Dave Rice 7:21 a.m., May 23
Side Note: I've been learning to surf for approximately 10 years and I'm still a beginner or just a bad surfer.
Even if I cannot artfully catch a significant amount of waves nor gracefully ride the faces once I paddle into them, I do know a lot about the ocean. I have been studying it through listening to those that have been surfing for years, reading magazines, studying pictures, and watching the waters ebb and flow. I may be a rookie surfer, but I have enough information to know better than one. And "one" is the issue at hand here.
Sometimes, when you have been single for as long as I have, you learn to do anything and everything by yourself, comfortably. You hang in OB alone. You park 6 blocks from the bar and brave the horrible walk down the streets of downtown without hesitation. You see movies, comedic or tragic, alone and proud. You eat in restaurants, book or magazine in hand, with a glass of wine as your partner, content in your moment spent with you. It is as common and easy to try things and conquer them alone, as it is to do this with your dear friends.
What I learned today: I should not do all things alone and it does not detract from my strength to engage in some things only in the safety of friends.
Like a moron, I tried a new surf spot, over rocks, on a new board, without a leash, by myself. For anyone who doesn't surf this equation equals sheer stupidity and the possibility for real injury.
I also learned again: Trust your gut.
As I left the house with my board tucked into my armpit, I argued with myself, "You don't know the landscape beneath the water at Peskies, you know its rocks for sure. You also don't know how the wave breaks nor the depth of the water over the rocks. P.S. Your roomie borrowed your leash, so if you fall off your board you'll have to swim back. P.P.S. No one knows you are surfing this afternoon in OB and, in the water, you have no access to a cell phone if you get in trouble."
I replied to myself, "Well, I don't need the leash because I'm not going to surf, I'm just going to paddle around (which was true). As for those other things....those are just irrational fears trying to stop me from doing something alone. I'm a single woman. I can't wait for other people if I want to learn this sport."
"Ha," I laughed at myself. "You don't even know if other people will be at this spot today to ask for help if you need it!"
"Shut up. I'm going to be brave and get out there. I just want a little exercise."
I got to the edge of the hot summer cement. I looked down at my feet, wiggling my toes, as I prepared to gingerly walk over the myriad of smoothed loose ocean rocks that led to the water. As I stepped into the colorful rubble, I wobbled precariously as the rocks rolled and shifted under my feet. Each step threatened to sabotage me. Dang! I hadn't even gotten to the water yet. Again, "Maybe this isn't a good idea. What must the rocks in the water be like?"
In the water the rocks were about the same, except slippery and thus more difficult to maneuver as incoming waves also became a factor in my ability to stay upright and not drop my board onto the rocks.
The rocks then changed to slimy, large boulders, then boulders with sea grass, then I gave up and began paddling. I prayed the water was deep enough and that I would not scrape the bottom of my board. Every other stroke, I grazed the rocks below with my fingertips.
Now, the waves. I did not want to fall off my board and then get dashed against the rocks in this shallow water, particularly because the loose board can act as a weapon as well. I made it over the first wave and relaxed as I knew the water had to be deeper. Now I just needed to get to the outside, which shouldn't be that far because the waves have been miniscule recently.
Hmmm. Perhaps someone who has been trying to surf for 10 years might have checked the surf report and seen that a swell was coming in this week and today's waves were significantly larger than usual. I realized this as another wave rose behind the one I just paddled over, again and again and again.
I was now far enough outside that most of the waves would not knock me over and take my board back to shore without me. The other ones, I would just have to watch for and then paddle for dear life if I saw them coming.
These were not the conditions I had expected and in fact, I had no business out there on that day in those waves with my skill level. I have to get back to shore. I had the ability and the knowledge to get back in, I just had to stay calm and think. I summoned everything inside me and calmly looked around examining my options.
There was another beach in the distance that may have a sandy bottom as opposed to a rocky one. I could paddle in there and then I would not risk hitting my head on the boulders below. I started paddling as a made the decision to try it. As I got closer to the distant but safer shore, I realized the waves were getting bigger and the beach was farther than I thought. This was clearly not the safest route. I had to go back. I returned to my original spot.
I looked behind me at the waves as they pounded the smooth stones into a picturesque Cliffside.
I took a deep breath. I sat alone, without any hope of outside help. The sun warmed the edges of my only choice. I would have to paddle back and hope I don’t get tossed. If I get tossed I will have to cover my head, resurface and swim back to shore. I slowly turned my board to face the shore and began to paddle while looking over my right shoulder. I watched every ripple that turned to swell, judging its size then making my move. If it stacked up into a quick peak, I slowed my stroke and put my weight on the back of my board, allowing it to gently roll under me. If it broke into a violent explosion of whitewash, I would hold tightly to my board, again put all weight to the back and prepare to swim.
This chess game finally ended safely as I precariously placed my foot on the slippery stones below. Thank god it was finished.
I should have followed my gut. I should not have gone it alone. I should have watched the ocean for at least 10 minutes. I should have told someone where I would be. I should not have taken a board without a leash….but barring all this, I made it.
I should have made a safer choice.
I learned many lessons that leash-less, wave-tacular day: trust your instincts, there are some things that you should not do alone, having a partner does not make you weak and…..I made it.