Friday, January 27, 2017

Surfing Safari

One of my goals in going back to Cali was to bring my surfboard back and hopefully put it to good use this summer. Mission accomplished, but it wasn't easy. In fact, I encountered negative vibes and skepticism at pretty much every step of the way. However, if there's one thing I've learned, it's not to listen to the skeptics, who are everywhere, especially when it involves something important, like a surfboard (what else is there in life?). The thing that's a big bummer is that when you listen to the naysayers, it's so easy to give in and tell yourself that it's too much trouble, or that it's not going to work. What's ironic is that the negative feedback often has no basis, it's just this fear and anxiety of something that hasn't happened yet. I know this because I'm guilty of the same thing, but I'm getting better at it, and I'd love it if my kids didn't succumb to it. You never know until you try, right? That, and it's better to regret what you have done than what you haven't done.

So when I first brought up the idea of bringing my surfboard back, people said that it was going to be too big or that it was going to be too expensive. How the heck are you going to get that thing on the plane? How are you going to get it home from the airport? I also knew that my mom, who kept it in her garage, was going to think it was a complete waste of time and money. Believe me, these issues all weighed on my mind, not to mention the logistics of transporting something that is easily cracked, chipped, and damaged. I've transported a surfboard to Costa Rica and it wasn't a problem because I have the carrying case, but that was 20 years ago. How to get it to New England?

The first thing I did was contact the airline, JetBlue, about checking it in. On their website it says that you can check a surfboard for $50, which was actually cheaper than I thought it would be. One of the big issues was how to get it from the airport to my home. I had to take the bus from Vermont to the Boston and back, and the big worry was if I could get the thing onto the bus. The luggage compartment is huge, but so is a surfboard. I went to their main office and asked and they said I could load it if it fit. They weren't very effusive or enthusiastic, but at that point I was ready to take what I could get.

Now with all these people thinking I was nuts to bring a surfboard from LA to Vermont, I naturally tried to think of alternatives. One was to ship the thing UPS or FedEx. I contacted both and they were looking at $200, not to mention all the packaging stuff I would need. While it would have been nice to have it delivered to my front door, I decided that taking it on the plane was the most affordable way. I just had to get my board case out to LA. Since it's a soft case, though heavily padded, I was able to fold it up into a convenient bundle, about the size of a small carry on. I decided to travel as light as possible, with only one backpack and a clean shirt, socks, and a pair of underwear. Along with my laptop and a bag of snacks, that's all I had. That way I could streamline my possessions and focus on getting that board home.

Another complication was if my mom would let me put the surfboard in her car. She has a nice car, and last time I was out there she forbade me from putting my "dirty" surfboard inside of it. I decided that if this happened again, I would rent a car or find someone to give me a lift, though I had a 7:00AM flight out of LA. I didn't even think of Uber, but that might have been an option. One funny story is that my good friend said he'd be willing to take me to the airport if I could guarantee that he didn't have to see my mom, but that's a story for another time.

To get the board ready, I needed a couple of things to prepare it for the long journey home, so I drove out to Malibu and got a board sock to cover it, and then to Target to get some bubble wrap and packing tape. I did a pretty thorough job of wrapping that thing, and once I got it into the carrying case, I couldn't completely relax because I had to deal with the next hurdle. My mom agreed to let me take it in her car, so that was one obstacle removed. The next challenge was making sure I woke up on time the day of my departure. With a 7:00AM flight, I wanted to get to the airport at least an hour, if not two, before my flight in case there were some issues with the board. I felt bad having to wake up my mom and even looked into getting a shuttle to pick me up. This would have cost about $30, which isn't bad, but my mom said she'd do it. How cool was that? I even asked mom back home in Vermont to give us a wake up call since she'd be awake at that time, but I woke up early and let her know all was well.

The question of whether the board would even fit in my mom's car came up. It's a 4 door sedan and in the case the board is about 7 feet long and 2 feet wide. The night before I did some tweaking and it fit just fine, so that was not going to be a problem. My mom, however, would have to sit in the back while I drove. Once there my mom told me to call her and let her know that it worked out while she waited in a nearby parking lot. This was very cool of her because she was prepared to come back to the airport and take my board back to her house if it didn't work out. I was pleasantly surprised because I thought she would be fine if the thing ended up in the trash.

I checked the board in no problem and boarded the plane, though it was a crowded flight. I ended up in an emergency aisle which had tons of legroom but overhead compartments. Consequently, I didn't know what to do with my backpack. I took my laptop out and was prepared to check it in when the flight attendant found some space in first class. Finally I could relax a little for the flight home. For the record, JetBlue is a great airline for the quality of the experience. Maybe my favorite airline, but more on that later.

Once we landed I had to catch a bus and was pressed for time. We landed at 3:00, and I wanted to catch a 3:50 bus. That meant getting my board and getting to the bus stop in time. Normally this would be a piece of cake but there was some delay at the baggage claim. The bags didn't start coming until about 3:30, and of course my board was one of the last things to come out. I grabbed it and hurried out to the bus stop and waited. To add to the drama, the bus was late, as well, though this isn't always a bad thing because the crowd thins out over time. All the transport buses meet in the same spot, so there are a ton of people waiting. As time passes they catch their bus and things calm down.

Once the bus pulled up, I had one more anxious hurdle to confront, and that was if my board would fit underneath, which it did, no problem. All the doubts about whether it would fit were silly because the board is not that huge. If it were a 10 foot long board then yet, it might have been a problem, but mine slid in with room to spare. I was so stoked. I found a seat and settled in for the ride. I wasn't completely sure if my board would fit in my car, but as long as it was in my home state, I wasn't too worried.

The bus was nearly empty so I had tons of room to relax, but interestingly enough, when we got to South Station, about 100 people got on board. At that point the bus was packed, with not a seat to spare. I had to gather all my stuff together to make room, but I figured it was a small price to pay to get my board home. Once we landed, I got an extra treat when mom and the kids came to meet me. They were nearby visiting friends so they decided to come to the bus stop and see me. I love when that happens.

My board fit in the car, the car started no problem, and we headed home. Overall the trip went well, and the experience reminded me that negative people often don't know what they're talking about, they just feel the need to be negative, so don't listen to them. Also, having done it, I feel less intimidated about doing it again, not that I am going to any time soon.

Best of all, we have two boards now, and once we get a third, we'll be stoked and ready to hit some east coast surfing.

Until then, thanks for reading, and thanks to uncle bigbrown for the pic.

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