Jan Risher -

According to people who know a lot more than me, learning new things — especially as an adult — is good, really good, for our brains. Using that benchmark, this week in a new place doing new things clearly has done wonder for the gray matter inside our family’s collective heads.

Here’s a brief summary:

Our 14-year-old daughter has been nearly obsessed with surfing for the last couple of years. She’s watched countless videos about it. She’s read a book about it. She practiced the techniques she learned on land. She’s learned (and taught us) the lingo. And, she imagined herself hanging ten on a big wave (even if that wave was off the East Coast). She was convinced if given the opportunity, surfing would be in her not-so-distant future. Much to her chagrin, surfing in reality is not quite as straightforward as a book or video makes it seem. To her credit, she’s not given up, but she has newfound respect for surfers in general and Bethany Hamilton, in particular. (Hamilton is the Hawaiian surfer whose arm was bitten off by a shark. She continues to surf competitively with one arm.)

In the not-as-tricky-as-surfing category, I have learned to throw a cast net — and even caught a few fish (albeit small ones). I like it. It’s effective. It’s ancient. It’s new to me.

We’ve all done our best to learn to figure out crabbing. At this point, I know some readers are asking, “Just how much brain power does it take to outsmart an animal who has a brain the size of a little more than a pea?” Well, for our family and friends who have never done it, we have had fun figuring out the bits and pieces of it — including tides, traps, nets, hooks and bait. Thus far, we don’t have a lot to show for our brainpower (and I know that may entertain the many expert fishermen and women and crabbers throughout the land).

However, I’m having fun thinking about it. I believe a crab boil is in our very near future.