Never underestimate the power of friendship and its ability to conquer doubt, fear and hesitation. Without their deep and abiding affection for their friend Aimee Denzel, nine women from Ventura County may never have stuffed themselves into wetsuits, tied their ankles to surfboards and braved the cold waters of Solimar beach to learn to surf — together.

“Most birthday parties, you sit around and talk, open gifts, listen to music, eat, but this is something active,” says Denzel whose 39th birthday wish was for her girlfriends to go surfing with her. Denzel had spent much of the summer watching her son hang ten under the guidance of surfclass.com instructors, so when the company’s owner, Chipper “Bro” Bell, offered to take her out, she gave it a go. She had fun and was even able to stand up. “It wasn’t as scary or hard as I thought it would be.” Naturally, Denzel wanted to share the stoke, so she asked Bell if they offer parties.

When Denzel first proposed the idea to her girlfriends, the reaction was mixed but mostly positive. “Some I had to talk into it by saying there are cute instructors,” she laughs. “Leave it to Aimee to do something like this,” muses LaDonna Ramos, a teacher at Pacifica High School in Oxnard who suited up for the big day. “She’s always full of great surprises.” Diane Swan, whose husband has been trying to get her to try surfing for 25 years, hesitated only momentarily. “Do I really want to do this?” she thought. “But I love Aimee and that morning several of us said we were there [for that reason].”

Like so many locals, Ramos has lived in Ventura her whole life but never tried surfing. “I was a little bit scared,” she says. “I’ve been pounded by waves in my life.” But the idea of walking through the adventure, among friends, eclipsed any lingering fears.

Though conditions weren’t optimal, the crew of brave Betties was unfazed. As it turned out, Denzel was the only one of the bunch who was able to stand upright on a board, though a couple of them made it to their knees. The women, who had just as much fun getting beyond the breaks and chillin’, were all surprised by how much work it was to paddle out.

“I had some major wipeouts, water up the nose, tumbling around,” says Denzel. “But you have the board to help you get your bearings. You’re attached to this thing that floats. The hardest thing is paddling out, especially when the waves are coming pretty quick. It takes a lot of upper body strength.”

“I boogie-boarded on a surfboard,” laughs Ramos. “I didn’t even try to stand up, I was so stinking tired.” Swan said the instructors were impressed with everyone’s efforts. “The waves were pretty rough for learners. But everyone kept trying,” she said.

So, would they do it again? “It was a fantastic experience,” says Ramos, “and I’d do it again for sure.” Denzel was proud of her friends whom she praised for their positive attitudes. “They were all troupers. Even the ones that were really scared, they kept going. And then afterwards they realized it wasn’t so bad. Once you get out, and you’re floating on the board like big seals, you can kind of relax and look at the beach. It’s beautiful and peaceful.”

While it wasn’t an earth shattering experience — the secret to life wasn’t revealed, no one was dramatically transformed from the experience — the day of friendship and courage was not without tiny revelations. “Our lives are so busy,” says Swan, “but a good group of people carved out that time to do it because they love someone, and that makes you take pause. We have to do that more. It’s hard to do in this world that’s so crazy now.”   

For information about surfclass’s party packages, visit www.surfclass.com.

michel@vcreporter.com