Surfing for the First Time

“There’s a first time for everything.” – Somebody


Time: Afternoon on a weekend in early Fall

Place: Second Spot, Dohoeny State Beach, Dana Point, California.

Equipment: Brand Spankin New Wetsuit from the Ripcurl Outlet Store – $150, 9′ Foamie rented from Killer Dana – $30 for the day.


This was the day all my pre-conceived notions of what surfing is/was were destroyed.  Poof. Blasted.  Trashed.  Never again will I wonder what could be so hard about paddling out into the ocean and casually letting the waves bring you back to shore on a stylish longboard.  Simultaneously, and more instantaneously, I was caught by a drive to learn how to surf so well that I too could make it look easy.

First, let’s be clear about one thing.  I am a good swimmer, and comfortable in the water.  I swam for my High School, and have been known to swim laps at a local pool.  I am not horribly out of shape, but I’m not in great shape either.  I could survive running a 5k without notice.

Surfing in Dana Point, California at Doheny State Beach
I know this was taken before we went out because I was smiling and standing up.

Nguyen, and David were with me.  David was also a newb surfing on a foamie borrowed from Nguyen – his colleague and our coach for the day.  “Everyone wants to be able to stand up their first time out,” Nguyen said.  “It just doesn’t happen that fast.”

Here was our challenge: Learn to paddle, and learn to sit.  “Any waves you catch are bonus”  Really?  How hard can it be to paddle?  It’s like sitting in a boat, right?  Wrong.

The first challenge was learning how to balance on the board.  The second was trying to paddle with any speed.  When swimming, you can rotate your torso to get more depth out of your strokes.  Try rotating that much on a surfboard, and you’ll be swimming alright.  In order to stay on the surfboard while you paddle, you have to keep your core centered and balanced.  Do you see the size of my shoulders?  I bet that they will get bigger as I surf more.  Paddling, in fact, was so hard for me that I only caught a wave or two.  I was able to learn a few important concepts while trying though.

  • Position your body – not so far forward that the nose is submerged, not so far back that the nose sticks way up either.
  • Arms mobile, Core stable – when swimming in a pool, you can rotate your torso.  If you do that while paddling on a board, you turn and create drag.
  • Don’t dangle – your feet should be out of the water to reduce drag

Once we got out past where the waves were breaking, it was time for our next challenge.  Sit.  Well, for me [6’1″, 165lbs] on a 9′ foam board, it wasn’t that hard.  What a blessing that was!  After all of that paddling, I needed a break…

By the time about 90 minutes had passed, I had ridden a wave or two on my knees and completely exhausted myself.  While paddling out, I tipped over off the board, and had a hard time getting back up.  Honestly, that’s when I felt any danger at all.  After struggling to get back on the board, I knew that I didn’t have enough in me to paddle back out, AND get back in.  It was a good reminder not to push myself too far in unfamiliar territory.

After the next week of being sore in muscles I didn’t know existed, I can tell you which muscles you’ll use.  If you want to cross-train on land, I highly recommend the TRX suspension trainer.  Here’s what I think might up your paddling game.

Recommended Exercises:

  • TRX “W” Deltoid Fly
  • TRX Split Fly
  • TRX Plank

Note: I am catching up with all of my surfing adventures.  I hope to finish posting the rest of 2016’s lessons this month.  Please excuse any timeline discrepancies, thanks!


Surf’s Up,


Zero to Surf

This is the beginning

It’s a new project for me, and a new part of my life.

It’s about health, longevity, and achieving goals.

It’s about friendships, colleagues, and building relationships.

It’s about self, solitude, and knowing oneself.

It’s about surfing.

Buying Your First Wetsuit

Dr. Dan tries on his first wetsuit at the Ripcurl Outlet in Costa Mesa, CA
Getting on a wetsuit is a thousand times easier than getting one off.

It’s the start of the winter surfing season here in South Orange County.  The water is getting cold, and if you want to be out more than a few minutes you are going to need a wetsuit.

First off, a quick internet search will open a huge volume of options in regards to wetsuits.  There is a large range of cost; anywhere from $150, all the way up to $500 and there are plenty of reputable brands to choose from as well.  The differences begin in the designs, thickness, and extra features.

It’s important to remember this detail while shopping – when you are wearing this wetsuit, you will be paddling a surfboard, not scuba diving.  You will be generating a significant amount of body heat from the exercise of paddling.  Furthermore, you will require as much mobility as you can gather in your arms while maintaining a good fit.  If you don’t have a wetsuit that fits, you will certainly end up with rashes and sores.  3mm of wet neoprene rubbing up against a sensitive body part for 2-3 hours… Just imagine.  A well fitting suit limits all of that discomfort.  How can you learn this from shopping on Amazon? You can’t.  If you are going to buy a wetsuit, please visit a local dealer first.

I chose to visit our Ripcurl outlet first.  We are lucky to have lots of options here in Orange County, I thought this was a good place to start.  I didn’t want to short change myself, though.  I have heard that many high-end brands make lower quality products specifically for their “factory outlet” stores.  My first question to the lady that was helping me was, “Why are these products here?  Are there problems with them, or are they made with the wrong colors?”  She explained to me that Ripcurl doesn’t do that.  The products there have either been over produced and not selling as well as anticipated, out of season, unpopular colors, or for no reason at all.  Awesome.  Let’s try some on!

Sizes – More complicated than your average swim suit! Based on your height, chest and waist size, wetsuits come in short, regular and tall versions of all sizes S, SM, MS, M, ML, LM, L, and XL.  Be honest about your measurements – once you try to take one off, you’ll quickly realize that you don’t want to put on any more than you must.

Designs – Sleeveless, short legs, separate bottoms and tops, one piece, back zip, chest zip – Where do you even start?  “The one piece back zip is by far the most common, and easiest to get in and out of,” my sales lady said.  I take the one in my size into the changing room, and by the time both of my legs are in 15 minutes have passed.  I’m so relieved that I didn’t try one of the harder ones.  After I got it all on, and verified that I had plenty of arm mobility and not too much slack, it took me another 25 minutes of struggling to get it off.  I was not about to try on another.

At the register, I asked about how to care for something like this.  The answer I got was simple.  Wash it off after every time in the ocean.  Hang it to dry, out of direct sunlight, by the waist only.  Turn it inside out at least once during the drying time, and store it the same way.

I cant wait to try it out.