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Published: March 13th 2013
An "Australian Surf Instructor" in Uruguay. Something I never thought I would do/be/become... This is going to be a good conversation starter when I start going for job interviews in Australia again.
So the summer in Punta del Este has come to an end and therefore so has my work as a surf instructor. I decided to keep a small diary of my experience over the time, giving you the following as a little summary and extract of some of the thoughts, feelings & struggles I faced whilst teaching surf over the past 6 weeks. Never-the-less, it was a fun experience and will be interesting to elaborate on in an interview some day! WEEK #1
Challenges faced: the constant feeling of jet-lag whilst trying to bring my body clock back into sync with daylight hours. Emotionally dealing with the thought of, "Have I made the right decision changing jobs?".
My first week at the beach and the week started off fairly quiet regarding classes, therefore I was worried about incoming money so I was battling those 'economistic demons' in my head. Towards the end of the week, the lessons picked up with long days at
the beach from 11am-9pm. Add to that, 50min-1hr each way my bike and it made for some long days and deep sleeps!
I also noticed a change in me and started to soften. Spending my days seeing young families playing on the beach & with teaching kids how to surf in the water, it forced me to bring out another side which I haven't really touched since I was probably 12 years old myself - and that's 15 years ago now!
Although I knew I had made the right decision with the job change, my first night out partying with the girls partying and dancing until after the sun came up really re-enforced this. I had so much fun dancing and drinking and laughing, it will always remain one of my favourite nights out in South America due to the significance of it and what it represented. WEEK #2
Week #2 started where Week #1 finished off. Busy days but the water temperature had dropped significantly to the point where a wetsuit felt like you're wearing cotton pants in Antarctica... There were days where I spent a solid 8 hours in the water teaching
which then caused for a big change in my appetite and I was craving more food and always had the feeling of being hungry. My body was adjusting to all the cardio I had started doing and I couldn't eat enough to feel full. It was days of 11am-3pm straight in the water; eat; sleep 20mins; and back in the water from 4pm-8pm. As well as being cold, the water had a strong current and the windys were chilly! Day upon day I thought of quiting and asking myself, "Why am I doing this again?".
And then looking at the situation and realising life wasn't that bad. It is character building. Suck it up.
To add to that, the cold currents also brought in the "aguaviva". Also commonly known in English as "jellyfish". But luckly for me, these big-beautifully-ugly creatures were quite harmless and I even copped a couple in the face when swimming and recieved no damage.
The week ended with 2 days of stunningly flat water which gave me time to get out on the Stand Up Paddle (SUP) and also make some new friends who were from across the river in Buenos Aires. Following the
All ready for a day at work
flat surf came 'una tormenta' (a storm) which gave me a day off just in time for the full moon of January where I sat on the beach and watched the full moon rise to my left and the sun set to right. The colours of the sky were unforgetable - pink, purple, blue and orange - look right and you have day; look left and you have night... WEEK #3
Once the waters calmed after the storm it made for a busy week, but not as physically challenging as the week prior. The days were still long but with calmer wind, water and a more prominent sand bar, we were each able to take 2 children into the water at one time to teach.
To contrast this, as only mother nature can do, there was one unforgettable day where everything change so quickly and we actually had to cancel the classes for the rest of the evening as the waves suddenly picked up and had so much power and water movement behind them, it even scared us being out there! We knew it was time to get out of the water (and FAST!) when
Entering the water
SUP Lessons at Tio Tom Beach
one wave broke in front of Fede and I and we lost the kids off the boards. I put my hand under the water thinking I was pulling up a small child but instead up came my colleague! My hand went down again and luckily up came his child. At the same time the kid who was attached to my board popped up at the other end looking wide-eyed and speechless a good 3 meters away. We didn’t need to say much, just smile at the kids ‘not to scare them’ and vamos
back to the shore as fast as humanly possible. You’ve got to give the little kids credit though as on our way back in one of the took the opportunity to try and stand up while I was body-dragging off the back of the board! With forced smiles and a little laughter to keep the kids in high spirits (and approaching watchful parents) we reached the shore safely but when we had a few spare seconds, the 3 of us looked at each other giving knowing glances of “holy shit”. All I could think of afterwards was thank god for strong leashes on the surfboards...
Small child, big board!
the surf quieted down, we had 2 days of ‘tapioca’ which are another type of jelly fish but are smaller than your fingernail being almost invisible in the water, leave stings and itches in all places inappropriate and sensitive…….luck for wetsuits! I refused to get back in the water for the last class it affected me so badly but I was lucky enough to pick up a SUP (Stand Up Paddle) session for the rest of the day so I was as least on the water, rather than in it! But the jellyfish left my eye lids and around my neckline irritated for another 3 days and any time I had a hot shower it would start itching again…
In similar circumstances, the week finished off in a imilar way to the last with Friday being as flat as flat, a storm rolling through over night and the water a mess for the next two days over the weekend – therefore leaving no work again for 3 days straight. WEEK #4
After the storm the water was warm but the winds which blew over the top of us were cold….very cold! After every storm the
sandbar changes also and now it was a lot higher, making the waves break very high and quickly – very difficult for surf teaching! Tuesday was one of the funniest days I remember. The water was still warm so we had opted for short wetsuits – which we came to regret later when we were in the water playing ‘hop-scotch’ with large jelly fish floating and bumping past our legs! They didn’t sting at all, but the feeling of them in the water when you unexpect them is aweful and it hilarious to stand there and watch grown men scream and shreak with laughter! The kid kept shouting out “AGUA-VIDA!!” but it was all well and good for them as they were ON TOP of the surf boards and not IN the water!!
But then from Wednesday it all changed and I got sick. I didn’t go into work in the morning and I’m glad I didn’t as I didn’t realize how sick I actually was until the afternoon when I went to visit a friend and ended up staying at her house for 3 days being looked after by her mother and grandmother. Antibiotics, a lot of sleep,
god home-cooked food and a book made the end of the weeks recovery and a very somber and quiet ‘me’.
On Sunday Vale, Jimena and I had already planned to go to La Pedrera for one night of surf and Carnival partying and being day 4 of antibiotics I was feeling better so we jumped in the car and headed north for some fun and relaxing! And surf. Oh god I forgot how much I miss it! Teaching surf is not the same as doing it yourself and I questioned myself, ‘Why am I so crazy with work in my life?’ Note to self – priority: surf.
So after some fun little waves in the afternoon, and meeting up with another 7 girls from Montevideo, the party kicked off on the beach with a DJ playing music until after the sun went down and had us all drinking and laughing and jumping around in the sand until there was no light left in the sky. I looked around at everything I was seeing and experiencing and just thought, “God I love Uruguay!” It is these experiences that I love. It’s this ‘living’ feeling I am here for… So
Looking down towards Tio Tom Beach
after a little sleep on the couch (well, only for me!), we headed out at 2am where the street party was just beginning! Drinking a little and dancing a lot, 10 single girls continued on until 7am in the morning where we then walked back to the house via a foggy and mystical beach for some well needed sleep.
We then left the girls from Montevideo there to party on for another night and us 3 girls returned to Punta del Este as we all had to work but it was such an amazing 2 days of fun, I cant wait to go back in March for some surf and relaxation… WEEK #5
Wishing I hadn’t rushed back, my first day back at work and the water was flat. By this stage, I’ve just learnt to laugh and smile. Hey, what else can you do!? Seriously 😊 But the treat of a storm changed the swell for a few days and made for some of the most breath-takingly colourful sunsets from the beach. I even got a little 15 minute surf at one stage before a class, only to then watch the boys having fun
out there infront of me for a good 2-3 hours whilst I looked on! This day was also one of the most tiring I remember as the current in the water was so strong over the sandbar I remember thinking and actually seeing the whole force of the ocean moving against me. This was one of those days where I thought I had had enough and was not able to do the next class…..but always did. To top it off, for the last class we moved up the beach a little, thinking to find a better location but the whole hour was spent treading water and swimming in the deep as no sandbar was found. Needless to say, I was utterly exhausted by the time I rode home at 10:30pm at night.
The wonderful thing about a few days of swell and mess is there is always at least one day of ease, where you can stand at the back of the sandbar and just push the kids on the waves and wait for them to paddle back to you. If these days happen once a week, I am happy as it feels like a reward for getting through
the days prior.
But then when no swell follows it’s flat again and so this is how another week ends with no classes. On the up side, I did the stand Up Paddle to the end of the beach and back, which I estimated to be a good 6km paddle, and hour & a half of sweating and a brilliant workout! On the social aspect, it was the week of asados
and we had 4 bbq’s in 5 days and I am now happy to announce I no longer need to take the Iron tablets I bought when I was in Brazil. I have enough Iron in my body and blood to last many more years!! WEEK #6
And so week #6 began with flat seas and 4 days of no work, changing when the winds picking up overnight leaving the ocean an utter mess and the water not even enterable. I rode to the beach not knowing this, only to wait and drink mate with the lifeguards for an hour to then turn around and ride home. I finished off my day in style though, when I went to a very expensive restaurant in
the port drinking coffee and waiting for time to pass. And it felt great. People watching, waiting for nothing, drinking coffee, solitude – it turns out I can be good at this anywhere in the world. It’s something I would do in Sydney over the weekend and it still feels like ‘me’.
For something different, the next day I decided to run to the beach instead of ride. The ocean was still too messy to teach but so I turned and caught the bus home afterwards but the run was a good steady pace with just over 16km in 90minutes and I felt great afterwards. People here think I’m crazy – I just think I’m bored…
There was no work for the rest of the week until Friday when the weather turned nice but by this stage I had gone crazy doing nothing the whole week so I decided to skip work and make the day my own and Vale, Jime & I went to La Barra for an afternoon of surf. The big, fat waves were a little intimidating but it felt so nice to finally be doing something! WEEK #7
I’m back at the beach for work but it is my last day as tomorrow it is predicted to rain and I have decided for the coming week I will go to Montevideo and study Spanish as I am not handling well sitting around and waiting as I’m a little restless. So I will come back the following weekend but not for work as it's now officially finished but I am unsure as to what I will do. What I do know is that times are changing and I’m feeling a little anxious with the unknown ahead again…
And so, my 6 weeks of being a surf instructor in Uruguay have come to an end. Countless bruises on my legs, 1 chipped tooth, jelly-fish stings and I’m sure a small case of hypothermia at one stage has wrapped up what has become a very educational experience and an unexpected ‘tick-in-the-box’ for this Australian traveller. What is to come next, I have no idea, but let’s start with some proper Spanish lessons after living here for 3 months! 😊
Hope you enjoyed the long read!
Love to all…
Big smiles!**There are more photos at the bottom of this page** *Thanks to the people I 'borrowed' the photos from!*
Gabi, Jime, Me & Vale
Tot: 2.069s; Tpl: 0.07s; cc: 9; qc: 64; dbt: 0.065s; 1; m:saturn w:www (126.96.36.199); sld: 1;
; mem: 1.4mb