I tell most people that I moved out to southern California for grad school but really the surf was calling me. Grad school sounds like a much more reasonable explanation for traversing across the country to a place I knew no one. But I paddled out into the waves before I even started classes.
And I was hooked that very first second. Even though I just got hammered by the waves. Over and over and over. But the one wave I rode in while standing up on the board was enough to sustain me for the next several months while figuring out how to catch more.
I was lucky enough to move into a building with a super awesome dude who let me borrow an extra board and taught me the ways of the waves. Really, this just consisted of, paddle, paddle, paddle, stand up. But I got the hang of it, bought my own board (And wetsuit because dang is the Pacific Ocean cold!) and surfed whenever I could. I developed full appreciation for my low center of gravity during this time.
I didn’t go pro. But I caught waves and looked like I knew what I was doing. I think.
Surfing got me through grad school. And jobs that were… meh. And breakups. I made friends on the waves. I battled male egos (No stereotype, they just all happened to belong to males.). I suffered a few injuries. Almost drowned. Found myself accidentally practicing with US Open competitors on waves far higher than when I’d initially started the day. I had pet dolphins. It was glorious! Nothing couldn’t be made better with a surf sesh.
Then I badly injured my knee (Not surfing. It’s a long(ish) story.) and had to have surgery. I was advised not to surf for a year. So I listened to the experts and rehabbed accordingly.
Next thing you knew another year or so (Who’s counting?) passed and I still hadn’t gotten back on the board.
I had my reasons. There was a high maintenance dog adoption. I was also still in the beginning stages of running a business. Or really just running around with my head cut off trying to figure out how to run a business. I’d added a lot to my life but somehow there weren’t more hours in my day.
All legit explanations.
But the gosh dang truth is that I was scared. Even though my doctor said my knee was strong enough to take a hit from Clay Matthews, I was still afraid of carving on my board (Sorry, turning for those of you who don’t speak surfing.). I didn’t want to tear up all that beautiful work my surgeon did.
I was also scared of looking like a newbie. Total ego stuff. I wasn’t sure I’d have the strength to paddle out. I didn’t know if I could still read the waves or have the timing to catch one. I couldn’t quite remember how the lineup works. I was especially worried about this because as peaceful as I find surfing to be, there’s a lot of aggression on those waves and I certainly didn’t want to piss off some dude with big muscles. Plus, there aren’t many women out there and I wanted to represent my gender with enough skill.
I finally reached the point where I got sick of my fear and excuses. Luckily that coincided with a friend who had taken one surf lesson ever and was hooked too. Now if I totally bit it I wouldn’t be the only newbie out there! The ego sure is a stubborn fool.
So off we went to conquer fears and waves. Somehow I had the arm strength to paddle out (Thank you sun salutations!) and caught some waves. It was just like riding a bike. Or a board in this case. Muscle memory took over and within minutes fears were gone and euphoria set in. And my knee was completely fine. You’d never know I had someone else’s tendon up in there. But I did leave with a small gash on my thigh from the board’s fin. Just like old times. It was glorious once again!
Fear sure can be a butthead. I missed over a year of waves because of that jerk!
But it’s also something to learn from. I missed over a year of doing something I love because I let fear get the best of me. I can only hope that the next time I encounter fear I’ll keep this experience in mind and face it head on right away. Life is far too short to be sitting on the beach watching other people catch waves.