June 20, 2008

Profile of an Adventurous Woman: Surf's Up!

Guest post by Jan who founded an adventure group in Southern California.

I have always been a water baby.

In 1955, our first house was on Bangor Lane, less than ½ block from the beach in Ventura, CA. Ventura, at that time, was one of the great, gritty beach towns, as famous for oil as it was for surfers, second only to Huntington Beach.

I have fond memories of planning my escapes to the beach. When I went missing, which was often, my parents knew where to find me…sitting in the edge of the surf playing in the sand. As I was only 18 months old, this caused great concern for my parents, and so, hook latches were installed on the doors. Not to be dissuaded, and having a lot of time on my hands, I soon learned how to foil the latches with a broom handle. Spring latches came next, and again, I learned how to use a broom to slide and push the locks open. Having exhausted their creativity in keeping me safe…we moved inland. I discovered puddles. I discovered I could make puddles with the garden hose. And after flooding the backyard for the 3rd time, the handles were removed from the spigots.

It’s not easy being a water baby…or the parents of one.

The summer of 1974 was my summer of discovery and freedom. I was recovering from my first bout with cancer and I had decided life was just too short to try and please everyone. I decided also, that recover was not going to be spent safe in bed battling nausea and pain, I was going to direct my own recovery. I began to get up each morning before dawn, pack a lunch sack, towel, thermos of water, and go to the beach.

I would start the day walking. It was ¼ mile from lifeguard tower 1 to tower 2, and a struggle to make the walk to and back. But soon, I was jogging the entire length of beach 6 times to make a daily run of 6 miles.

I had gone to school with most of the life guards on that beach, and one day, Art and Eric, taught me to body surf on their break. I spent the remainder of that summer body surfing, boogie boarding, and free diving up to 35 feet for clams, abalone, rocks, whatever was available down there.

Time marches on, and between the demands of family and work, my days at the beach came less and less often as my husband and daughter were not water babies. Soon, the glorious days of summer, and the love of the water were replaced by other activities.
Life also changes, and as that marriage ended, I was delighted to meet the love on my life. He was one of the surfers from that old beach I used to surf the summer of '74. We got married, and I finally had someone in my life who understood my call to water. He was a career military man, and not long into our marriage took a 1 year unaccompanied overseas assignment on Okinawa. We spoke almost every day, usually after he returned from scuba diving or surfing with his buddies after work. I mentioned one day I would like to learn to dive and he said…”what’s stopping you”? By the end of the week I was enrolled in a NAUI class and 6 weeks later I was diving for the first time. Upon his return from Okinawa, we spent several weekends traveling to Catalina Island for boat diving, or beach diving from San Clemente to Laguna Beach at places like Divers Cove, 1000 Steps and others. For my birthday that year, my husband gave me sailing lessons and we began to alternate our weekends between sailing and diving. But soon, work and family took priority again as my parents were getting older and required more care.

Winter 2006

I got a call from my now grown daughter. She said my grandsons had something to ask me. “Grandma…Mom told us you used to surf…would you teach us”? they asked. Good grief was my first response. I haven’t surfed in 20 years or more. But I understand the draw and I said yes…then I enrolled in a gym with a pool and spent 6 agonizing weeks getting my 50+ year old, 50+ extra lb body back into some semblance of fitness.

I bought us all boogie boards and shorties (short wetsuits) and we planned our first trip to the beach. While I didn’t get much board time in that day, we spend a wonderful day in the water with the boys sharing something we love. It’s now a regular family outing. We incorporate safety training into each trip, reviewing what they have already learned about reading the water, and adding something new to the training. Last trip it was prevailing and rip currents; how to spot them, what to do if you get caught in a current. The boys have become quite comfortable with the boogie boards, and we’ll soon present them with their own surf boards and start lessons.

Last trip out, my oldest grandson said “Grandma…Mom said you used to dive…will you teach me?”

I’ll save the answer for another blog, another day.

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