As some of you may know we had one of the most amazing summers here in Germany so far; a lot of sun and no rain. So when I was planning my vacation two months ago I thought it might be nice to stay in my home country and enjoy the warm temperatures while hiking some peaks of the northern Alps. I booked a train ticket and accommodation in some mountain huts in the Karwendel region, bought some lighter hiking boots (the military boots are great, but heavy) and a rain jacket (just in case).
Fast-forward to a little over three weeks ago: Tropic-like weather in northern Germany, but rain and thunderstorms in the Alps with temperatures in the 60s … Well, that’s not how I imagined my summer vacation… I could definitely make use of the rain jacket I just bought, but I could just skip on that as well.
My cousin told me that she was going to a surf camp in France this summer. I went surfing in Panama and Costa Rica before and I know how much fun it is. I’m not the typ who’d lay at the beach all day, but surfing is physical activity as well. My guilty conscious was calmed down – it’d still be an active vacation.
A surf camp or some kind of instruction seemed ideal to me since I haven’t been on a board for a while… Now here it got complicated. Apparently I wasn’t the only one who wanted to go to the Atlantic coast this summer. The surf hostels in southern France were all booked out, same situation in San Sebastian. What should I do? I only had one week off work so I decided to wait until monday to hand in some extra vacation. In the mean time I found a hostel in Spain half way between Santander and Bilbao that had a bed and board available – for one week including lessons twice a day – perfect!
Luckily work wasn’t busy and I got another two days off. So I booked the hostel and a flight to Bilbao which was the easiest part… Now I still had four nights open. So I contacted the one surf place in Capbreton / Hossegor (France) once more and yes! They had one more bed! My vacation was all planned out and it was only a little over a week before my flight – perfect timing.
So to the day exactly two weeks ago I arrived in Bilbao (Spain), but without my luggage. It happened only once before (in France, which was a nightmare) which is surprising considering I flew a lot the last years. Anyways, there I was at the airport in Bilbao (Bilbo in Basque) with only a backpack and the phone number of my hostel (no address). The people at the luggage desk said my bag might arrive the same night and they’d sent it to my place. My place? I don’t have the address so I called the place and … nothing. The lady didn’t speak any English at all, only Basque for and Castellano. My three years of high school Spanish didn’t really help in trying to explain her the situation. I wanted to point out to her that there was no driver to pick me up as well. She said she’d call me back (that’s all I got).
In the past I went to places in South Africa or Central America all by myself and I didn’t feel lost, but there I was in Bilbo and all I wanted is to take the next craft home. How is that supposed to be when I get old??? Anyhow, I called my mom who gave me the address of the hostel which I wrote down and gave it to the luggage lady – I had the feeling that my bag would arrive before me.
“Are you Niklas?” That was English!!! I haven’t been this happy about English words in a while. So there was my driver and he actually spoke some English. I explained my situation and we left the airport; after a one hour drive along the very scenic Atlantic Basque coast we arrived in Santona, a small town right at the water which at high tide is almost completely surrounded by the ocean. Once I got out of the car the driver asked me where my luggage was – well apparently his English wasn’t that good.It was already evening, but I was supposed to have my first lesson after a quick lunch. I asked the guys what I should be wearing under the wetsuit. They asked me what I had with me. – Nothing. – Well, then it’s an easy answer. – Problem solved. But where were all the other people? I had a cold beer outside while waiting for the instructor to show up when I met a girl from Madrid – she spoke English well and she was in the same course as me. From what she knew we were actually the only people in that adult course, but the folks there didn’t like organization that much.
So eventually we got on the boards and from there on we had almost private lessons for six days. Two times two to three hours of surfing with the instructor and then as much free surfing as you like. The weather wasn’t the greatest – sometimes I didn’t know if the rain or the ocean made me wet faster, but unlike when you go hiking in the mountains the rain doesn’t really bother when surfing. It actually creates a great, almost surreal atmosphere.
Still, there was one day when the sun came out for more than a minute and I used that time to climb the nearest hills around our surfing bay. That’s where all the pictures were taken….
Day 5: After the morning surf I started feeling a sharp pain in my chest, right above my heart. I told my instructor and he said he’d have a pain in that region as well when he starts surfing after a few weeks off – the muscles and rips harden as a protection against the board. I remembered something like this from when I went surfing the last time in Central America.
In the afternoon however I couldn’t get on my board. The pain was paralyzing my entire upper body. I skipped surfing the next morning and went to the pharmacy where I bought 1000mg Ibuprofen – no result! Just laying down or getting up from bed was a nightmare. I thought if I’d take it easy for two days I might be able to enjoy some more nice surfing in France …