What happens when a landlocked school teacher goes surfing at Las Olas? She becomes a student of the sea. Annie is now a surfer- she takes weekend road trips, repairs her own dings, and she’s returning to Las Olas for another warm water session this season. Can’t wait to paddle out with her again because Annie reminds us of why we love to surf.
I am drawn to the sea. I dream about waves, the rhythm of the ocean, and the vastness of the water. My hopes are drenched in salt water. Sea turtles, dolphins and whales make me cry. In reality, I am a school-teacher who lives hundreds of miles from the shore, but in another dreamlike world, I am a surfer, paddling out to the line up, waiting for and learning from the waves, growing more patient, respecting the ocean. I am a surfer.
Two years ago, I knew I wanted to go to Las Olas. What I didn’t know was how much that trip would change me. I knew that I needed a break from my reality. I craved an adventure, a new sport. I wanted to meet new people. I had no idea how that trip would alter the way I look at the world, the rhythm with which I approach new challenges. I had no idea that I would become obsessed with surfing.
It was a crazy idea. At some point, I decided that I needed something for myself. I needed something to look forward to. I used to be a runner, an athlete. I used to play ultimate Frisbee, but so many years of pounding takes its toll, and several knee surgeries changed my athletic life. I couldn’t enjoy the long runs that used to clear my head. I craved working towards something. I missed being part of a team. Surfing kind of came out of the blue, and once I started thinking about it, I couldn’t stop thinking about it.
I started working at my school’s afterschool program and tutoring for some extra money. I was going to make this trip happen. I’d already convinced myself that I needed it. It wasn’t the most mature decision I could have made at the time. The house needed painting, we, like so many others were underwater in our mortgage. But sometimes it’s not about being mature, it’s about finding your happiness. I think I literally squealed when I made my reservation and got my confirmation email back that said, “You’re going surfing.”
Las Olas was indeed a dream. It was the trip of a lifetime. I was surrounded by amazing women. They were musicians, entrepreneurs, doctors, friends, sisters, mothers and daughters. We were indeed a team. The support was immediate. The instructors were encouraging, funny, and kind. We laughed until salt water shot out of our noses. I was surfing. Unbelievably, this Atlanta teacher was now a surfer. The week flew by way too fast. Quickly, strangers became my dear friends. We shared inside jokes, cheers that we’d made up for each other. I felt pure joy celebrating others as they popped up on their boards, and rode the waves beautifully to the shore. The beauty of the surroundings was breathtaking, and I vowed to hold onto every moment. My friends and I picked up little keepsakes. We promised each other we’ll keep in touch. We would always have surfing to connect us.
Afterward, I was a teacher again. But I was forever changed. I’d always have that little smile, that delightful memory. I wear a beaded bracelet that I bought on the streets of Mexico. I have a turtle on a chain around my neck to remind me to keep on paddling. I drink water at school from my Las Olas water bottle. These are my touchstones that keep me connected to my adventures in the waves. They remind me of the greatness of the ocean, and the joy of newfound friendships. I keep in touch with my friends from camp and I hope to see them all again soon. I bought my own surfboard, danced for joy when it arrived, cried when I dinged it the first time, then relished in the realization that I could fix it myself. It’s now damaged and repaired, just like me. It’s imperfect, and it’s real. I couldn’t love it more.
I’m addicted to surfing. Once I stood up on a wave for the first time, it was a feeling I wanted to experience again and again. It’s a thrill that can only be explained through experience. I want to go back to Las Olas. I look at pictures from that week, and want to put myself back in that smiling face and be that girl laughing in the salt water. I am a surfer, but I still have a lot to learn. The more I know, the more I want to know. Las Olas, I’m coming back to play in your waves. I’m counting down the days until Spring Break when this teacher can get back to school. Passion needs nurturing, and practice makes perfect. Who says a once-in-a-lifetime trip can only happen once? I’m ready to do it all again.
Annie Perry lives in Atlanta with her husband and their two goofy Great Danes. She is a 5th grade teacher, animal lover, and runner. When not driving six hours to the nearest ocean for the weekend, you’ll find her sitting by a fire, wakeboarding, reading, eating all the chocolate in the house, looking for fun in all the right places, and enjoying a cocktail.