It’s hopeless, I had decided. I was obviously never going to surf again, never going to surf enough. Every time someone identified me as a surfer, I cringed. How can I be a surfer when I never surf? Also, from never surfing, I suck.
With this attitude cemented into my brain, I pondered selling my boards. You know, to someone who would actually use them. Because clearly, I wasn’t ever going to. Surfing would never be enough of a priority – otherwise, I’d be doing it. Which I wasn’t. I also wasn’t writing enough or advancing enough or losing that 10 pounds that would make me a better surfer – not that I was ever going to surf again, so why not eat a giant plate of French fries followed up by a chocolate bar?
Sure, I loved surfing. But since when does loving something make a difference? Loving surfing wasn’t going to make me a more dedicated surfer just like loving my kids wasn’t going to stop me from making a million fucking mistakes as a mother. Love might keep me from driving off a cliff on particularly dark days, but it wasn’t going to propel me back out into the ocean, not when so much stood in the way – like mucking about on Facebook or scheduled back-to-back social events or taking a leisurely lunch instead of working through the noon hour so I might get out to the beach in time to suit up and catch some waves.
People have real problems. I have bigger problems of my own. Maybe I should pay attention to them instead of whining about not surfing. If I just quit surfing, I’ll no longer have a reason to whine about not going, I pointed out.
The best decisions are flavored with equal parts bitterness and spite.
And then I went surfing. Not here, not locally, but in Santa Cruz. The first session did nothing to convince me to keep going, but the second, well, some waves were caught. And the third, well, Pleasure Point lived up to its name. I may have grinned. More than once. Some of the ugly weighting me down may have been replaced by renewed faith in beauty. Two weeks later, I traveled again. Not too far, just down to Ocean Beach where I have a couple surfer friends. Friends who would laugh at me if I said I was giving up surfing. I had to go. So I did. And there was sunshine and dolphins and goddamn it if I didn’t fall in love all over again. And I fell back in love with love and decided maybe it did matter after all, maybe even though it can’t sustain us, it colors life and our decisions in such a way that we are drawn to make more of what we have, to get up after we fall down, to return to that which returns us to ourselves. Has anyone ever had such an epiphany?!
Oh, right. The poets.
Love is not all: it is not meat nor drink
Nor slumber nor a roof against the rain;
Nor yet a floating spar to men that sink
And rise and sink and rise and sink again;
Love can not fill the thickened lung with breath,
Nor clean the blood, nor set the fractured bone;
Yet many a man is making friends with death
Even as I speak, for lack of love alone.
It well may be that in a difficult hour,
Pinned down by pain and moaning for release,
Or nagged by want past resolution’s power,
I might be driven to sell your love for peace,
Or trade the memory of this night for food.
It well may be. I do not think I would.
– Edna St. Vincent Millay
So, I’m not quitting surfing. I’m starting off the days assuming I’ll surf, hitting up friends for reports, suggesting we go surfing together. Stoke begets stoke. I’m still not very good and probably won’t ever be. What is good, though, is the sky. The clouds. The way the sunrise colors everything pink and magic. Watching better surfers draw lines across wave faces, ephemeral artists on an ever-changing canvas. Stepping away from the virtual world into the physical one – and I am lucky, because the ocean is the subject matter of both for me.
There may be some hope.
(What I am quitting, at least for this year, is counting my sessions. For the first time since 2000, I’m just going to go, not worry about how many times I’ve gone out, using numbers to know whether or not I’m surfing “enough.” I’ll know by the lightness of my spirit and the quickness of my feet. Besides, I’m out of ways to describe, in new ways, the sensation of paddling into a wave, catching it, riding it successfully. Just go watch a pelican glide along the curving ocean. Like that. How that looks is how surfing feels.)