Yesterday I took my second windsurfing lesson. I had been disappointed after lesson one to learn that Heidi, the instructor for lesson one wouldn’t be teaching lesson two. She’d been encouraging and gotten me excited to learn more. Of course, as I found often in life, things always work out for the best.
Although I’m pretty adventurous, when I’m learning something new I often need someone to push me, give me a bit of a challenge. My friend Tom used to tell me, “There are no such thing as mistakes, only unexpected learning experiences.” I know in the back of my head that making mistakes is part of the learning process, but sometimes it’s hard for me to actually suck it up and make them in front of other people.
Fortunately for me, Jack was teaching lesson two. The first hour he let me play it pretty safe. I’d learned to stand up, go in a straight line, and do a 180 degree turn the day before. That first hour, we worked on sailing with both hands on the boom and turning more smoothly. After that hour, when I still hadn’t really gotten wet much, Jack said, “If you’re not falling, you’re probably not challenging yourself.” He challenged me to get out there and practice the turns faster. Anyone who knows me well knows this- if you offer me a challenge, I will take it. I’ll probably also try to tackle it full speed just to prove a point.
Less than a minute later I attempted my first fast turn. Instead of a 180, I somehow did a 360. I’d hauled the sail around, gone to all that work and I was headed right back in the same direction I’d started. Let me rephrase that- I was pointed in the same direction. I wasn’t really “heading” anywhere since my 360 had zapped all my speed.
Somehow I managed to get turned around and caught a little wind. Once I was moving again, I decided to try another turn at speed. This time, I’m pretty sure I made it through about 270 before a gust of wind caught the sail, knocking me backwards off the board. Since I was still hanging onto the sail, I ended up flat on my back in the seaweed with the sail on top me. Of course, Jack was witnessing all this. I was just hoping he was impressed that I was “challenging” myself and not disappointed that his pupil seemed to forget everything he’d just taught her.
I headed back over to him and said, “I think I suddenly forgot how to turn.”
Of course, he already knew how to fix the problem. He explained that I was moving the sail, but not walking around the board with it. When I did this, I ended up facing the wind. As Jack put it, “If you’re facing the wind you know there’s a problem. You should always have your back to the wind.”
With this tidbit of great advice, the rest of the lesson was more encouraging. Don’t get me wrong, I still ended up in the seaweed most of the time (which Jack called “mowing the grass” I think I mowed the entire lawn and deforested the entire area as well) and managed some of the most ungraceful falls I’ve ever take in my life. Fortunately for me, water is a very forgiving medium or I’d be covered in bruises.
It wasn’t until later in the day, when I was on the road and had some time to process all of the events of the last few days that I realized what great advice Jack had given me, not just for windsurfing but for life in general. When the going gets tough, it’s probably because I’m facing the wind, going against the flow, fighting something that can’t be fought. So my lesson for the day, the week, the year is this- when it feels like you’re trying too hard, put your back to the wind and go with the flow. Everything is easier that way.