I grew up in Hampton, NH located 5 minutes from the ocean. I didn't realize how much this would impact my life. I often sat on the beach wall at North Beach eating a bagel from JB's Bagel (now KB's Bagel) with my friends and family. We would talk, sit, watch and walk at the beach almost every day. When I was 13 years old, I saw surfers catching waves and I said to myself, "Hey, I want to do that!" So, I started out on my surf journey.
Luckily, John Polzella, my parent's friend from church, was giving surf lessons that summer! It was serendipitous! I thought we were going straight to the ocean, but John did not start me out in the water. He gave me a packet about surfing etiquette, showed me different types of surfboards (long, short, single fin, tri fin, etc) and told me what each part of the surfboard was called. He showed me endless surf videos so I could see how people ride different surfboards and waves.
After 3 (indoor) classes, he finally brought me to the beach. The first thing he did was push me while I was standing on the beach! Being surprised, I pushed him back and said, "What was that for?!?" He said he needed to figure out if I was regular or goofy foot. I am regular. He gave me his 7'6 Hobie surfboard from the 1970's to ride. He showed me how to duck dive the white water, how to sit on the board, how to paddle and read the wave. He always reminded me about surf etiquette, to have the aloha spirit, and most importantly to have FUN while surfing. I still have this mindset today!
I caught my first wave on my belly and the exhilaration from catching the wave was so extreme. I couldn't stop smiling, laughing and jumping around like a kook. I didn't even care what other people on the beach thought because it was the BEST feeling in the world! I immediately went back out for more and even caught a wave on my feet in the white water. I was completely hooked.
From that day on, I knew I had to keep surfing and catch a real wave. I thought if white water feels this great then riding on a real wave like a real surfer has to be even more amazing! John and I met up a bunch of times that summer and I eventually got my own surfboard. Since I couldn't drive yet, I made my family take me and I also didn't want to be alone if something happened to me. Unfortunately, none of my friends surfed at the time.
Years went by and I was improving and surfing alone. At one point, John tried to convince me to do surfing competitions, but I vowed to myself that I would never do one because surfing is purely fun and not competitive for me. For me, surfing is a lifestyle and not a sport. I fell in love with surfing so much that I wanted to find a partner that I could share my love of surfing with. I met Jacob my second year of college. He was an avid skier but had never tried surfing. I convinced him that he had to try it and 10 years later he is still surfing with me.
When Jacob and I got married in 2008, we decided that the day after our wedding we wanted to do a "first surf session as a married couple." John came to our wedding and joined us for the surf session. We hadn't surfed together for probably 10 years. He said he was so happy that I was still surfing and that I got Jacob into surfing too! In that moment, it was like everything came full circle. John taught me as a child, and 12 years later he was surfing with me as a grown woman with my husband. It was such a remarkable moment for both of us. He has taught a bunch of people how to surf, but he told me that I was one of the only ones that really kept to the commitment.
If it were not for John, I wouldn't be where I am today. I wouldn't be a surfer, I wouldn't have started BirdSwell and I wouldn't be living in California. I can only hope that I can make an impact on someone's life like John's impact on me.
Thank you, John, for teaching me and introducing me to one of the biggest passions in my life. Thank you for taking me out into the vast ocean and giving me the aloha spirit. I am indebted to you as most of my life decisions have revolved around the surfing lifestyle!
J-Bird, Jacob and John Pozella at our "First Surf Session as a Married Couple" in 2008