Sometimes you have to focus on yourself when you realize everything else is impossible to figure out.
I was holding on for dear life. My grip into the foam board was so tight it was starting to make an imprint.
“What are you afraid of, the water?” He said sarcastically.
I didn’t know if I should be offended that my surfing instructor just asked me — a newbie to the surf world — that I fell into the brown girl stereotype of being afraid of water and not knowing how to swim.
“Uh, no…” I said, slightly annoyed. I definitely knew how to swim, I had lessons when I was 6 at camp in New Jersey and I was swimming ever since. As for being afraid of the water, definitely not. I take really long showers… I just couldn’t figure out how keep this rush of saltwater out of my mouth and how to wipe the dripping hair gel out of my eyes. I must have looked petrified; I felt out of control.
I wasn’t sure if I was supposed to keep my head down or up as my instructor pulled my surfboard against the waves, deeper into the ocean. I didn’t have time to be offended. I was trying not to drown.
I wish I got better sleep that night. I wish I didn’t miss my first train out to Long Island that morning. I was dehydrated and weak, but I prepaid for this lesson and who knows when my next free weekend would be.
“Alright,” he said as he pulled me into the deeper surf. He stopped to look back on the horizon where the ships were. He turned my board around waiting for the perfect wave and pushed me towards the shore.
“Go!” He exclaimed.
What? What? Wait, now?! Am I supposed to jump up now? I wasn’t sure if I should look back. I didn’t know how to time my surf. And then it happened…
My ears went silent, my eyes narrowed and all I can think was that the time is right. Get up or you will drown. The waves were high that day. I didn’t realize until they cleared the ocean an hour later that we were dealing with super moon tidal waves. I thought it was my fatigue that made it was so challenging to travel out into the ocean.
I don’t know how I did it, but I did. With a perfect stance I stood, squatted and surfed to the shore. With wavering arms to keep me balanced, I panicked approaching shallow water. I jumped off and fell to the bottom of the sea, with my board smacking me in my face on the way up.
I forgot you were not supposed to abandon ship. And with the board attached to your ankle, you’re safer using it as a floating device.
The ride was so smooth. It was surreal. For that moment, I realized what the hype was all about. It is magical. You are one with the earth. In harmony with the waves. The tides that seem to betray you on the way out into the ocean are your support on your way back to land. I understand why surfing is a lifestyle. It takes more than book smarts and street smarts to navigate. You have to be at peace with yourself, in touch with nature. You have to listen. You have to be strong.
As I limped out of the water carrying my gigantic baby blue board, my friends and new peers cheered me on. It felt good. I was in shock. My instructor caught up to me and said I did a good job. He didn’t mention anything about me jumping off. He later told the group we all did well. That we were all troopers for handling the intense waves. Two patrons of the beach that day, further down from the surf camp, had emergency rescues from a team of lifeguards. The tides were more serious that I thought. I was humbled and felt like a survivor.
The ocean kicked my ass. It also taught me some valuable lessons that reminded me of life. Here are a couple of things I learned; I hope you can gain something from too:
- In order to get to the sweet spot, you have to swim against the current.
- Be alert to opportunity, know when the next wave is coming. And the one you want.
- Align yourself (your board) with the direction of your path.
- Be strong to stand up and position yourself; have inner strength.
- Trust and be in harmony that the universe is taking you to your destination.
- Balance is everything.
I got taken under many times. Feet under the water, I was gasping for air. Being knocked down by 500lb waves is really scary. You have to be ready, mind body and spirit. You also have to try. Going against the current is a mind trick. Then trusting that what is against you will soon be FOR you.
I have scrapes and bruises and my body is sore all over. It’s a risk I took that, emotionally and spiritually, has some great rewards. I still have a lot to learn.
If you get knocked down listen to the inner voice, make peace with your surroundings and try again. Try, try again.