In high school, my best friend and her family would periodically pack me into their motorhome, and we would spend a weekend surfing baby waves in Santa Cruz. We always left exhausted, and cold (SO COLD!), but despite being knocked down by wave after wave, and sometimes being unable to get in or out of the "soup", I still very much felt in control. I loved it. I had my very first sunburn there at the age of 15. Plus, I just felt like such a bad @$$ every time I stood up for a few seconds! My surfing escapades really ended as high school came to an end. Life took me away from the sea, and when I did end up back there to visit my best friends, we spent more time catching up, and lounging than we did in the water.
Coming to Indonesia, proved to be an opportunity to learn to surf regularly again. What I didn't realize was that the ocean or sea is more temperamental than me, and my brief experience in Santa Cruz did not prepare me for the powerful Indonesian breaks. I confessed in an earlier post that I just pretend to be brave but there is a lot in the world that scares the living daylights outta me. One of those things is the ocean. I truly feel like the stereotypical "oblivious boyfriend" in my relationship with her, because 2 years in, and I still haven't figured her out yet.
About 6 months ago, I had a few sessions that hit me hard; times, where I was held under repeatedly, for several sets, swallowed water, pulled closer and closer toward a massive rock that the waves were just pummeling, and it completely changed my relationship with the water. I felt her fury. We had come out of our honeymoon stage and had our first real fight. It was also a lesson in mortality. The spot we surf in Canggu is considered a beginner to intermediate spot, so I guess, I wasn't REALLY going to die, but it felt like it.
Fast forward to January, and I still had not reconciled this relationship with the ocean. While working in Peru, Ross mentioned that Peru was home to the longest recorded surfing wave in the world, and that it was a beginner/intermediate spot that I could easily navigate on a small/medium day. We decided to take a trip to Puerto Malabrigo, and stay at a wonderful, little surf resort, Chicama Surf Resort, and try to ease back into the ocean.
I was nervous about the idea of even getting back into the water just to swim, but conquering fears are the only way to move forward. I obliged. We thought we would save the US$30/person on the boat, which meant 20min walk, barefoot, being blown like a sail, carrying a board too big for me over rocks to get to the surf spot. Finally, tired, and in pain, simply feeling the water on my legs set off a faucet of tears, and froze me like I have never frozen before. I could not walk farther than knee deep, and seeing the waves, even at 4ft, crashing in the distance, constricted my lungs. It was the most bizarre, terrifying experience. It was a debilitating physical response to a completely mental hurdle.
When I decided to head back, Ross eventually convinced me that it was easier to let the current pull me back home instead of battling the winds again but I cried the entire hour I floated back, cursing him for tricking me into the water. With each impending set of waves, my heart beat so fast, it felt like it wasn't beating anymore.
The next day, after a LOT of mental coaxing, I did go out and paddle. Ross ordered the shuttle boat take us out, so I could conserve my energy, and arrive to the spot fresh. Honestly, we should have forked up the $30 a person on day one because the current is so strong, you spend the entire time fighting it to come back to catch the next set. The wonderful boat driver convinced me that I would be safe, explained where to catch the wave, and that the waves in Chicama are not known to hold you down for a long time. He reminded me that the sandy bottom wouldn't hurt me, and that the current doesn't pull you towards the rocks but down the shore. He also repeatedly kept checking in on me throughout the session to make sure I was comfortable.
My first order of business was to allow myself to fall. I didn't ride any waves that second day, but I did go for wave after wave, and fall time after time coming up each time a little more confident. Thanks to a lot of help from Ross, and the boat driver (Sorry, I forgot his name!) I slowly realized that the ocean wasn't a guaranteed death sentence.
I just booked our room in Canggu, Bali, this morning, as we are preparing to spend next weekend surfing. I am starting to feel some of these fearful feelings coming up all over again. Canggu, a reef break, is significantly stronger, than Chicama is, and is where I felt the farther away from life than I have ever felt. This trip to Chicama was an expensive confidence boost, but a worthy investment. Who knows, maybe I will start hyperventilating, and crying again, but I've decided to take a guide with me. Even sitting here, typing this, I'm feeling a little nervous about paddling out.
More than the fear of the ocean itself, I am afraid of letting this fear overcome me. I think fear is like cancer. Once you have it, if you don't cut it out or kill it, it spreads. I don't want any other part of my life to be overcome by it. I know feeling truly confident again in the water will be a process, and that I should keep a little of that reverence to remain safe. I will undoubtedly need to go through this exercise with another fear, or maybe even the same one. I think the scariest part is that I said to Ross, that first day in Chicama, that me and surfing were done. There hasn't been a single thing, ex-boyfriends aside ;P , that I've decided to completely write off. I told him that it would be the last time I took a board into the ocean. I've already thrown that silliness out once, now it's just time to slay that idea all together, and to cut away that infestation.
If you are looking for a fun, surf spot, I would highly recommend Chicama Surf Resort. Putting my personal drama aside, I mean, if a girl hyperventilating can see the end of it and tell you about how it helped her feel better...I'd take that as a good sign. Plus, when you're not surfing, the punchy, salmon, and mint hotel was a fabulous spot to spend the rest of your day. They have a pool overlooking the ocean, that's great for sunbathing. Normally, I think it would be a great place to watch the sunset but it was overrun with wild, children playing and squealing the whole time we were there.
The howling offshore winds make the evenings incredibly beautiful, and fresh, and I looked forward to sipping Chilcanos on our balcony while watching the ocean do her thang, but towels, books, and empty cans and bottles beware.
Ralph and the rest of the staff were awesome. We had a super early flight into Trujillo, and late flight out, and they allowed us to check-in early and check-out late, which was a nice way to make our stay feel stress free. We already really like the resort, but the fact that they were so ready to make our stay as perfect as possible when they could, is something, I think a lot of hospitality places can learn from. We'd definitely come back, and the next time, I'm gonna slay those waves ;P
All of the reviews on tripadvisor said the food was amazing, but in our opinion, they could really up their game. I will add that after driving around the area, I think it's the best you can get. Aside from the two little surf resorts, there aren't really any restaurants for miles. Maybe a hole in the wall cevicheria, but it was closed when we discovered it. The waitstaff could also have used a smile, and some pep in their step. The restaurant is only open during meal times, so plan accordingly.
They have a massage therapist on staff, a sauna, and a steam room to ease your aching muscles. Since, I did more crying than paddling this weekend, I didn't feel like I deserved to take advantage of it but after a couple double sessions, I can see that feeling AMAZING!
Just outside the gates, you leave this Palm Springs-esque resort and enter what looks like Jakku from Star Wars. There are just hills upon hills of sand, and not a tree insight. The town itself is quiet, arid, sandy, and desolate. Ross and I explored outside the resort a bit (got stuck in the sand in the process) but it made me feel a little like Marie Antoinette locked away at the beautiful Palais de Versailles, while Parisians lived a very different life past it's walls. I guess we all pick and choose what we see, where we see it but that's a different story.