My friend Becca pinged me the other day on Facebook to tell me that one of our surf instructors in Costa Rica had been in a motorcyle accident and was seriously injured. “Damn,” I responded. I could not imagine that beautiful latino male all banged up and bruised. Most of all, I just couldn’t imagine the world losing that wisdom he carries around. Ishmael was the lead instructor on our Women’s Quest surfing retreat in November. He had this wild curly hair, tan hard body and a smile that would light up the sky. He was beautiful, but I really dug him because he was wise. He was a surfer, sure, but I remember him as a teacher. Thankfully, we got an update two days later that he is doing better, and it seems that the worst case scenario is not going to happen. I hope he hangs around to teach us a little while longer.
Most of the pics I have of Ishmael, affectionally called Ish, are when he was teaching us to “pop up” and stand on the surfboards. Animated and funny, he inspired us middle-aged (most of us) women to try something that most of us had never even dreamed of doing until we plopped down a couple of grand to go on this adventure. For me, I went because I wanted to feel how to surf in my bones. I am very physical, and I learn by doing. I’ve discovered that life is really like the ocean – turbulent, unpredictable, scary, beautiful, wild, over-powering, energetic, dangerous, exotic and many other things too numerous for me to mention – and I wanted to learn how to surf instead of being drowned by the events of my life. I thought surfing would help me to feel how to ride it with joy. And, it did. It was worth every cent I paid to go on this journey to Costa Rica.
Ish taught me two very important things while I was there. We had gone to a restaurant in a neighboring town, and we were chatting about stuff. I had been really struggling with body image on this trip. Anytime I’m in a bikini for a week with other fit women, I can get into a bad habit of comparing my body to theirs. In my mind, I never measure up. He told me in no uncertain terms that men down there like women who were shaped liked me. He said they liked a big ass and boobs. I remember he cupped his hands like he was holding my ass while he was saying it. “We don’t like skinny,” he said and shook his head. All of my comparisons just went away, and I realized that beauty really is in the eye of the beholder, and it doesn’t matter what I like look. There are men that will like how I am. It was a real gift and one that I treasure to this day.
Ish always told us to “Enjoy the washing machine.” That was the second big lesson he taught me. He was talking about that moment when you wipe out and are thrown about by the surf. There are safety precautions you have to take so that you don’t get walloped by the surfboard, but if you just let yourself go with the surf, it can be rather fun. It’s a challenge for a control freak like me. But, I tried to remember it. It was a bit scary and exhilirating in the baby surf close to the shore, but it was a whole different experience in the big waves. After a couple of days, Ish encouraged me to join him and a few others out in the big waves. I reluctantly went, but he promised he would take care of me. Out there, there can be 5 minute breaks before you catch a wave, and I sat out there in water way over my head, floating on a surfboard and talking with the other surfers. This is what surfers do to pass the time I thought. I felt very cool. But, then Ish waved at me and pointed to the gigantic breaker coming behind me. OMG … I got up and rode the wave for a moment and then rather undramatically wiped out. This was nothing like the washing machine on the shore. I was violently thrown about, my swimsuit bottoms were no longer where they needed to be, and I thought I might die here. But, I came up, and Ish had his thumbs up telling me I’d done okay. “Enjoy the washing machine,” he said. Well, this was what he was talking about. I’m glad I had the practice with the baby ones, but this was a whole different ball game. And, I learned to enjoy it.
I guess Ish is in his own washing machine now with a serious injury. I know that life throws us curves, and we have to learn to enjoy the washing machine. I think his ability to surf will help him get through whatever he has to endure. I know that what I learned in a week was transformational, and it set me on a path to tackle bigger things with ease. With a lifelong surfing history, he has the tools to get through whatever life throws him, but I also know that we need each other for encouragement and strength and wisdom. Ish was that for me in November. I hope I can be that for him now.
Because he is so loved, a group has set up a web page for him to help him raise money to pay for his medical costs. If you feel led to help out, please do so. Surfing instruction does not come with corporate style benefits. The site is located at: http://womensquest.com/ismael.html
Get back on the waves soon, Ish. Enjoy the Washing Machine, Baby!! You are a rock star….