Riding the waves on Maine’s coast looks glorious from the beach, where so many of us have watched surfers out on the water from our stations on the sand. Maybe we thought surfing looked like a whole hell of a lot of fun. Maybe we’ve wanted to try it. And we should.
Maine Surfers Union, located on Free Street in Portland, is leading women’s surfing lessons on Wednesday evenings at Higgins Beach in Scarborough all summer. Called Lady Slide, the classes run weekly at 6 p.m. and cost $45 per class (wetsuits and surfboard included).
It’s a welcoming chance for beginners to glean tips from experienced surfers and learn to catch waves alongside other beginners. (There’s comfort in learning to surf in a group, where you’re all tumbling sideways into the water and not quite getting that pop-up right and then cheering each other on when it all starts to click.)
Learning to surf can be daunting for beginners. There’s the learning to surf part (the tipping over, the nose diving, the glorious tumbles into the whitewater), but there’s the surf etiquette part, too. There’s a whole world of lingo related to the dos and don’ts of surfing, and none of us wants to paddle into the waves and look like a jerk.
During the Wednesday night surfing lessons with Maine Surfers Union, you’ll learn all the things. Or at least all the things you need to know to get started – from where to position yourself on the board, how to paddle, and where to put your hands to pop-up, to rights of way on the waves and what to do when you find yourself in the path of an oncoming fellow surfer.
It all comes together into beginner surfer confidence.
Class meets at the bath house/parking lot at Higgins Beach, where you’ll meet instructors like Kate, Tess, and Sami, as well as your classmates. You might not know each other now, but trust me, you’ll be high-fiving one another like old chums by the end of the session. You’ll also get your wetsuit and your board before heading down to the beach. (There’s a changing room in the bath house, if needed, and you’ll offer up your height/weight when registering to get the right size wetsuit.)
Then it’s off to the beach!
When our group stepped onto the beach, a woman approached me and said, “My daughter is out there learning to surf. It’s so awesome to see this group of awesome women surfers out here.”
I told her we were just learning, too, but that yes, we WERE awesome (and our instructors are awesome women surfers and I know I spotted a few others out there). At least we had the look of people who knew what they were doing.
Down on the beach we stretched our bods – a little bit of pre-surfing loosening up.
Kate went over some basic surf etiquette, like who gets dibs on a wave if two of you end up catching the same one (answer: the person closets to the crest) or where to move if you find yourself in the path of an oncoming surfer (answer: head the opposite direction she’s heading).
Then it was time to get on the boards. On the sand. (We’d be on the water soon enough, but practicing on the sand first is a good way to work on the basics, like where to place your hands, how to reach out with your paddle stroke, and where your feet should end up after you pop up.)
And then, it was time to head into the water.
We had “clean” waves that evening, Kate said, and she showed us how to walk our boards out, holding them by their noses, so a wave wouldn’t flip it over onto our heads. The waves looked bigger now than they did on shore, but we quickly learned when to hold on to our boards and let the wave lift us up as it rolled under us, and when to turn our heads against wave breaking where we stood. That first paddle out was an entertaining one.
Kate, Tess, and Sami were out there with us, showing us where to line up, letting us know when a good wave was coming, and yelling out for us to “Paddle, paddle, paddle!” and then “Pop-up!”
And after each ride, Sami, Tess, and Kate would offer up a solid “Woohoo!” and give us pointers for the next go (move back on your board, don’t grab the rails, turn your body forward). And we kept at it.
And whether we got to our feet or didn’t quite, this part of the beach was all smiles.
By the end of class, our surf confidence was at an all-time high, and we were all talking about when we were going to get back into the waves to continue our surf education.
For some in our group, it was the first time they’d been on a surfboard. I’d say it won’t be the last. Week by week, the Lady Slide class is turning non-surfers into women ready to tackle the waves on their own.
Lady Slide surfing lessons with Maine Surfers Union
6 p.m. Wednesdays through September (between the hour-long lesson, stretching & putting wetsuits on and off, our session ended around 7:45 p.m.)
Higgins Beach, Scarborough
$45 per class, wetsuit and board included
Meets at the Bath House at Higgins Beach, you’ll learn tips on surf etiquette and form, before heading into the water to catch some waves.
FMI and to register for an upcoming lesson: www.eventbrite.com