Don't ask me why, but a mother-daughter surfing lesson sounded like a good idea at the time. I could see myself gracefully riding the warm Hawaiian waves. Bonding with my pre-teen...

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Don’t ask me why, but a mother-daughter surfing lesson sounded like a good idea at the time.

I could see myself gracefully riding the warm Hawaiian waves. Bonding with my pre-teen daughter. Discovering, in my middle age, a new sport.

After all, in the past few years there’s been a boom in female surfers in Hawaii, California and beyond. “Grand Masters” — the over-45 surfers — have their own competitive events. And there was lots of hype about the recent Hawaii surfer-girl film, “Blue Crush.”

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So, I reasoned on a winter visit to the Hawaiian island of Kauai, why shouldn’t I join the crowd?

I did, and had to face reality.

Surfing with a pro

It was my first morning in Hawaii, and it was an unexpectedly chilly, overcast day. That’s why there was no one else in the water except my blond hunk of a surfing instructor.

He was prepared … he was wearing a wetsuit. It fit like a second skin over his very buff first skin.

My daughter was wearing a heavy nylon surfing top over her bathing suit and looked great, as any athletic 12-year-old does.

Me? I wore shorts over my bathing suit to conceal the misfortunes of middle age.

Bad wardrobe choice. In a particularly embarrassing moment, as I struggled to stand on my surfboard, my waterlogged shorts sagged to my feet. Bound at the ankles, I tumbled headfirst into a wave.

That was only one of the embarrassing moments in my 1½ -hour surfing-lesson saga.

By veteran surfers’ standards, we were in puny waves at a beach in the Poipu resort area. For me, they were plenty big.

Most surf schools teach surfing basics and water safety on land before actually hitting the waves.

And I proved to be particularly skilled at taking the waves at the wrong angle as I paddled out from shore, lying on my long foam board. I was flipped with daunting regularity, managing to surface once underneath my board and bashing my head.

Meanwhile, our instructor, who possessed sinewy arms that a thousand aerobics classes would never give me, would paddle effortlessly past, kneeling on his board. My daughter kept right up with him. Panting, arms aching, I’d struggle to catch up.

About 50 yards offshore, he’d take turns holding our boards steady, watch for the right wave, then push one of us off, chanting “paddle, paddle, go, go.”

I was usually too slow to catch the wave. If I did, I’d fall down as soon as I tried to stand up on my board. “Your feet are still too far back,” he’d shout, just before I’d tumble off the board again.

A mouthful of saltwater

As I surfaced sputtering after yet another mishap, he asked, “Um, just curious, have you been in the ocean before?”

Well, yes, lots, I wanted to holler, and probably in a lot more oceans than you have. And, I wanted to screech, obviously I’m incompetent at surfing, but that’s why I’m taking a lesson.

I didn’t say anything. My mouth was too full of saltwater as another wave slapped me in the face. Besides, he was doing a great job teaching my daughter, who was standing on her board and riding the waves gracefully and happily. I just had to face it: I was not surfer material. I gave up trying to stand on my board and just lay on my stomach to ride into shore. Now that was fun.

Our instructor, meanwhile, caught a particularly enticing wave and did a perfect headstand on his board as he surfed into shore.

Macho grandstanding? Yes. But it was impressive.

I hauled my sodden self onto the beach and, shivering and watching proudly, let my daughter take the rest of the lesson.

Maybe, some warmer day, I’ll try surfing again. But I’ll set my daughter loose and find some other slow learners, who have waves dancing in their heads but need more time to stand on their own two feet.

Kristin Jackson’s Family Matters column runs the third Sunday of each month. Contact her at 206-464-2271 or