“It’s my backyard. I know this place. What’s the point in watching the waves?” That’s what I thought as I descended down our 105 stairs to the beach. Scott and I had seen one medium sized set as we walked into the yard of my parent’s beach house. I selected the larger of the two boards I had with me-my 5’10 Lost... board.
Once we entered the water I made it easily to the outside where I soon realized it was much bigger than I had realized and much more closed out. Mountains of water marched towards me and I began to feel completely helpless. After duck diving for at least 10 or 15 waves I ended up half way down the beach. A small wave about as big as a parking meter came towards me. I caught it and rode into the beach.
I took this wave to the shore, running 500 yards up the sand to paddled out again. I was refusing to forfeit. My feet patted the sand like weathered hands on drum. I entered the water and began paddling again. My arms felt like they were paddling through cake batter.
As I made it to what I thought was the outside, I was greeted by a 10 ft. wave breaking right in front of me. I exhaled through my lips, making a soft hissing noise, then refilled my lungs with as much air as I could. I threw my board to the side and swam under the unforgiving sandy waters. With my eyes closed tightly, I plunged under the peak of water to the bottom. I drifted under the wave trying to imitate a dolphin, allowing the water to tell my body which way to go. I was pushed up and down and sideways like clothes in a washing machine. I emerged and inhaled again. When I open my eyes I see my worst ocean fears realized- another even larger wave follows the one I just sustained.
This El Nino winter has really helped me to bring my big wave surfing and confidence to a new level, but all that confidence sank to the bottom of the sea when I looked upon this next wave. I tried to tell myself to calm down, but I started thinking about how out of breath I really was from all the duck diving, paddling and running I had just done. My breath patterns began to imitate a chugging train- short and quick. All I could think was “I wonder if Scott can get to me quick enough if I start drowning?”
As the 12ft. wave broke no more than 5 feet in front of me I made a last ditch effort to get myself to calm down and relax. “Just breath. Just breath” I told myself. I took a short breath and swam as deep as I could go. I could only imagine this is what it must feel like to be in a load of dark clothes in the washing machine. I wondered if I would hit the bottom. Then, being inside of this wave began to feel like being in a blender. I wondered if I would make it to the top. I carefully opened my eyes. Finally, after one of the longest hold downs of my life, I began to see white. “I made it?” I thought to myself. My next thought was, “Get me out of here!” I took the next wave in on my belly. I never get out of the water on a bad wave, or in this case, not riding a wave at all, but on this day I made an exception. As I passed Scott paddling out, all I could shout was “See ya!”.
I believe that everyday should be used to find out more about life. On this particular day I found out more about the ocean’s power. And even though I was terrified for a moment as she prevailed over me, I snuck in a thought about how mysterious and magical it can feel beneath those salty waters. This experience would make me a more experienced surfer, even if I felt like a complete disaster.