“You have a harp??? What are you waiting for? Go get it!!!”
In high school, I didn’t belong to any group in particular. I hung out with lots of people, from the skaters, to the metal heads, to the nerds; but never with the cool kids.
La Ventana was a good place for the van life. The weather was warm and dry. The sea had clear waters and each little creak offered a beach of white sands, coloured pebbles, or sharp rocks. I wanted to improve my strapless kitesurfing skills and at $80/hour, I had to make sure I picked the right instructor.
The instructors at Playa Central had their unique teaching style. First there was Diego, the coolest dude in town. He rode his dirt bike, kitesurfed, and always seemed on his own little planet. I asked him for lessons but he politely declined. He only taught beginners. “Beginners set their ego aside and make for better students” he said. It was the perfect fit for his temper.
Then came the two Italians: Simone and Massimo. Simone was a young Apollo. He was fit, golden-haired, and had the most hypnotizing smile. He didn’t speak much but he smiled a lot. If you stared long enough, you could catch a glimpse of happiness in Simone’s emerald eyes.
Massimo was the hot blooded one. He trained hard to improve, every single day. When there was no wind, he worked on his balance and flexibility. Massimo was outgoing and like many Italian men, he was vehement about the things he disliked. Besides his bitching, Massimo saw everything as an opportunity to grow.
Finally there was Leon, the hippie Swiss instructor. Leon was in sharp contrast with the other three. He had a poker face and taught kitesurfing the way he believed it should be taught: the Swiss way. Leon focused on safety, techniques, and rules over everything else. For some reason, he had lots of German students.
The instructors did not mix with the students. They were a closed group with their pretty girlfriends and everyone looked up to them. It reminded me of High school. They were the cool kids.
Aurel had been taking lessons with Massimo. He thought his personality would be a good fit and recommended him to me, so I booked a class. I wanted to improve my wave riding and was eager to impress him. Also, I secretly wished to be part of the cool kids.
We started the class with explanations on the beach, then headed to the water to practice. Thirty minutes into the lesson and I was done. My legs were shaking hard, burning and hurting. Massimo wanted me to go upwind with him but my body could not follow. He was an athlete and I overestimated myself, again. I pushed my limits until I could no longer stand and had to do an emergency landing…so much for proving my worth.
I should have stopped right there. One walk of shame could be excused, but two… I was too proud and returned to the water, exhausted. I attempted to take on a wave but I was too slow. As I was going up the face, the wave closed out and smacked me down…epic fail!
The white wash pushed my board toward the rocks. In a stupid reflex, I went straight after it. It was too late when I realized how dangerous that was. I dragged myself through the sharp rocks and ended up with several cuts, bruises, and a torn wetsuit. I came back to Playa Central in front everybody, bleeding and embarrassed.
Aurel was having a beer on the rooftop. I packed quickly and joined him. We were laughing at our misadventure when Dennis, an old hippie, walked up with his guitar. He started playing on the corner for whoever wanted to listen. I asked him if he played the blues. “I love it!” he said. I shyly added that I played the harmonica. He jumped out of his chair and urged me to bring it.
I brought my harmonica from the van, anxious and tense. I had never played in front of so many strangers. Plus, the instructors were chilling nearby and I’d had enough embarrassment for the day. Dennis started with a classic 12-bar blues progession and I accompanied him, only with the beat first. Little by little, I relaxed and closed my eyes, slowly sinking into a state of flow. When I opened my eyes at the end of the song, the crowd had gathered around us. People were enthusiastic, filming, and clapping!
The first ones to cheer us were Massimo and Simone, both huge Blues fans. They prompted us for more songs. Thankfully, Dennis knew all the classics. We played the Muddy Waters, Johnny Cash, Clapton, Sinatra, and his own compositions. Massimo and Simone sang along, the crowd enjoyed the show and Dennis and I were having a blast.
The next day, the instructors welcomed me like a champion! Massimo asked about the next jam session. He wanted to know the songs in advance so he could learn the lyrics. I loved it. Since that day, I was regularly invited to hang out with them after work. They opened up and showed me some of their secret spots around la Ventana.
It took fifteen years, but I got my revenge on High school.