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Learning to Surf With Corky Carroll

Learning to Surf With Corky Carroll

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I'd like to say the sun flooded
us with a warm glow that morning.

That we could barely make out the orangey rays peeking through the holes in the clouds. I'd like to say that my feet and skin welcomed the daybreak, but unfortunately this wasn't the case.

It was an August Monday morning, and as I nervously walked onto Bolsa Chica State Beach in Huntington Beach, California, I was greeted by a bitter chill and a slight drizzle. It was gray and cold. So cold, that I couldn't understand why anyone would want to get into an even chillier water in an attempt to surf. But surfing isn't about lazy warm afternoons or playing in the water. It's about style and technique. It's about love; something I would soon learn.

I have signed up for the group lesson, and I took cover under the tarp where I was welcomed by blonde haired, deeply tanned Rick Walker, the Corky Carroll Surf School Director. After introducing myself, I felt comforted by his raspy voice and amazing enthusiasm. For the next 45 minutes or so, the rest of the students and I listened to Rick's wisdom on the importance of safety, direction and technique in the water. One of the more interesting things I noticed during his enlightening and slightly comical routine was the fact that the majority of students were about 15 years younger than I and about half my size. Naturally I bonded with a few surfers more my age as we were lined up in order of height. Feeling more comfortable now, I was ready and willing to give my first attempt at surfing an embarrassing try.

We were separated in groups of about four or five, each with a different instructor. Smiling and a little out of breath, an instructor by the name of Brian showed up soaked from all ready surfing. After that came the pivotal moment that made me understand how anyone in their right mind could be out here surfing in these gloomy conditions, I was given a wet suit.

Corky Carroll's Surfing School provided us with wet suits, pre-waxed surfboards and professional instructors. Brian told me that some of the instructors here have been competing in international competitions for years. He, on the other hand, only gives surfing lessons during the summers. During the rest of the year he is an academic teacher.

"Sometimes I'm having so much fun out here that I forget I'm working," he said. I responded with a smile and a nod as he proceeded to get each of us the correct board. Soon came the dreaded moment of entering the water. My new

buddies and I strutted our way down the beach to an open area where we could learn surfing basics safely. With echoes of the Baywatch theme song in the back of my head I entered the water.

First we learned how to get over or under the waves we didn't want. It was this moment when the real work began - paddling. The key, as Brian explained, is to make sure your shoulders are back, your feet are together and you paddle hard. This is exactly what we did for the first 45 minutes or so in the water.

Sometime after learning more about the basics and techniques, we headed again out to sea to try and catch some waves. The waves were moderately small, so we sat on our boards waiting for a set. As I bounced around like an unbalanced buoy, I noticed something off in the horizon about 60 yards out.

"What is that," I said to myself. "There it is again." And just as my eyes squinted enough to focus in, out popped three triangularly shaped fins shuffling southward between the waves ahead of us. Our presence went unnoticed as three dark gray dolphins swam perpendicularly past us. It was one of those moments that makes you realize how glad you are to be a long way from your cell phone or any other electronic device. It's refreshing to be completely at the mercy of a seemingly infinite body of water. But alas, the waves did come and not a moment too soon.

Paddling hard like Brian taught us to, I pushed and pushed to stay in front of the quickly growing curl. I crashed and burned on this first wave, but eventually I began to get a grasp of this surfing thing. As we walked back on the beach to take a rest, all the students gathered in a line so each person could have a photo with Corky Carroll himself. He stood there next to the surfboard with a warm grin. Students were excited to have a photo taken with the surfing expert, and Corky hwas delighted in the opportunity to teach others his tricks of the trade.

Corky Carroll, the other director of the school and ex-professional surfer, explained how a wave could rear its face at you. "Sometimes the wind blows against the wave ripping off the crest. It can leave the rest of the wave jagged and rough." Overlooking the progress of the up-and-coming surfers, Corky told the story of the gnarliest wave he ever

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Josh Edelson, Jetsetters Magazine Correspondent – Read Jetsetters Magazine at To book travel visit at and for Beach Resorts visit Beach Booker at

About the Author
Josh Eelson,
Jetsetters Magazine Correspondent. Join the Travel Writers Network in the logo at

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