For this next part we fast forward a number of years – a lot of years actually – to 2009. As mentioned earlier, I’d tried out a number of watersports throughout my teenage years before location and other priorities intervened and it wasn’t until I had my own family that the opportunity to get Back to the Water came along.
We were on a family holiday (we being me, my wife and our three children) and this was a Big Trip. We were in America taking a month or so to see Grand Canyon, Las Vegas, Sequoia and Yosemite National Parks, San Francisco and San Diego before finishing with 5 nights just outside LA. To say that we’d had The Best Time Ever! only merely hints at how much fun we’d had. Alex, Evie and Harriet were still young – 11, 9 and 4 respectively – and so had never experienced anything like this, from the sizes of Canyons and trees to the sizes of cars, roads and of course the food portions. Everything was new, exciting and very often jaw-dropping.
For our final five days rather than be in LA itself we wanted a few days on the beach to unwind and relax before heading home. So we chose Santa Monica as it seemed the closest beach town to LA, making it easy to get to Universal Studios etc but also big enough to have its own character and not be swamped by its bigger neighbour. We stayed at the DoubleTree Hotel – which I mention purely because they dish of the most delicious chocolate cookies when guests check in.
We did a day or so of the touristy stuff – Universal (as stated above), the pier (official end of the no-longer-existing Route 66), and a bit of shopping etc. – before finally getting to the beach later on in the afternoon on day 2.
From the pier and driving along the Pacific Coast Highway (the PCH to those who know these things) we’d seen a lot of people a reasonable way out who were surfing and also some folk much closer to shore in the breaking water with shorter boards, but it didn’t really click what it was they were doing and it wasn’t until we were on the beach that I realised they were doing what I knew as Body Surfing. We watched for a while as well as mucked about in the surf before heading back to the hotel. Next morning we got up and drove round to Malibu just to have a look around and to be able to say that we’d visited and before we left went to the supermarket to get drinks and food. Just in the entrance we passed by a what looked like some of the shorter boards and we had one of those moments where we all looked at each other and knew exactly what we were thinking. Five minutes later we were the proud owners of a fluorescent yellow, pink and blue foam boogie board.
After that we headed straight to the main beach at Santa Monica and after some comedy hop/walking across the extremely hot sand “ooh, ooh, ouch, ouch” (note to self, always have flip flops in the car) we hit the waves. It was fabulous. All of us caught a lot, including Harriet, who we managed to get sitting upright on the board, while one of us held it until a wave came and then swam into shore with her, sitting very serenely and regal, positively queen-like, along with a ginormous smile on her face. We didn’t know it at the time, but looking back, I’m pretty sure that’s when we caught the surf-bug…