I’ve been in utter lust with all things surfing as far back as I can remember. However, it was my choice to make ours a long-distance relationship; I worshipped board-carrying athletes from afar. How I wanted to learn! However, the barriers against me were too formidable.
First off, you have to do this sport in the arch enemy of females: a bathing suit. That precluded me from attempting it for all of my teen years and throughout my twenties.
Body issues aside, my thirties made me wiser. This meant that instead of admitting the truth (fear was making me too terrified to even try it), my reasons to avoid learning became more clever. I’d offer up seemingly rational excuses like not having health insurance, the time and costs involved or, something that anyone can understand: not wanting to humiliate myself. Under my “reasonable” exterior was a scared-y cat. These justifications allowed me to put aside any thoughts of me surfing. Still, I loved the sport. Often I went to the beach and watched, I took in surf movies, but my relationship remained a long-distance one. And so it seemed destined to always be. Until “fate” intervened.
They say that one can often find courage when he leaves his “normal” environment. I am proof of that. Vacationing in Indonesia, board rentals and lessons were only a few bucks. Finally I had summoned up the courage: the waves were perfect and no one knew me here. The day had arrived! I was so excited (and scared). While walking on a plank in the road, it gave way and I hurt my shin. It wasn’t going to happen this trip after all. Worse yet, I had myself believing that it was a “sign” from above to never try this hazardous sport. My love got shelved.
Two years later, I was again on holiday, but this time in Mancora, a lovely beach town in Peru. I was doing what I do well. Sitting on the sand and observing the amazing athletes. Something caught my eye. A teensy bikini-clad girl, lugging a board that was bigger than she was, ran past me. Fearless, she dove into the ocean, paddled out and waited for the wave. She looked so confident and regal atop her surfboard. I couldn’t believe it. That little girl was keeping up with the much older and more experienced guys! She inspired me so much that I decided to get a lesson, even as my sage self reiterated old obstacles, pointing out that she was young and limber.
Melo, my gorgeous instructor was charming, but his promise that “If you don’t stand up, you don’t have to pay” clinched the deal.
He made the whole thing like a fun adventure. The moment that I stood up remains one of my happiest memories.
“Yessssss!” I screamed. Ah, shoot. Now I’d have to pay the owner.
Melo looked at me and beamed. He high-fived me, “Mi Reina!”
Could it be that I was a natural? The next time, when I almost kicked Melo in the face, I realized he was behind me, holding the board, stabilizing it for me. We both had a good laugh.
Without his assistance, it was much harder. After a few tumbles, I did eventually get the hang of it and was able to stand up on my own. The peacefulness, the sense of accomplishment, the feeling of being one with the ocean. The moments that I am surfing are the most liberating I have ever known.
When surfing, you are forced to be in the moment. If you start to let all that monkey chatter take over, you lose your concentration and go down. You could crash against rocks or bam into another surfer. Surfers die every year; I don’t want to be one of them.
Admittedly, as much as I had enjoyed our long-distance relationship, this new development takes my love with surfing to a whole new dimension. To have overcome the self-made obstacles at middle age makes the entire affair even sweeter. I recommend surfing to anyone. It’s a road to a freedom that so many never get to experience.
About the author: JC Sullivan has been to over 110 countries and every continent and loves the freedom found in backpacking. Since Peru, she’s surfed in Panama and the Galapagos Islands (Isabella). An award-winning author, JC constantly challenges herself creatively believing that comfort zone is a euphemism for “rut”.
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