June 30: Bruno I get it!

I woke up early and walked to the tiny bakery/grocery/café around the corner. They baked fresh bread every morning. The older lady who owned the store smiled at me as I walked in the door. She did not speak a lick of English but she had helped me the day before; we spent most of our conversation laughing together as I tried to come up with the Portuguese words for tomato sauce. From that moment on, we smiled and laughed every time I came to the store. I scurried home and made some breakfast and a sandwich for lunch after my surf lesson.

When I surf at a new location with new people this slight nervous feeling settles in my stomach. It’s like stage freight…or surf freight. But whenever I think of bailing I just picture this scene from the Notebook:

(get in the water)   

Ugh, fine Ryan, I’m going!

I had been surfing for three weeks and while I was slowly progressing, I still was not completely sure of what I needed to change. The other thing that could get on my nerves was a little dance I like to call…the wetsuit wiggle. This is basically how it goes…

The Wetsuit Wiggle:

Step 1: Place one foot at a time into wetsuit and attempt to not fall over
Step 2 Option A: Jump up and down like an idiot slowly pulling wetsuit over legs and hips
Step 2 Option B: Carefully pull and twist wetsuit over legs and hips like tights
Step 2 Option C: Create a combination sequence of A and B
Step 3: Place arms into wetsuit
Step 4: Attempt to pull up zipper from the back without getting hair stuck in it
Step 5: Once in wetsuit, attach scuba gear, and dive into the depths of the ocean to search for self-esteem
Step 6: When tiny bits of self-esteem crumbs have been discovered like buried treasure from a ship wreck, return to the surface, and get on your surf board

After arriving at Bar da Praia, I met Edgar and Bruno who gave me a small wetsuit. I went around the corner to put it on and perform the wetsuit wiggle as usual, and then, something magical happened. It was so easy! The fabric was thinner and lighter. I put on that small wetsuit in 5 seconds and zipped it up myself no problem. I think I’m in love.

Bruno only had two students that day: Finn, a 15 year old German kid, and me.

Finn’s dad was a surfer and set him up with lessons. He seemed a bit nervous too. Bruno, our instructor, was positive and helpful. He asked me to show him a take off on the beach before we got in the water.

In five minutes, Bruno turned me into a better surfer.

“Put your hands more towards your lower rips, not your shoulders, to push up first. Then twist your legs as you drag your back foot forward to the board. Don’t try to just pull it forward without twisting your hips.”

I was already floored by how much easier this way.

Then he showed me something that really changed the placement of my feet on the board.

He drew a line in the sand and told me to lay down on it. Then he said,

“Pretend like your toes are touching the tail of the board. Now lean back and draw a horizontal line where your shoulders were and draw a horizontal line where your knees are.”

Bruno then drew a semi-circle below the shoulder line and a semi-circle above the knee lie.

“Generally, that’s where your feet go.”


After practicing a couple new and improved take offs, Bruno, Finn, and I walked into the water.

Finn caught a wave on his first try.

Outside me: YAYY FINN!
Inside me: Fuckin’ kid.

There was also a photographer who worked for the surf business that would wait on the beach to snap a picture of us catching waves. The first few times I tried to catch a wave, he would hold up the camera anticipating an awesome surf shot and then slowly move the camera away from his face as I smacked into the water.

Well, that was only completely embarrassing.

“Remember Leah, surfing is all about feeling. Don’t look down at your feet. Feel where your body is on the board and in the water. Just feel it.”

After that…I let go and started feeling.

Then, I started crushing it, and catching little white wash waves like a champ.

“Did you get that shot Cameraman?!”

He would laugh and give me a thumbs-up from the shore.

“Okay Leah, last wave,” Bruno said to me.

I caught that little green wave and rode it alllll the way to the beach.

Need to bend my knees more but I'm getting it

Need to bend my knees more but I'm getting it

Awww yeahhhh. Finally getting it.

I carried my board back to the deck and told Edgar,

“Sign me up for the next few classes. I’m extending my stay in Baleal.”