This is the Year I Master the… Surf


Illustrations by Delicatessen

The ride is a rush, just as you always suspected. Makes it worth the awkward pop-up drills on the sand, the screaming arm muscles, the nosefuls of saltwater as you get tossed around in the waves. Then, if the instructor does the job right, you’ll find the alley past the peaks that will take you to the waiting zone. You’ll pick the wave that’s long and gentle and not the one about to perform a demonic closeout. You’ll learn to jump up and crouch and find the balance, arms extended, as you surge to shore. When the euphoria of floating is sweet already, along comes a school of dolphins, leaping and twirling yards from your board, pure silver for your memory chest. We found a high flakiness factor in looking for a teacher (unreturned e-mails and calls, disconnected phone numbers). These instructors came through:

» Surf the Bu: Joel Shultz is surf geography professor, cultural historian, and efficiency expert rolled into one. He’ll counsel on marshaling energy even as he explains wave formation and recounts stories from back in the day. The Hollywood High graduate has been a Malibu resident since 1971, and he knows all the gold coast’s secrets. $120 for 90-minute private lesson.

» Learn to Surf LA: Lessons are conducted at several locations, but ask for Tower 18 near Shutters hotel, where the low-crush beach break provides a model elementary school. The instructors cheer and fist-pump at every accomplishment—good for confidence building. They can outsurf you any day of the week, but you wouldn’t know it from their attentiveness. $120 for one-hour-and-45-minute private lesson.

» Surfing: Mastering Waves from Basic to Intermediate: This how-to from former Los Angeles Times sportswriter and Orange County native Elliott Almond is engagingly written and covers all the basics. The practical is interwoven with the whimsical (his five favorite surf songs), and the glossary of terminology is extensive (you’ll know your shred from your short john). The Mountaineer Books, $21.95.