The Coast News Group
New surfers Samara Diggs and Mia Haugen join their instructor after an afternoon in the waves. Photo by Dana Abplanalp-Diggs
Columns Waterspot

Waterspot: Summer is the season for young surfers

Think of all the great firsts in your life: First date, first kiss, first wave ridden.

If you’re like most of us who grew up on the coast, you know that if the best of your life were to flash before your eyes, it would be an endless reel of summers.

Starting with that summer day in 1962 when I began surfing in earnest until last week when I came to my feet and managed a few small turns, the thrill has never deserted me.

But while I continue to play at riding waves, I concede that summer is meant primarily for children. It is their gift from heaven.

It’s been decades since I was a kid, hitchhiking to the beach and borrowing a surfboard. It was a magical time filled with new sites and sounds, a great adventure that would shape the rest of my life.

Now, with all the bad news and restrictions in the world, I wondered if summer was being put on hold.

I mean, we recently witnessed virtual proms and graduations, and you can surf virtually. No, you can’t.

Being locked into an artificial computer world may be fun, but it is not really surfing.

Still, I wondered if the second wave of cancellations might bring a new ban on the world’s best cure for everything including boredom, surfing. 

I was drifting toward a deep funk when I received a text from Grauer School principal Dana Abplanalp-Diggs. She wondered if I was available to teach her daughter Samara and her friends Mia and Jack Haugen to surf.

Even though I fall into the “at risk” category, I said yes, without considering the possibility of infection. No, not that type of infection, but that seasonal illness that leads to joy-filled days and pleasant dreams.

The sky was overcast and the surf was small and blown out when we arrived.

One of the joys of being a beginner, however, is that conditions have zero bearing on the fun quotient. And the fun was on, on to the point where none from the trio returned from their romp in the water for over two hours.

Countless smiles later, surfing had three new converts, drying off in the evening sun before dragging their feet in the sand as they were coaxed toward home and dinner.

Everyone knows that there are risks associated with surfing: stingrays, jellyfish, the rare shark sighting and the equally rare possibility of drowning.

There is also a good possibility of getting sunburned and, these days, catching a disease.

Then there’s the painful possibility of being hit by your own or someone else’s surfboard.

During my first two years as a surfer, I had stitches in my head twice after colliding with a loose board and received another set of stitches on the opposite side of my body after stepping on a broken bottle.

But surf stoke prevailed to the point that I surfed the very next weekend even after ripping the stitches out of my foot and filling it with sand.

Few risks were too great to keep me out of the water.

On our last day of surf lessons, Samara Diggs got closer to her board than she planned. The result was a bruised lip. I know it hurt, but judging by her smile at day’s end I also know that she’ll be back on the ocean soon.

Happy summer Samara, Mia, Jack and every kid seeking an endless summer. This one’s for you. 

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