|Juan José: Puerto Colombia's youth surfing champion.
A chat the other day with an aging surfer in a hot spring had me thinking again about that little Colombian surfing devil, Juan José.
Juan Jose is a 9-year-old surfing prodigy born and raised in the Colombian beach town of Puerto Colombia. He would look like an ordinary boy from Colombia; thin and dark-skinned, if it weren't for his bleach-blonde, surfer-boy hair. Sure, he's a good kid, running around full of energy and always smiling. All the women love cute little Juan José. But he's also a little asshole who thoroughly enjoys fucking with you. Oh, and did I mention he surfs better than the majority of heads at Pradomar Beach?
When I first got to Pradomar with my 7.5-foot foam board, I had the slightest idea of how to actually surf. In the beginning, I'd be out there in the water, struggling hard and getting my ass handed to me by the waves. I'd always be frustrated and my eyes would be constantly burning from the salinity of the water after losing my balance or getting smushed by yet another toppling wave.
That's typically when I'd see little Juan José zipping past a few inches from my face on his tiny board, ripping the hell out of a wave and slashing back and forth like a seasoned pro. Always with an ear-to-ear grin on his face.
After successfully crushing a wave, Juan José may look back at me, who was way back by where the wave initially broke, and laugh as he made fun of the long-haired gringo who couldn't catch the wave. He may have even paddled back to offer me a victorious fist bump, only to retract his hand to make a gesture of greasing back his hair like a cool guy before erupting into contagious laughter. I actually kind of loved that kid, and I really enjoyed watching him rip.
The kid was fluid and natural on his board in a way that was inspiring to watch. He always made it look so effortless. I learned a lot about surfing from him. Sometimes he'd make motions with his arms and legs to show me how to paddle/kick when a wave was approaching. Other times I'd learn something new just from watching him surf and then trying to imitate his style.
He had really good balance and would get super low in stance on his board, almost like he was intentionally trying to be stylish. I applied this to my own style and I noticed an improvement in my surfing ability as I started to make much better turns with my board.
This goofy, wide-eyed little kid who was at times pretty annoying turned out to be a pretty good teacher and a true inspiration. That's why it came to no surprise to me at all when I had heard that Juan José came in 1st place in the Puerto Colombia Youth Division Surfing Competition that year.
I left Puerto Colombia and the beach behind without ever saying goodbye to that lil' fucker or any of the other local surfers I had befriended during my 5 months there. I'm sure he's still out there every single day doing what he loves most, which makes me happy to think. Surf on, Juan José.
|Juan José and I paddling out at Pradomar beach.