It’s been 24 hours since I went surfing for the first time in my life. I still feel a rush from it and can’t wait to get back to Point Michaud to do it again. I think I may have had my best day ever on a beach and there are a number of reasons for it. Let me set the scene…
After a beautiful morning drive with Marcie and Bailey – skirted the Bras d’Or Lakes, where we saw a large group of Canada Geese peacefully relaxing on a beach of their own, and enjoyed amazing coastal views from St. Peter’s to L’Ardoise and beyond – we finally drove by a sign that said, “Point Michaud, home to a world class beach”. I was getting excited. I knew the beach was close. We rounded a turn and I could see the beach with waves smashing against the rocks next to it. I grew a little nervous thinking that I would be voluntarily going into the water to ride those same waves. On the beach, the waves didn’t seem as big and I relaxed a little. I also noticed how much fun the other surfers in the water seemed to be having.
I found my instructor. I was here to take a surfing lesson from Michelle Richards. All summer long, she offers lessons on the beach between 10 am and 5 pm. There are lessons everyday from July 1 to August 31. The lessons are subsidized by the Municipality of Richmond County which means that you pay $35 for an hour and a half lesson or $100 for a package of 4 lessons. In other locations, one lesson can be as much as $100 or more. When I found Michelle, she was getting ready to give a lesson to a 7 year old girl. They offer lessons to anyone aged 5 and up. Michelle told me that the oldest person she gave a lesson to was 72. That was 4 years ago and the person is still surfing at the young age of 76. It’s a sport that can be enjoyed by people of all ages. I had to wait an hour or so for my lesson to begin. I would have been disappointed at having to wait, except that I was on Point Michaud Beach. The sign wasn’t lying. It is a world class beach and rivals any beach I’ve ever been on. As a beach bum, I’ve been on a lot!
The beach stretches in a bow shape from the rocks close to the parking area for a number of kilometers to a wooded headland. The water is cold and beautiful – crystal clear with nice breaking waves. The beach grasses dance gracefully back and forth in the summer breeze and are the most vibrant green. If you walk far enough, you will come to a beautiful wetland. The beach is perfect for walking or running or exploring. Marcie, Bailey and I did our usual exploration in the water and on the beach. Bailey flipped over rock after rock, dug in the sand and splashed in the water. Beach bums breed other beach bums and Bailey is quickly becoming one. The beach has lifeguards this year for the first time and they have created a swimming area and a surfing area to make it safer for everyone. Finally, Michelle and the 7 year old girl finished and it was time for my lesson.
I was so excited to finally get in the water. But first, we had a lesson on the land. Michelle showed me how to enter the water, how to paddle the board and how to stand up. She acknowledged that she would give me a lot of information which would make it hard to remember but that it would make sense once we were in the water. I did a few “dry runs” and then went to get a wetsuit (the water in Point Michaud is not super warm). Once, I was fitted, we headed out into the waves.
The first few rides, I was on my belly. Michelle held the board until the right wave came and then she let me go. I was screaming with excitement as the board took off. When the wave takes you, you feel like you are flying. It is an awesome feeling. It was even more exciting when I finally stood up. The first few standing rides, I didn’t have much control and fell quickly. It wasn’t long before I got the hang of it and was able to move around a bit on the board, turn the board, slow down and speed up. You start on your belly. You look back and see the wave coming. It looks like a tsunami because you are on your belly. You paddle slowly at first. Then you paddle like the dickens so that you have the momentum of the wave. Michelle would yell, “UP!” Then you get up on the board and “stick it!” That means you get yourself relaxed and balanced for the ride. And what a ride! If you haven’t surfed, go and see Michelle Richards for a lesson. You will be in good hands. Michelle is a professional surfer and a great teacher. She competes in surfing competitions around the world and has been quite successful. She teaches in Mexico during the winter. We are very fortunate to have these two resources – Point Michaud and Michelle Richards – right here in our backyard.
Surfing is amazing exercise. You get exercise going out as you fight the waves, paddle the board and get ready to ride. You also get exercise balancing and riding the board. Michelle told me that when surfing you burn 600-700 calories per hour. At the end of our session, I realized that she wasn’t lying because I was exhausted and starving. Towards the end, Michelle taught me a few tricks. My favourite was “the cockroach” where you lie on your back and swing your arms and legs in the air like a cockroach on its back. When I did this trick, I attracted the attention of everyone on the beach. They were obviously impressed with my surfing ability. I said to Michelle that Marcie would definitely find me more attractive after this lesson. Later, Marcie told me that everyone was looking because they thought I was crazy. Finally, Michelle said that time flies when you are surfing and we had been in the water well over an hour. To me, it felt like 5 minutes. Turns out she was right. We had been in for at least an hour and a half. The lesson was over. Marcie, Bailey and I headed into St. Peter’s for some fish and chips at Louie’s Restaurant. I was also smiling from ear to ear! It was so amazing! I know that I will be doing it in my dreams and returning to Point Michaud for another lesson soon.
Until next time, I’m off on another Beach Bum Adventure!