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Monday, September 16, 2013

The Parents Meet Your Love

The beach right outside Mambo's
And by 'love' I don't mean your significant other, furry friend or your ritzy new pad in Tahoe. I refer to the pastime or vocation that you keeps you up at night with pumping excitement and one you pursue with zeal and devotion. 
Meet the parents.
I've always wanted to take my parents rock climbing. Several years ago I did take Dad to the climbing gym in my former home in Charlotte. I put him on top-rope and he was quite a natural - hip-turning, knee-dropping and torso-twisting his way up the wall. He was quite spanked after a couple of routes but I reckon with a bit more fitness he'd have improved rapidly. However much I wish I haven't found the opportunity yet to take my folks climbing outside to real rock. It meant a lot to me to have my parents experience a whiff of this incredible sport that I had dedicated most of my free time for the past decade.
Preparing the staple muesli and fruit breakfast...yummsville!
In surfing I have recently discovered the same kind of love that I had for climbing in the early years. Hence I was besides myself with excitement when the folks announced a month ago that they had found time between work and would be able to visit me in Sri Lanka for a week at the beginning of September. I have been talking about surfing for a while now and my parents never really understood it, for good reason. They live in Delhi, a landlocked city in a country where surfing as an activity is virtually unheard of. I was eager to expose them to the sport, as spectators, or maybe even as participants if they were willing to try! 
Getting ready to head out for another mind-blowing session in the water :)
Their first day in Sri Lanka, and in Arugam Bay, after a long night of travel, saw them relax on the lounge chairs at the beach outside Mambo's (the popular hotel at the main beach in Arugam, watching me (gasp!) wait for some small waves, along with a lot of other surfers, learners, bodyboarders and other tourists splashing about in the water. Funny and silly as it sounds I suddenly noticed a bit of nervousness when I caught them looking at me - Dad with his fancy camera primed - as I sat waiting for the next set to come. It's been a long time since I have had to perform in person in front of them - school plays and performances in grade school were decades ago! Funny how one can be successful and prove oneself anywhere in the globe, but parental approval can still mean so much. Heck, I sometimes get apprehensive even if I have to drive a car with my Dad next to me! I went on to fumble the first couple of waves and as luck would have it, between the stage fright, the windy onshore conditions that afternoon, and with a lot of folks competing for limited waves, I didn't catch any nice rides the entire session. I was flustered as I have found myself improving by leaps in my stay here this season and was confident of displaying my prowess in the water. 
Longboard day outside Mambo's
Giving Dad a little lesson
The next day however was a different story. I left for the beach while they were having tea after a late breakfast. I don't know if it was whether I was more relaxed that I didn't know if they were around, or because the conditions were much better, but I was again surfing my normal self and caught some nice long waves. After one particularly good ride I turned to the beach to chance them on the beach and looking at me. Catching their eye I waved and smiled right back. Whoosh! I felt great that they had at least seen me on the last wave. Buoyed by that feeling I went on to catch some more good ones and then got out of the water to go over to them. My Mom immediately remarked that I seemed to have improved much since the last time…Haha. It felt great to see them share my delight. While I wanted them to try their hand at the sport too, I didn't want to push my luck too early. They were still recovering from the smidgen of culture shock that this backpacker surf town can be to the uninitiated and hadn't even gotten in the water for a swim yet. Dad though gamely suggested that he'd up for trying the surf board out. An adventurer, he likes trying new things and a surf lesson was immediately called for. I'm not an expert surfer by any means but I figure I know enough to at least pass on the very basics. We started by practising mock paddling and the popup on the sand at the beach, with Mom merrily clicking away at us with Dad's camera. I fortunately had my 7.6 long board with me (the 6.8 fun board would have been way too short). We made our way into the water and Dad started by lying on the surfboard and working on the basic paddling stroke. Balancing on the board wasn't that simple - a longer beginner board would have been better. I tried to push him into an oncoming wave to give him a taste of the ride but didn't have much success. Between my inexperience as a teacher and his newness at the sport, it was a short-lived session in the water. It was all good fun though and I was glad that he got to participate and get a feel for it.
My favorite cafe with the tastiest rotis and sambol.
Outside of the water, we went looking for elephants at a nearby watering hole, as well as a safari to Kumana National Park. Along with a lot of deer, wild buffaloes. crocodiles, jackals, monkeys. wild boards, and elephants of course, we were lucky to see a variety of birds, Luckier that Dad was there to help identify a lot of them. He's an amateur bird watcher and it was pleasing to see him brimming with delight as he identified the many varieties and kept a healthy chatter up with our park guide.

We decided to head over to Elephant Rock their last day in Arugam. Another lovely right-hand break that happens to be in a rather picturesque location, next to a large granite hill, just a few miles South of town. Mom was sitting on the beach enjoying the view and Dad was again ready with his camera as Semira (fellow surfer and friend from back in SF) and I paddled out and got in position for some of the nice sets the current swell was bringing in. A few minutes into the water I made a late drop onto a peeling shoulder high wave, didn't turn my board correctly and immediately wiped out. I go for a lot of waves and wipe out (fall) often - part of learning - but this was different. The board slipped and turned over right under me before I had a chance to undeck cleanly, and found the side of the board smacking my head, and then one of the fins coming right at my face and cutting a small slice into my left nostril. Ouch. I didn't feel much pain but detected the cut in my nose and warm blood flowing out. Damn. Over the years I have made a ton of learner mistakes without any serious injury and my time was up. My immediate thought was of disappointment as I didn't want my parents to have witnessed the accident. That was the end of the session certainly and I got out of the water to the look of shock on my parents faces once they saw me holding my nose with blood dripping down to my rash guard. Shortening the story, we rushed to the Pottuvil General Hospital, had the cut cleaned, disinfected and got two stitches to sew the hanging cartilage back up. No anaesthetics, I took it like a man :) My parents were remarkably understanding of the whole affair and I'm quite grateful to them for that. They did get a rounded view of the different sides of the sport. They've seen me get hurt worse. This is a small injury and I expect to be back in the water in a week or so. That's really it.

(Photos credit Sudhir Khandelwal Himalayan Adventurer)

Beautiful pair of hornbills at Kumana National Park

A lovely kingfisher

Sleeping or preparing to attack? What do you think. 

Medley of water birds....which ones can you spot?

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