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Surfing Lesson Gone Wrong In Rincon, Puerto Rico: The Sea Urchin Fiasco

I remember it like it was yesterday. Marilyn and I were in Rincon, Puerto Rico, about an hour outside of her hometown. I had arranged a surf lesson from someone I had met on the beach the day before. My instructor, Kaitlyn was introduced to me by her friend and I paid fifty dollars versus one hundred dollars for the lesson and board.

We arrived at Marie’s Beach at 9:10 am. Kaitlyn was looking out at the water as we pulled up. Prior to starting the lesson, we moved to an area where I could catch good waves. As we approached the spot, I saw other surfers and suddenly, a very tranquil feeling came over me. Watching people do yoga at the shore. Kaitlyn began our lesson with basic, yet essential instructions to keep me safe while out at sea.

Rule #1, when paddling out into the water, keep your stomach and legs flat on the board.

Rule #2, keep your body centered.

Rule #3, keep your arms moving in a circular motion and hanging off the board.

Rule #4, keep your hands cupped as your arms slice the water and head towards the waves.

Rule #5, before standing up on the board be balanced and place all of your weight onto your arms and upper body.

I practiced these motions and did yoga before I felt ready to take on waves in real life.

Kaitlyn emphasized the importance of stretching my arms since the majority of my movements required their use. I almost forgot to mention, the most important rule of all!

Rule #6, When approached by a big wave, grab your board with both hands and flip the board surface up as the wave passes.

She said the board is my lifeline and no matter what I did, never let go of it.

To be honest, I was scared to actually go out into the water. From the shores, surfing didn't appear to be a challenging activity. That is until I heard the rules and attempted to lift myself up off the board in one swift motion. Not to mention, balancing myself against the pressing movements of the ocean once I got out there. Then the thought came to mind, “ no wonder all surfers have six-packs and ‘beach’ bodies.” Surfing is nothing to take lightly!

Finally, it was time to put my practice and instructions to the test. Immediately, when I got into the water I had a difficult time balancing myself on the board. The first time I tipped over into the water I panicked. Luckily, Kaitlyn was there grabbed my arm, and lifted me back up onto my board. As we approached the wave breaks, I told her I didn’t want to actually surf, I just wanted to focus on balancing myself on the board. She said ok!

After getting my balance together, it was time, I was ready to ride the waves! She instructed me to turn my board around so that the waves were behind me and I was facing the shore. Once a good wave was near, she told me she was going to give me a push to send me with the wave. Again, I was nervous and felt like I wasn’t ready, yet I trusted her experience. A couple of times I just rode along with the wave, surfing on my belly. It was difficult to stand up with my feet flat on the board. Then came my moment of glory! A wave crept up behind me, I was focused, and my board and body were in tandem. As the wave began to break, I swiftly pulled up and as I was on my knees, I rode the wave. Afterward, I gave myself a round of applause and Kaitlyn cheered me on!

Admittedly, after basking in the glory I told Kaitlyn I was tired and I had enough for the day. That is when she noticed that we drifted off really far from where we had started. Immediately she suggested we return towards the shore. She said “pedal west against the wave.” Like I know what that means. Panic started to settle in, I just started winding my arms in circular motion not even noticing the pattern of the waves. Subsequently, I worked hard to keep up with her, yet I noticed she kept getting further and further away. I was afraid she might leave me, so I called out to her, and she turned around and noticed the distance between us. As a result, she allowed me to grab onto her leash, a velcro anklet that keeps surfers attached to their boards.

Eventually, we made it near the shore and, instead of being greeted by the grains of sand massaging our toes. There were rigid rocks with craters in them. She warned me to step gently, because I risked stepping on a sea urchin. How could I be careful where I was stepping during this situation? First off, I couldn't see through the water. Secondly, upon approaching the rocky area I was thrown off of my board from the force of the waves, which resulted in me scraping my chin. Nevertheless, I attempted to be careful where I was stepping. Using only the balls of my feet to hop from one safe zone to another with my board by my side and the waves crashing into the rocks beside us. The finish line was clearly approaching, when all of a sudden I felt a sharp needle-like pain going through my foot, which took me off balance. Then the heel of my other foot came crashing down onto the tips of needles as well. Instantly, I screamed, “Ouch!”

Finally, I was out of the water, and the world around me became familiar again. There were my friends, chilling along the shore laughing and talking, while others were still engaged in yoga. As soon as we approached them, I plotted onto the sand and grabbed my feet examining the damage of those sharp pains. All I saw were tiny little black dots embedded in the soles of my feet. Nonchalantly, Kaitlyn says “no worries, those are sea urchins. They will come out eventually.” Eventually? I said. Astounded, I just sat there staring out at the ocean amazed by all that had just occurred.

My first time surfing and I got sea urchins stuck in my feet. How was I going to explain this to my mom? The thought of keeping it a secret crossed my mind. Except with the adrenal still rushing through my body, I felt exhilarated to share it with the world!

Since this trip to Rincon in 2016, Marilyn and I have met in other places around the world. Check out our adventures in Boston.

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