Love Handles: Chapter Fifteen

7.31.2005

By Bob Merrick

Out.com is proud to present the wacky and wild (and absolutely true'although some names have been changed to protect the guilty) adventures of a 30-year-old guy in Hollywood who just wants to lose a few (dozen) pounds. And find eternal happiness and fulfillment. Is that too much to ask?

Part Fifteen: Surfin' USA

I am not good at routine exercises, like the ones I do at the gym. Experimenting with activities has not only made exercise more fun, but it has kept me engaged in wanting to actually do it. This could be why I so easily accepted when my hip-hop-class-survivor and friend, Adam, called to invite me to a surfing lesson. 'I think that this is something we should all experience as Californians, and I think it could be perfect for you,' he told me. I was either so eager to try something new or still guilt-ridden for having made him endure the hip-hop class with me, that I didn't hesitate to say yes. Cher, where are you when I need you to turn back time?

I truly believed seven months ago that when I decided to start chronicling my weight loss journey that I would be well on my way to looking like George Michael circa the Faith album by now. Instead, I seem to be hanging in at my 'standard' weight. The positive is that lately I feel a comfort in my skin and a growing confidence in myself, which is really the most I can hope for in life. The negative is that when I am happy in my life and self, I pay less attention to what I am eating and tend to overindulge. It is this mindset that is keeping me on track even as I find myself caring less and less. Thus surfing'much like the hip-hop class'seemed like a good idea at the time.

Our straight gal pal, Erica, a documentary producer, was also interested in learning, having grown up in Southern California and having never tried it. Adam found Corky Carrol's Surf School in Huntington Beach, where the water was rumored to be cleaner. And with a name like Corky, it just sounded fun.

I don't know what I was thinking. I am not a fan of the beach. Put me on a cruise ship with a cocktail in hand and I love the ocean. But make me try and function in the dirty sand and I would rather be making love to a woman. If that weren't bad enough, I hadn't even considered the outfit. As a gay man, I should always consider the outfit with anything I am invited to do. When our instructor, Nicole, handed me the largest wetsuit she could find for my 6'3' frame, I felt like Mindy when Mork handed her a red space uniform that looked like it had been made for a toddler.

'It'll fit, I promise,' Nicole said. She was a sweet young beach girl, who likely spent a lot of time in Cheer Camp during her high school years. I think it was only because of her enthusiasm that I didn't go sit in the car. I was also a bit disappointed; not only were we not being taught by Corky, but we hadn't even met him. I discarded my inhibitions and just put the suit on. Once it was zipped up, I shouted, 'I look like a Teletubby!' Not the best way to find a date on the beach, but at least my wetsuit wasn't purple or I would have definitely drowned myself.

The owner of the company (whose name also wasn't Corky) sent Nicole out to fetch 'Big Red': their biggest surfboard. Only because red is my signature color did I choose not to feel insulted. Before we could go in the water, we had to learn the rules of the ocean and how our boards work. We were lying on our boards while she tested us on their various parts (I thought it was just a big piece of fiberglass, but there is a fin, water line, leash, etc.).

Everything was fine until she made us demonstrate how to handle a large wave crashing over us. 'OK, Adam, grab the rails [the sides of the board] and roll onto your back with the board on top of you.' Erica and I watched in disbelief. 'This is what you will do when a large wave is getting ready to crash onto you.' I could feel the bottom of my stomach drop. My brain couldn't think of an excuse fast enough to get me out of there. I had visions of large waves crashing onto me like they did to Mark Wahlberg and George Clooney in The Perfect Storm and it sent me into a panic.

Adam was the first one in the water. Erica and I sat on the shore competing for the title of 'Surfing Chicken.' We were both afraid of the water, but for some reason, not willing to give up. We watched as Adam got knocked around by the waves and struggled to stay on his board. Then, finally, he caught his first wave. He started up on one knee and then for about 1.2 seconds he stood up before flying face first into the surf. I was impressed and my competitive blood began to heat up.

When Adam and Nicole returned, he was beaming. 'Did you see me? For one split second, I felt like a Golden God!' We all laughed and Erica decided she was ready to go in the water. Then Nicole dropped a bomb on us. Because we had taken so long getting dressed and filling out releases, we used up most of our hour, and our time with her was up (they weren't kidding when they suggested getting there 15 minutes early).

'Don't worry, you still have the boards for another hour,' she chirped. 'It was really great meeting you guys!' With that she pivoted and ran up the sand. This was getting worse by the second, but our Golden God was convinced he could teach us. So Adam took Erica into the water while I waited on the shore sitting on Big Red. I was behaving like a diva and not letting my feet touch the sand and was in no hurry to get wet. But once I saw Erica in the water enjoying her own 1.2 seconds of glory, I grabbed my courage and my board and decided it was time.

As my feet touched the water, Erica, who was emerging from the sea, complained, 'It's too dirty in there, I skinned my knee on the board, there is trash everywhere, and I need a shower.' This wasn't good for my confidence, but I proceeded with caution. Within seconds I was being knocked around by the waves and tasting the briny salt water. When I got past the first wave break, I climbed onto Big Red and began to paddle.

Between rowing against the waves with my hands and squeezing my abs to keep my balance and stay on the board, it was fairly obvious to me why surfers have the hottest bodies. It was also evident that I was in no shape to be surfing. By the third time I fell off the board and my second gulp of nasty seawater, I was done. I didn't care if I ever caught a wave.

While in the car driving back to Los Angeles, Erica voiced her fear of the ocean and griped about how polluted the water has become. Adam chimed in, 'I wasn't scared when I was out there. But I did have a moment when I saw a jellyfish.'

'That wasn't a jellyfish, Adam. It was a plastic bag,' quipped Erica.

I just smiled and stared out the window, happy to know that I wasn't the only one who wouldn't be surfing again anytime soon.

To read part fourteen, 'Grin And Bear It' click here.

To read part thirteen, 'When in Rome' click here.

To read part twelve, 'Moving On Out' click here.

To read part eleven, 'I'm Getting Very Sleepy'' click here.

To read part ten, 'Who's Got the Pain?' click here.

To read part nine, 'Old Habits Die Hard,' click here.

To read part eight, 'Taking A Fresh Dip in the Dating Pool,' click here.

To read part seven, 'A Walk Down (Unpleasant) Memory Lane,' click here.

To read part six, 'Desperate Times Call for Desperate Measures,' click here.

To read part five, 'Sex, Lies, and the Internet,' click here.

To read part four, 'Sweatin' with an Oldie' But Goodie,' click here.

To read part three, 'What Happens in Vegas, Doesn't Always Stay in Vegas,' click here.

To read part two, 'Let's Get Physical,' click here.

To read part one, 'Resolutions and Commitment,' click here.

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