All my life I've had an aversion to imperfection. I've only ever wanted to start something new if I felt I could do it perfectly the first time around. Which is absolutely nuts. I think it was reading too many greek myths as a kid--it went to my head. If I couldn't be Atalanta and outrun hundreds of prospective suitors with swift and self-righteous vengeance then I didn't want to do track and field at all. Beware--greek myths are dangerous for the young and idealistic.
Fast forward to New Zealand, 2017 and I desperately wanted to learn how to surf but I was afraid of being awkward on a surfboard in front of people, of falling in front of people--being publicly bad. But that's just letting strange insecurities rule my life. So I decided to go to Raglan, a 3 and half hour drive from Poronui, home to some of the best surfing in the world (according to the surf instructor--he sited CNN but after a lot of googling that statement is uncorroborated).
Not only did I fall in love with Raglan as a city--I fell, hopelessly and irrevocably and literally, for surfing.
Surfing is an electric combination of two magical things. 1: sun that's so bright and omnipresent it makes the world smell sweet. And, 2. Water. I love turbulence and the tumult of the ocean, of waves crashing into you and crushing you--transporting you in their great, swirling bellies--is a sensation that I've discovered I crave. It's what makes me ride bikes fast down steep hills, sky dive or rock climb--that out of control, out of body sense of flight.
I stayed in this hippie hostel where they had a "Learn to Surf" package and I got a lesson included with 2 nights of accommodation. It was just me and a lovely swedish girl named Frida (also my tentmate) for the lesson. Since she knew how to surf already I pretty much had a private lesson. Yes, I fell. Yes, I was ungraceful. But I got up! A lot! And for every time I fell, I had a better time. I discovered I wasn't overly embarrassed about being bad--the experience had eclipsed the fear of being inadequate.
I would move to Raglan in a heartbeat. It still has it's original heart--a laid back, surf town filled with unique herbal stores and an independent radio station. It didn't take me long to find a bookstore run by an older woman who'd backpacked across Europe in the 70's. I left with too many books and stories of the Trans-Siberian Railroad back before the Berlin Wall fell.
Despite being afraid to introduce myself to young people, when you're in hostel, you're forced to interact with others. I became friends with a kid in our tent named Atawai Charteris who is hiking the Te Araroa trail before he finishes his last year of school. I also ended up becoming close with Frida, my surfing, swedish roommate. We explored the city together and discussed her future plans at university and beyond. She has a refreshing and bright personality and an independence that permeates the air around her. While she was younger than me, she's been so many places in this world and is filled to the brim with that intoxicating zest for the future which is a rare commodity these days. Of the people I meet who are traveling and exploring like me, I'm admittedly on the older side. She helped me pick out some cassettes for Legolas and I drove her to Hamilton on our way out, listening to Jukebox hits of the 60's.
Overall, I spent 4 days being pummeled by the ocean, drinking great coffee, and actually meeting real humans. I may not have been the Perseus of surfing but I'm glad I've started to the long journey to learning something new.
Things to Do//Where to Stay:
Solscape, Mega-Hippie retreat but very fun and awesome
Raglan Roast, best coffee on all accounts
Cute bookstore tucked into the corner on Bow Street (don't know the name)