I stood up, and in that moment I was completely intoxicated by the ocean, with its endless swells and crashing waves. My arms felt like rubber bands that had been over-stretched, my eyes burned with the salty sea, my body was covered with goose-bumps from the morning air, my hair crept into my eyes and clung to my face, yet I had never felt happier. In fact, for those five seconds of euphoria, everything in my life that had led up to that moment felt completely insignificant.
Nothing mattered until I could stand up on a surfboard. My entire body screamed, “Look at me! Look what I’m doing! I’m surfing! I’m really surfing!” Of course there wasn’t time to utter anything more than a mere scream of surprise at my accomplishment before crashing violently into the shallow surf.
I’ve always been intrigued by the surf culture. The bleached-out hair, the sun-streaked skin, the cool brands, the easy going attitude, everything about surfing was compelling. And This summer, my casual admiring of a culture so different than my own began to quickly spiral into an obsession. I’m a lifeguard, I could probably swim before I knew how to walk, and I really love the water. Frankly,
I’m surprised my surf obsession came so late in my life.
Last spring I made it very clear to my parents that I needed to learn how to surf. It was pretty convenient since my family was scheduled for a July visit San Diego, California. It also happened to be convenient that my mom’s twin brother is the epitome of a ‘cool-dude’ surfer with his shaggy long hair and old hippie-ish t-shirts. As expected he agreed to give me a few lessons.
I’ll be the first one to admit that I’m awkward, clumsy and lack a sincere amount of hand-eye coordination. I don’t really know what I was thinking when I told everyone I wanted to surf. I’m pretty sure I just wanted to seem cool. And I know how superficial that is, but hear me out for a second. I let my hair grow out all bleachy blonde, just like the surf girls in the pictures, and I listen to some pretty cool underground music. I’m a total freak about the environment, I don’t eat meat, and I wear a ton of vintage clothes. I have all the pieces for a 21st century hippie beach bum, all except the ability to surf. So, I needed surfing, for my image, and all.
But on that overcast day in mid-July when the waves looked more like monsters, and my wetsuit felt more like a straight-jacket, I began to panic. Sharks, sting-rays, drowning, embarrassment, exhaustion, paralysis, concussion, death. It all started building up in my mind. Any possible worry
I had was now at the front of my brain, taunting me with its growing likelihood. I felt like I was going to vomit all over the kelp-filled beach. “Oh my gosh Morgan you are a lunatic.” It was just this voice in my head, screaming at me, that I was crazy to try it. And then I think there was some sort of logic speaking faintly. “Suck it up Morgan, you’ll be fine.”
It took about five days of early-morning surf with my cousin and uncle to finally master the art. And it wasn’t just five days of fun and games. It was intense calculation to gauge when a wave was going to break. It was falling, and falling again, and again, and again. Falling in every direction. It was getting slammed by my board in the forearm. It was bruised hips, and bruised ankles, and frankly, bruised everything. It was arms so sore, that it hurt to write, or use a fork effectively.
It was getting dragged under by my board and not being able to swim up. It was getting pummeled, and attacked by wave after wave. It was compulsively shuffling our feet to avoid a stingray barb, (which I might add, almost happened, twice.) I saw a black shadow with a creepy little barb swim out from under me two mornings in a row. Looking back, I should have been scared out of my mind, but it was too late. I was too much on a surfer-high to be scared of things like that.
And high on surf I was, and still am. Surfing isn’t just some interesting new acquired skill to make me seem cool. What I had first wanted to pursue just because of the image it conveyed is now something I’m totally passionate about. There’s no beating that feeling. That feeling of plastering yourself out on the board and ferociously turning yourself around when you see a viable wave and paddling. Paddling like your life depends on it, and then gliding. Gliding on a crystal wave, and then popping up, standing with no wobble or uncertainty. And then surfing, surfing and loving it.