You might be wondering why my first blog post isn’t “Why I started surfing”.
That’s because anyone can start surfing. Its not hard to imagine why you would take it up (and I am talking about latecomers to the sport here, like myself – the “late bloomers” as it were). After all, there is usually the siren call of the sea, the warm sun beating down on tanned skin, that salty haze one sniff of which makes you feel alive…and happy about it, not to mention the men and women who partake in the activity typically look like bronzed gods and goddesses, toned and fit. You look at them, and say, “I want what she’s (or he’s) having!”
What is harder is keeping it up.
Surfing, for the just-over-one-year I have been doing it, is the single hardest thing I have ever tackled.
And here we segue into “and I have tackled some hard things in my time.” For example, I have worked on average 13 hour days (plus weekends and cancelled holidays) for the past four years of my life in private practice law; I have won finely balanced arguments as an ingénue solicitor against seasoned barristers in Court; I have single-handedly coddled a sleep deprived, exhausted, feverish, and moody ex in the sticky humid heat of Southern China in a week-long angst-filled trip until we finally reached a provincial backwater hospital, all while nursing (as it turned out) a feverish temperature higher than his, and I have even tried really, really, really hard to understand cricket on occasions of particular optimism.
To me, surfing is hard because it requires bravery, immense coordination, and a damned lot of persistence – all of which I confess I do not have in abundance. I have never been particularly sporty either.
If there was an activity that was created to put you in your place vis-à-vis mother nature’s sheer power, surfing is it. If I had a dollar for every time I have been happily paddling one minute, and the next, have face planted into a wave swiftly coming to “greet” me, been stuck in the impact zone, or held down for what felt like forever (but was probably only a couple of minutes), then I would be moderately wealthy (but only because I haven’t surfed all that much). Not to mention all the seaweed which invariable manages to roll up into a massive lead-like ball and wrap itself vice-like around your leg rope.
There is the burning arms as you finally get through the breakers to prove that you’re good enough to have a go (that is, if you haven’t been swept back to shore already). Then there is the waiting, waiting, waiting some more, for the rise of that perfect crest – will it ever come? The aborted take off. Then finally the take-off, but now I’ve-fallen-off-and-I’m-getting-smacked-around factor. And then you rinse and repeat. Come to think of it, surfing for the beginner is a lot like an abusive relationship with that partner who is dangerously exciting; where you know you should let him go, but just can’t quite bring yourself to do so because you hope that he will finally be the man you know he could be, and who he always promises to be, and please could he stop knocking you around.
Nor does improvement come speedily – largely due to the not-being-able-to-get-right-the-last-wave-you-tried-to-hit-but-didn’t because no two waves are the ever the same (but also because I am fairly uncoordinated moving sideways).
So why do I still surf, after all that?
To be honest, it is because the last year and the beginning of this one has been unmitigated sh*t. I broke up with my ex-boyfriend after many years together, of which the last 8 months consisted of trying to make our limping zombie of a relationship work. I then, in quick succession (but I promise completely unrelatedly), “broke up” with my brand-spanking-new job (and which was meant to be the saviour from my old 13 hour work day) within a few months of starting after being terribly disenchanted by the work. I have usually (and without wanting to sound smarmy about it, but probably will) excelled in everything I do. I have also always thought of myself as incredibly lucky and now after these body blows, my entire self-image has been shaken. Clearly, I now have a lot of free time on my hands and I need something all-consuming to fill it. Something other than a boyfriend or career to validate me.
But more than that, surfing is my “happy place“. I feel both peaceful yet strangely energised and focused (probably because I’m trying really hard not to die) when I’m in the water, I love the smell and tang of sea-mist, and on the few occasions when I hit that wave and land it, I definitely understand the stoke. And that feeling is something I want to replicate again and again.
For me, the smell of sand, surf, and sunscreen will also, always, and irrevocably be tied to some of my happiest childhood memories (barring the incident when I nearly drowned – but that will be the subject of another post… maybe).
Keep the stoke alive!