Needles to say, I got humbled quickly and took to calmer waves.
Lesson Learned: When renting a surfboard you should always make sure that your leash is in good condition. My leash was years old and weathered, hence the reason the Velcro didn’t hold under a heavy wave. I bought a new leash for about $30 and continued to surf days later. I personally will use my own gear for surfing from now on because I feel safer knowing the history of what I am using. Never underestimate the power of the ocean, it won’t stop for you.