A novice tells you everything you need to know about Austin's NLand wave park!
I was dubious when my very handsome instructor told me that I’d be gliding on the breakers by day’s end. I have trouble balancing on the treadmill at my local gym. How in the world was I going to stand on the crest of the sea’s tumblers like some neoprene-clad Venus? But somehow he was right! As that first swell propelled me toward the shore I knew that surfing the curl was in my blood…
On a July Saturday in Rockaway Beach, a surf instructor pushed me into my first wave. He had already shown me how to paddle, arch my back and pop up, but I wasn’t thinking about any of that. I’d stopped thinking about anything. I did what my body wanted to do and then I was up and moving, swept forward by the great hand of the sea. My body already knew how to soften into it and ride. I was amazed at the ocean and my own inborn connection to it.
Ok first a little pop quiz… which one of those paragraphs is pulled from our The Inertia?
And how many descriptions of surfing have you read by novices? Oh they always crackle with passion but the mechanics, verbiage, etc. generally churn into a fun but nonsensical stew. Imagine, say, that you only had a novice’s description of a wave you had never surfed or seen. It would be impossible to pull any useful information out right?
This morning I read a novice’s description of Austin, Texas’s NLand wave park on ESPNW and know everything I need to know about those breakers!
The writer, Alyssa Roenigk describes herself, and surfing experience, thusly:
Since my mid-20s when I first learned to surf, I’ve had a fickle relationship with surfing. I hold it in reverence as the hardest sport in the world to learn, respect the enormous number of hours it requires to become even passingly proficient and want more than anything to be good at it. Yet for many reasons — cold water, wetsuits, a distaste for surfing by myself, rarely being near the ocean when waves are breaking, wetsuits — I have never put in the time. “I should do this more often,” is the most common sentence I utter each time I suit up to go surfing with friends.
A perfect recipe for disaster. But then she paddles out…
I spent my session surfing the inside wave, which NLand’s website describes, quite accurately, as “knee- to waist-high waves” with “challenging, open-face sections.” My friends and I called it the Waikiki wave. The mechanism creating the wave moves north to south, and then south to north, creating a left-hand and right-hand wave every 2 minutes, 10 seconds. Watching from the beach, that felt like an endlessly long lull between waves. But in the water, they come fast, especially if you catch a wave and ride it to the end of the pool and have to paddle back into position before the next wave fires. That becomes tricky when the pool is packed, so my advice is to steer clear of midday weekend visits and start with a midweek session.
The reef wave was booked up, so I can’t say I’ve tried it myself, although several of my friends spent their hour figuring it out. The consensus: Once you master the unnatural drop-that’s-not-a-drop-but-more-of-a-super-fast-sideways-takeoff, which generally takes one to two sessions, the 35-second ride is worth the effort. Just like scoring one great wave after two hours of paddling in the ocean or launching a perfect tee shot on the 18th hole, that one wave is enough to make you come back for more.
NLand is perfect for new surfers or anyone with fears of learning in the ocean. It’s also great for experienced surfers who want to work on turns or maneuvers that require reps. In one one-hour session at NLand, I surfed about 20 waves, which allowed me to make mistakes, fix those mistakes, work on my technique, and challenge the heck out of my paddling muscles. The experience did not feel like ocean surfing, but it made me even more excited to get back into the Pacific with the belief that I’ll be a little better when I do. If you find yourself in Austin, catching endless party waves is a great way to spend an afternoon with friends — especially once the brewery opens.
It doesn’t get any more informative, any more helpful than this. With these three paragraphs I feel perfectly armed to tackle Austin and I must say thank you Alyssa Roenigk. Thank you for breaking through this surf journalist’s jaded crust and allowing him to face the world anew. Like some neoprene-clad Venus.