on surfing and quitting

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 Some of the ugly weighting me down may have been replaced by renewed faith in beauty.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.)



3 thoughts on “on surfing and quitting”

  1. Relax bro, the days are getting longer and the surf gods will provide the opportunities when the time is right. Not to project a scene on you but for example, I lost my job two weeks ago. For the past year I have been doing really well to get out once a month. In the last two weeks I went surfing Friday (Bunkers, terrible-day after I lost my job; didn’t even make it past the breakers), Tuesday (jetty, better but too big sets and closing out), Thursday (Steamer Lane – twice, first with a new short board, then I went back with a borrowed longboard – perfect conditions and plenty of room) and I got plans to go out tomorrow when the new swell hits. FYI I am probably worse then you at surfing. When you wrote the ‘where to surf’ article 4 years ago I had never been in the Pacific Ocean. Every session is an adventure and a life lesson. I saw guys in the water on Thursday that were in their 70s. We have plenty of time to practice, don’t give up the dream. Mine the stoke…

    1. Hey, David! Thanks for all the kind words. One thing – I did not write the Where to Surf story! In fact, I was completely against that ill-intentioned, wildly inaccurate piece of journalism. For the record. See you in the water!

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s