Do It And Then You’re Doing It: Surfing the North Shore of O’ahu

Our very own Tatum Fjerstad attempts to overcome her fear of oceans by surfing. She only bled a little bit.

This story is a part of a series called Do It And Then You’re Doing It, in which we attempt to inspire you to step out of your comfort zone and take your life to the next level.

As a [mostly] wholesome Minnesotan girl, I grew up on lakes. I spent entire summers on a dock fishing and in the water swimming, skiing and tubing. There are, however, three very important differences between lakes and the ocean:

  1. You can see the other side of the lake. You cannot see the other side of the ocean. Plus: waves.
  2. Freshwater is, well, fresh. Salt water is something you gargle when you’re sick. It is not something I want in my eyes.
  3. Sharks. Don’t quote me statistics. They’re out there, and I am seal-sized.

So, as I walked to my 7 a.m. surf lesson, hosted by Hans Hedemann Surf School, featuring pro-surfer-turned-rock-star Donovan Frankenreiter, I could feel my throat dropping into my bowels. Why am I doing this? This isn’t me. I’d rather be sleeping. What am I trying to prove here?

To soothe myself, I checked the weather in Minneapolis. Four degrees below zero. It was 72 degrees on the North Shore and the sun wasn’t even up yet. But who cares, I thought. I know how to deal with the booger-freezing cold. I don’t know how to deal with the ocean. 

Then, as I stood beside a smoking campfire, tugging awkwardly at my youth-sized rash guard and watching our surf instructors line up the surfboards on the beach, I saw Donavon meandering away from our group. He walked just beyond the line of surfboards and stopped where the ocean licks the sand. Watching him admire the sunrise and the power of the ocean was all I needed to realize that no matter how many times I fell, I was about to try to surf. In Hawaii. With Donavon.

Do it and then you’re doing it.

Photo by Jake Laub
Photo by Jake Laub

In total, I took somewhere around nine passes at catching a wave and I nailed six of them. On a particularly long stretch of surfing, I busted out into song, shouting the lyrics to Beyonce’s Drunk in Love. Surfboardt.

As my pride and confidence grew, I proudly told an instructor that I’d only fallen once. He smiled knowingly and said, “If you’re not falling, you’re not trying.”

I didn’t fully understand what he meant until my final try. As I started to stand up on my board, I collided with another surfer, lost a water shoe and sliced my toe open on the reef. After I made it back to shore, I sulked up to the beach, and showed an instructor who casually shrugged and said, “Hey, it’s a little Hawaiian tattoo. Free of charge.”

Tatum Fjerstad is our Content and Communication Manager. Born and raised in Minneapolis, this writer/yoga teacher/cat lady is determined to make you laugh as you bravely step out of your comfort zones.