British adventurer Bear Grylls once said: “Adventure should be 80 percent ‘I think this is manageable,’ and 20 percent where you’re right outside your comfort zone. Still safe, but outside your comfort zone.”
Along with banter and laughter was the guidance of former professional wakeboarder Jimmy Trask, who met me in Laguna Beach for my first ever AIO Adventure. Through this experience alone, I can confirm the 20 percent range is the real fun.
I arrived in Laguna Beach about 45 minutes before I was scheduled to start my Adventure. I was nervous and hoping to have a fun, friendly and easy-going guide. I came prepped with a list of questions in mind just in case we ran out of things to talk about, but I was optimistic.
I didn’t have to ask a single one.
My guide Jimmy and I met outside the local Starbucks. We sat down and went through introductions before moving onto the real task at hand: foiling. The fun began from the moment we started speaking.
Back where he was parked, Jimmy showed me the Lift efoil boards: one five feet tall, and the other six, thirty pounds each. When I asked which one I would be riding, I was surprised to see Jimmy point to the bigger one. Although it seemed more advanced, Jimmy assured me the extra length offered maximum stability.
Next came the wings. I got the bigger one of those, too. He called it the “Big Mama.” It was also meant to provide maximum stability and control when cruising on the water. After attaching the wings, we grabbed the rest of our gear and headed towards the beach.
Jimmy explained board control methods while we started plugging in the batteries for our boards. He showed me how to stand up, turn, and control my speed. It wasn’t long into his demonstration before a group of strangers huddled around us with an array of questions.
“What are those things? Are they surfboards? How do they work?”
Jimmy politely answered a handful of their questions before we made our way into the water. It was finally time to get up on the board and start ripping. On my first few attempts I could hear Jimmy next to me, giving instructions. Having surfed before, I figured I could bypass his tips and let the muscle memory take over – it didn’t. So after a handful of failed tries, I abandoned my stubbornness and finally made it to my feet. I turned and fist bumped my guide, triumphant. He chuckled.
Now that we were both up on our boards, we used the hand throttle to pick up speed and start gliding further out to sea. I did my best to stay close to Jimmy, but lack of experience forced me to bail on my first couple of tries. I must have been on the board for no longer than five minutes each time, but my adrenaline was already pumping. I wanted to keep up.
I got back up on my board, this time making sure to listen carefully to every word. Before I knew it, we were foiling side by side. We foiled across the beach, getting a feel for the sensation. Once he thought I was comfortable going straight, we started practicing turns. To no surprise, his advice had me carving like someone who…had actually done this before. It was amazing.
Eventually, I felt like I had total control of the board. I started to pick up speed. I felt like I was flying above the water.
After two hours, the sun was setting and the batteries were drained – it was time to head home. We began making our way to shore. Another group of spectators was waiting to bombard us with questions, but I wasn’t bothered; I let Jimmy do the talking while I reflected on my experience.
Thank you to Jimmy for being an amazing guide and host, and thank you to Team AIO for making this possible. With a new experience under my belt, I feel confident and ready to do it again.
– Eddie Ayala