Get totally tubular on your next cruise, or have the time of your life trying
On a cruise, I look forward to civilized pursuits, such as lounging in a cedar sauna cantilevered over the ship's bow, or sipping bubbly at the captain's cocktail hour. But I have a new love, and it's a lot more more splashy: I love riding the FlowRider® surf simulator.
On a recent trip aboard Royal Caribbean's Freedom of the Seas — the first ship to ever install a wave simulator — I surfed the steady swell so much during my eight-day voyage that I approached bona fide surfer status (I wish), became best friends with the surf staff and picked up a few hang-10 tips while riding. Here goes:
- Wear a sturdy bathing suit. String bikinis don't work. Nor do Speedos. Rushing at speeds nearing 30 mph, more than 100,000 gallons of water per minute swishes up the steady slope, so when surfers-to-be flail in the water, so can their parts. To avoid a Janet Jackson moment, wear a rashguard and board shorts.
- Go early and flow often. If you're serious about avoiding a crowd, ride the break before breakfast. Surfing at the start of every day, I practiced multiple rounds without having to wait in line. Use this same methodology at port and in the evenings when everyone else is sipping sundowners.
- As far as technique goes, at first, you'll step on the board while holding the surf staff's hands and inch into the wake. As your balance improves, you'll learn to surf with one foot ahead of the other and work toward a knees-bent surf stature. Starting your session "dropping in" from the top of the wave is the magic moment.
- Practicing three or four times a day allowed me to improve in leaps and bounds, and while you won't find me entering big-wave surf contests, I had a blast.
- Surfing is a full-body, energy-sapping workout. Take breaks to refuel, and even though the landing is pretty soft, expect a few bumps and bruises while you learn. Call it a small price to pay for such exhilaration.