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With her surfboard under one arm, Bindi stood at the water's edge, watching the waves roll in, one after another, in glassy perfection. She felt a rush of excitement. Here she was in Mexico, at Los Cerritos Beach on the Baja coast! Bindi and Kelly, her American friend, were about to embark on a week long surf-ari, heading up the west coast, across the border, and into San Diego, California.
"Let's carve it up, dude!" Kelly was already paddling out into the surf.
"Gnarly, dude!" Bindi yelled back, giggling. The friends were having fun trying out their surf lingo!
Bindi paddled after her friend. She could just make out Kelly's spiky blonde hair as she disappeared behind a steep, feathering wave. Kelly threw herself into everything with enthusiasm, especially when it came to sports.
Once they had fought their way past the break, the friends sat on their surfboards, looking back at the shoreline. It was very relaxing bobbing up and down to the rhythm of the sea. What a view! Los Cerritos was an endless strand of soft, golden sand set against a backdrop of palm trees. The rugged desert coastline was breathtaking. It seemed a world away from the Sunshine Coast, where Bindi usually surfed.
"Did you see our itinerary?" exclaimed Kelly. "Surfing, surfing, and more surfing. This trip is going to rock!" She loved to surf and couldn't imagine anything better than a week of waves.
"Don't forget scoping out marine life on a belly full of fish tacos!" added Bindi, who liked to get her priorities straight.
"Muy bien!" agreed Kelly. Bindi knew this phrase meant "very good" in Spanish. Kelly had been teaching her a few Spanish words that could come in handy for the trip.
This was more than an ordinary surf tour; it was also a marine-life adventure. Kelly shared Bindi's passion for animals and their welfare. Her family lived in Oregon and worked for Wildlife Images, a rehabilitation and education center established to care for injured wildlife. Bindi's mom, Terri, and her brother, Robert, were spending some time in Oregon helping at the center while the lucky girls got to catch some waves.
"Out the back!" Kelly pointed to a rising swell. "This one's mine!"
Bindi watched as Kelly paddled hard until the swell lifted her board onto the wave. Then she jumped to her feet. Bindi was impressed. "Woo hoo!" she cheered on her friend.
It was Bindi's turn next, and she didn't have to wait long. A picture-perfect wave came along with her name on it. She rehearsed the steps in her head. Board lined up facing the beach. Check. Now paddle! Check. Bindi moved her arms through the water as fast as she could to propel the board forward. It was hard work getting up the necessary speed to catch the wave before it passed her by. She felt the board lift and begin to speed up. Time to leap up! She pushed herself up to standing. She was surfing!
But then, too late, she realized her perfect little wave was too steep; the nose of her board buried itself into the wave and she was pitched forward. Wipe out!
Under the water, Bindi could feel the pitching and rolling as the wave passed over her and her leg rope gave a sharp tug to remind her she was still attached to her board. She knew enough not to fight the wave but to wait for it to pass over the top of her.
When she came up for air, Bindi swam the few strokes to her board and climbed back on. She lay still for a minute catching her breath, then began paddling toward the beach, allowing the whitewash to carry her in.
Kelly cheered her on. "Great job, Bindi!"
Bindi looked up, surprised. "But I got smashed!" she said as she stood up in the shallow water and placed her board under her arm.
"Yeah, but you did it with style!" That was Kelly for you-always positive, always on the go.
Bindi now noticed that Kelly was standing with an older man. He had shoulder-length hair pulled back in a ponytail and a weathered face that lit up with his broad smile.
"Buenos dias, Bindi! I'm Matt, your teacher and guide for the next week." He was wearing a colorful surf shirt and a pair of board shorts. As they shook hands, Bindi wondered if he had seen her get dumped by the wave.
Matt gave her a smile. "Cerritos is perfect for beginners. It's got one of the nicest swells in all of Baja and is one of the more forgiving places to get dumped."
Bindi cringed. "You saw?"
Matt laughed. "It's nothing to be ashamed of. You can't learn the language of the ocean unless you let her give you a few lessons first!" He gave her a wink. "The others have arrived so we can get started. Are you ready to go out again?"
The glistening, ultramarine blue of the Pacific Ocean beckoned to her. Bindi looked over at Kelly, who was practically jumping up and down in excitement.
The two girls spoke at the same time.
Matt clapped his hands together with enthusiasm. "Let's go surfing!"