Friday, April 18, 2014

A Hard Day's Work

This job of mine affords me some pretty amazing opportunities and brings some awesome people into my life. This last week, I coordinated a surf lesson in Costa da Caparica, Portugal with my friend Liliana who owns a cozy restaurant in Lisbon. After flying all night Liliana came to pick up me and two other members of the crew and we headed to the coast.

After meeting the guys from the surf shop and a light lunch outside we suited up. And by suited up, I mean squeezed 200 pounds of potatoes into a wetsuit that should only hold five pounds of...well, you get the idea. I don’t know how thick this wetsuit was, but I’m pretty sure there was a point where three people were helping me squeeze into it. I started to get lightheaded at one point, next thing I knew there was a plastic bag over my foot and my leg hairs were getting ripped out one by one.

I swear, by the time I got the wetsuit up to my waist I nearly collapsed from exhaustion. And all the compression. Oh God. A little extra winter weight trying to push itself upward was not the cool surfer dude look I was going for. I looked at Gabriele, the surf instructor who looked like he was trying hard not to laugh. He was still wearing jeans and a T-shirt. I turned around and about eight seconds later he’s slid effortlessly into his wetsuit like a doctor who’s about to check your prostate slides on his gloves unusually fast.

So, we grab our boards and head to the beach. A few minutes later we circle up and start what I think is going to be a pep-talk.

Gabriele says, “Okay, first we’re going to run up and down the beach to warm up, we’ll stretch, do some training with the boards on the beach, then go in the water.”

Run? No. I’m paying you. I get to pick what we do. 

But, before I could tell him that I wasn’t really a runner, off we went. At this point, my wetsuit was still around my waist because I didn’t want to overheat before we got in the water. And we’re running. Now, Portugal has some beautiful people and going for a run...on the a wetsuit that’s half-on...with a torso that’s snow white from months of hibernation...doesn’t exactly boost your confidence.

“Get wet,” Gabriele says.

“I think this is how hell week starts for the Navy SEALs,” I pant.

Gabriele laughed.

After we got back from our run we did some stretching, which was a great way to get the sweat into our eyes. We did some practice getting up on the board while we were still on solid ground then headed into the water.

I’ve surfed before but have never had an official lesson so I took in a lot of good information. One by one we tried to catch waves with help from the instructor. The flight attendant that came with popped up on her second try but when she fell the board hit her head and she was done surfing for the day. The other pilot and I made a lot of attempts and even got up a few times.

Knowing what I now know about surfing, I’m wondering why I paddled into the ten foot waves when I was surfing in Hawaii last September. Mother nature has a quick way of weeding out idiots and got me out of there, but not before she pushed me to the bottom of the ocean and bounced me off the coral a couple times.

Fortunately, the girl from Baywatch didn’t need to come rescue me yesterday. Although...well, never mind.

We rewarded all our "hard work" with a lovely dinner at Liliana's restaurant, A Baiuca. If you’re ever in Lisbon it's a great place for local flavor. It’s in the Bairro Alto and has become my go-to place for dinner. Everyone I bring to her restaurant raves about it. She buys mouthwatering fish every morning from local fisherman before they even get off the boat and seriously, if you want good sangria, hers is the best I’ve ever had. Perhaps the best part of her restaurant though, is the hospitality from her and her mother. They have hearts of gold and when her mom kisses your cheeks as you leave, you almost expect her to hand you a little baggie with snacks for the road, just like my grandma used to do.

1 comment:

Nancy Holte said...

Wet suits are not for the faint of heart. I'd forgotten how Grandma Holte used to pack snacks for our trip home. :)