The water is warm now. I can surf now.
Well, I can try to surf.
Well, really, I can try to learn to surf.
The wife, Katie, and I bought surfboards. One last summer. One two months ago in preparation for this summer. Once we realized we’d be in Wilmington likely through the season, we knew that if there was one more thing to glean from this beautiful city, it was the ability to surf. In Greenville, where we grew up, people played pickup basketball. Here, people surf. (Of course, people also play pickup basketball here, too. But surfing is what you do when you live at and/or near the beach.)
Thus, we must surf.
We’ve always wanted to. I remember, as a 13-year-old, trying it for the first time. I have two main memories: (1) Falling a lot and (2) Raw nipples. I also remember bad tan lines from the sleeveless t-shirts I started wearing to prevent more nipple rawness. The closest I came to riding a wave that week was boogey-board style into the sand.
Well now, the water’s warm, and people are inviting me out, and I’m going. The life of a freelance writer is a chaotic and stressful one at times, but one of the major benefits of setting my own work schedule is without a doubt going to be the freedom to surf when the surfing is good.
Lately, what the surfers call a “swell” has come through the area, meaning waves are big, I guess.
Yesterday, I rode out to Masonboro Island with Hank. That did not go well. The ocean was strong and mean and beat me badly. I never made it past the breakers; my surfing consisted of insanely frustrating attempts to paddle through the surf, only to time and again be thrown backwards.
Ocean, 1. Me, 0.
Then last night another friend, Jay, invited me to surf with him this morning. Early this morning. Sunrise early. The waves were going to be big but this time, the ocean would be fair. It would allow me to at least paddle out.
We went in on the south end of Wrightsville Beach, just south of the Oceanic Pier. There is no better way to begin a morning than paddling out into the ocean as the sun rises. And there is no more fun challenge than trying to ride waves twice as high as I am tall.
We spent an hour and a half out there. I might have spent a grand total of three seconds’ time actually standing on my board. I spent more time holding my breath and curling into the fetal position as the ocean mocked my newbie attempts at riding her.
Nonetheless, I marveled that such a thing is even possible. It’s amazing, that mankind can craft and then ride something that, in a way, allows us to tame something as wild as the ocean.
My torso is battered, bruised, rash-ridden. I wore a shirt today, but my nipples still hurt. Since I sort of suck at sitting up on my board, my ribs are bruising from placing so much pressure on them for so long. It’s insanity, I though sometimes this morning, trying to do what I’m trying to do. But others have ridden these waves, and I want to do so too, thus I press on and endure the pain. It’s not real pain, anyway–it is only the pain of inexperience, and that’s only cured one way. Meanwhile, I fight the ocean.
Of course, the ocean always wins. But the fun is in the challenge; the joy in the victory. For it’s the challenge that batters us and bruises us and gives us scars, but the victory that makes such things worthwhile.
I don’t know when my first real ride will come. But I can’t wait for that moment.