It was by pure chance that I met Ramses, a professional surfing instructor in Puerto Rico. While packing up my rental car en route to Rincon, I struck up a conversation with a polite local about my upcoming surfing adventure. After mentioning that I’d booked a group lesson, my new friend shook his head, then handed me a business card from his wallet, “Stay away from the group lesson, and call Ramses. He’s the only certified guy out on the water, and he’ll take care of you.” Given my “tall blond American girl” label, I was skeptical of advice that some Caribbean locals shared. But after asking several Rincon surfers if they knew Ramses, it became clear that the guy was the real deal.
Early the next morning, Ramses and I began our lesson on Maria’s beach, a haven for beginning surfers. He stressed the importance of reading the water prior to jumping in, and being aware of the weather and currents. With the board on the sand, Ramses showed me how to quickly jump into position in three steps: push up, plant feet, and up! What fun to have found a practical application for pushups and squats. Then, it was time to get wet. Little did I know that paddling would be the most tiring part; after paddling away from shore for a few minutes, my shoulders were on fire.
But my big moment had arrived. I lay on my board and focused on a distant point on shore, which I quickly forgot about when Ramses said the next wave was mine. As it approached, he shouted GO! and gave my board a strong push. I paddled hard, feeling the ocean swell underneath me. As the back of my board lifted I planted my hands and leapt into position… I was on my feet! What a fantastic sensation it was, feeling on top of the world while also sensing the ocean was in control. Realizing that the rocky shore was quickly advancing, I hopped of the right hand side of the board, the roar of the crested wave in my ears.
During the course of our three hour lesson, I noticed other beginners trapped in their group session, just sitting on their boards and waiting for their instructor to advise them. With Ramses, it was about catching all the epic (okay, “baby”) waves I could, his guiding me the whole time.
*One note to the ladies: be sure you wear a suit that will not move. It’s not so much that you might flash the world, rather you’ll be so excited when you get to your feet that you won’t notice you’ve flashed the world. And because your surfing compadres are primarily guys, they’re not likely to tell you that there has been a wardrobe malfunction. Fortunately I wore a Patagonia surf shirt over my suit, and am now a very, very loyal fan.