Surf’s Up! TAGteach without a TAGteach instructor

Following the amazing-as-always ClickerExpo, I headed southeast to join friends and family for a Caribbean vacation. It was delightful; home was 4 degrees Fahrenheit when I left for San Francisco, where the rainy 60s felt lovely, and 80 degrees on a sandy beach felt positively euphoric.

And I learned to surf.

Well, sort of. Our ship was equipped with a FlowRider, an artificial surf machine. I’d seen one before at a water park, but I’d never tried it, and some of us decided to give it a whirl. We joined the others, a mixture of novices and really talented surfers, and I braced myself on a board, listened to the instructor, and gave it my best.

SPLASH. It looked like this:


 And this:


And a fair amount of this:


Meanwhile, my husband, also trying for the first time, was doing this:


…blast him.

Foam, rinse, repeat. Each time a surfer fell, he returned to the end of the line, and so I had 5-10 minutes between each of my 2-second attempts to evaluate what I was doing.

First, I knew I wasn’t getting the information I needed from the instructor/safety guard. He told me to put my weight on my rear leg, but clearly that wasn’t doing the trick for me. Obviously it was working for others, but I knew I needed more. I also knew from experience in skiing and shooting that I could try self-tagging.

I watched the other surfers and tried to pick apart their movements. Were their spines vertical or leaning toward the rear of the board? Were their knees straight or bent? I took a boarding-stance in line, shifted my weight to my right leg, and concentrated on my right foot. I imagined a taproot coming from just behind the ball of my foot into the ground or board, rooting me deep, and all my weight sunk into it. I focused on that feeling, and I thought, “Dig.”

One nice thing about TAGpoints is that they don’t have to make sense to anyone but the learner. I don’t pretend that the word “dig” is an apt description of a proper surfing stance, but it worked for me: my final attempt of the stay, I stayed up for several seconds in a row!

And that’s when I made my second TAGteach decision — I fell off on purpose. I made the decision to quit before it could go wrong, so I could retain that feeling of having it for that brief-but-real time.

Day 2

The next day, I went back to try again, without any of my own party this time. (This means no photos, but I promise the story’s still true!)

I had a different instructor/safety guard, and she gave me some additional pointers: bend my knees deeper, and to keep my hips and shoulders facing the edge of the FlowRider instead of forward. This time I was able to root myself fairly quickly and was staying up reasonably well, but I kept drifting to the left, due to my tendency to face forward.

I gave myself a new TAGpoint: face instructor. This was a good point for me, in that she was a stable visual for me to concentrate on, but a bad point in that it kept me attentive to her. She would try to shout further instruction to me, or sometimes even both safety guards would shout at once, and each time I would promptly fall. I couldn’t root deep, incorporate a new TAGpoint, and listen all at once.

“The TAGpoint is, Ignore instructor” didn’t seem very appropriate, but I tried it, and I stayed up. Unfortunately, without my visual focus point to keep me aligned, I also began to drift left again and started to cross the artificial wave. Both instructors/safety guards began to shout, but I did not look and did not listen. The churning water caught the front of my board and I began to turn, reversing direction on the wave in an advanced maneuver I’d seen others try but which I was in no way ready to handle.

Dig. Weight on rear leg. Dig.

I smoothly shifted my weight, adjusted my balance, and reversed directions, now surfing switch-foot. A cheer went up from the surfers waiting their turn, and that I did hear. I gave two thumbs up without otherwise adjusting my position. AWESOME.

The instructor waved me to the edge and I stumbled and fell. Of course. Didn’t care. She tried to reset me, as I suppose my feat had earned me another attempt instead of ending my turn, but this time I fell instantly just trying to get started. Didn’t care — I had done the impossible, and I was happy with that.

I quit then, as it was past the time I’d given myself before I had to get back and join others. Also, it was a fantastic time to follow my protocol of quit-before-it-can-go-bad, as it was not going to get any better than that! A great place to end.

The Moral of the Story

Even without a TAGteach instructor, I could translate into TAGpoints to make it work for me. At first I had to lower my expectations and not worry about meeting the expectations of others, but it was well worth it in the end!

(Technically speaking, these were Focus Points rather than TAGpoints, because no one was actually tagging, but we’ll just go with the flow. Hang loose, dude.)

Back home in Indiana, I won’t have much opportunity to practice this new skill, but if I happen across a FlowRider, I know how I’ll get started!

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About Laura VanArendonk Baugh CPDT-KA KPACTP

Laura was born at a very young age and started playing with animals immediately after. She never grew out of it, and it looks to be incurable. She is the author of the bestselling FIRED UP, FRANTIC, AND FREAKED OUT. She owns Canines In Action, Inc. in Indianapolis, speaks at workshops and seminars, and is also a Karen Pryor Academy faculty member.

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