Trying to be a Fifty-Two Year Old Shredder…..Is it Possible?
As I trolled the street around 6:45 am looking for parking before my surf lesson at Del Mar, I blasted the heat a bit because it was “cold,” according to Southern California terms. I was half-dressed in my wetsuit, so my legs were warm, but my upper torso was a bit chilled even though I had on a hoodie. I found a spot close to the Power House Park and backed in, hopped out of my car, practically ran to the back of the car to warm up and flung open the hatchback of my Prius. I pulled out my surf booties from the organized pile of surf stuff I kept back there permanently and sat on the curb to put them on. I no longer can stand to put them on. My knees do not get to my chest anymore; well, to be honest, they can’t even get up as high as my hips sometimes. My pop-up will be a little wonky today because my hips are moving very stiffly. I finished putting my booties on, swung one of my legs in my trunk, bent the knee at a 90-degree angle, and began my hip stretches. I am not letting my accumulating joint creakiness get the best of my surfing.
After I stretched both hips, I did a few upper shoulder stretches because my left shoulder has a tear in it, but if I keep my PT exercises up along with Pilates, I move a little better. My paddling is not up to what it used to be, though. The strength and endurance has dwindled some. Now I need all this extra warm-up and not to mention vitamins every day. I hate vitamins. They make me nauseous, but I prefer to feel energetic and strong and deal with the slight nausea.
I grabbed my shortboard out of the trunk, placed it on the grass, pulled out my wax kit from my pile, and waxed the board’s deck. I have been trying to master this board for four years, but now that I am older, I can’t paddle this thing that well anymore. I was going to borrow Dan’s shortboard that I can paddle better than my own. Maybe because it is a bit denser and a little longer, or since I gained weight in my middle, it has thrown EVERYTHING off, and there is nothing I can do but starve myself. That is not an option since I beat an eating disorder in my teens, and I will not go back there…ever.
I was a ballerina in my teens and then gained all this weight due to an eating disorder gone awry. I was anorexic, then swung to bulimia and compulsive eating when I was dancing. I couldn’t handle the dance industry telling me to lose more weight when I was already anorexic and I would never make a top ballet company because I was “too thick.” If you looked at pictures of me when I was dancing at 14, one would disagree with me being “too thick.” My legs were muscular and not toothpicks that NY ballet companies preferred, but why should I be called “thick” or told to lose more weight. So case in point, the menopause shit is tough for me. I take pride in my strength and muscular body to keep a positive outlook until menopause took that away too! In one year, I was flattened to a pancake and was sporting a Spong Bob Square Pants figure. Every morning, I awoke from a sleepless night and my joints were aching like I worked out for 5 hours the day before. Oh, and my flexibility was gone! My hip and lower back hurt so bad I couldn’t move my leg correctly while I was walking. I would swing it out of bed, walk around to get the blood flow going and drink coffee to wake up, dehydrating my body further. This is 50??!! Well, it sucked. I started to retreat into myself. My financial situation was in dire straights, too, so that didn’t help. I also chose to pack up my things in NYC and move across the country to be an actual surfer at 48, so the financial part is whole another story saved for another time.
I have been trying to figure this menopause stuff out for two years now with a lot of frustration and trial and error. It has affected my surfing and my psyche a lot. In a more positive sense, I am trying to embrace it and work with the body I have now, not the body I used to have. I don’t want to be that sad 50 year old trying to be a 25-year-old. I have seen some ladies my age act that way, and it saddens me. I also do not want to act 80 years old, so I keep active and working out as much I can to stay positive and healthy. It is not easy; don’t get me wrong. I feel like I am pulling myself out of the negative rabbit hole more than being positive, hopping around like a happy bunny.
I decided to commit to short boarding and I decided I need to fix my attitude toward menopause. So tackling a new physical project was the first choice. The next was Hormone replacement therapy. The doctor I chose was a holistic MD and not on my health plan. $500 later, it was worth the money. Some ladies buy $1000 handbags and clothes. Not me; I spend money on my body and health. I figure if my body is looking and feeling good, I can wear anything. The work was not even close to done for me to get back on a shortboard, but I keep trying. I feel like a complete kook again, not the competent surfer that I am. In the positive aspect, it improves my longboarding tremendously, so all is not lost.
I pulled my wetsuit up and locked my car, and tucked my key fob in my little pocket in the neck of my wetsuit., zipped the neck, adjusted the neck so the key was not in any vulnerable places. I jogged to the break to get some blood flow in my body and looked at the waves. 2–3 feet not bad. I like to learn in smaller waves. I am still fumbling on this board to catch waves. If I had my longboard, Greenie, that I ride as a shortboard, I could catch any wave on that board. Yes, I name my boards; I believe they have souls. OK, I am a real kook!
Last week I had a lesson with my friends and caught 0 waves. I thought that might be the case since I have not been on my shortboard in a year.
Today I was not expecting much, but I kept practicing reading waves and not just going by feel might be a plus. I was heading the Sport session that my surf club hosts. I get to jump in the lesson for free since I am coordinating it. I checked everyone in and paddled out with the girls. I decided to hang on the shoulder and practice my wave reading and hoping I could catch one. I borrowed Dan’s shortboard, which was 6'3 and had a little more volume than mine. I kept paddling and missing the waves. One guy in the water totally snaked me since he knew I was struggling and could not out paddle him. I got so mad. I mean, I could have easily been his mother’s age, so he snaked his mother?!? Really?
I felt dejected but kept a positive attitude. I am just practicing reading the waves. Then it happened! A beautiful wave came my way. I paddled into position, watching the wave and the power part of it. I angled the board and BOOM! I quickly popped up on the board and rode it down the line. Once I am on the board, I can play around on the wave, but my weakest part is the catching and reading the wave. But that moment burned in my mind and body. Dan saw it, and he said, “You nailed it!”
I felt so happy and accomplished after catching no waves last week to catching a nice one this week. Baby steps, one technique at a time.
It takes time and patience to be a ripper at 52.