A couple of weeks back I stood on a hill about a km north of our house and watched the surf roll in on a cold, grey Sunday afternoon. The picture here is from that day.
I had driven there to go for a surf, but every bone in my body was baulking at the idea. It was cold. I was out of shape. I hadn’t surfed properly in months. There was a small crowd. I knew I’d probably get rolled more than I’d enjoy it. It felt much easier to just head home and stay warm.
As I reflected on it later I realised I was actually pondering giving up surfing… I was wondering whether I was still up for the various elements of what makes a surf. The thought rocked me. I would never have thought I’d get to here.
So, while it was cold and grey and the crowd didn’t appeal, I pulled on the wetsuit and stubbornly paddled out, just because I don’t want to quit. Truth be told I didn’t really want to paddle out on that particular day, and I did get smashed around more than I got up and riding, but entering the water was ‘drawing a line in the sand’.
I know plenty of people who unconsciously have given surfing away because they are ‘too old’, ‘too fat’, ‘too …………… whatever’ and I felt myself sliding into that zone. What’s bizarre is that I never have as much energy or zest for life as when I am surfing.
The last time I had an experience like this in the surf was at Indijup carpark when I was about 35. I was out on a big day and I got hammered, held down and smashed around pretty severely. It scared me and I floated into shore to get my bearings and catch my breath. I felt pretty beaten up and began to pack up my things and head for the carpark. Then something in me clicked and I put down the gear and paddled back out. It was that moment of realising that I was about to cross a line I didn’t want to cross.
I doubt I would paddle out in those waves today, partly because my skill and fitness levels would make me a danger to myself and others, but I needed to paddle back out on that particular day, because I was in danger of unconsciously doing something I really didn’t want to do. It was that same feeling two weeks ago.
I imagine sometime in the future I will have to stop surfing. I imagine there will come a day when I simply won’t have what it takes either in skill or fitness, but I hope that day is a long way off in the future and I hope that when it comes I am able to choose to do so consciously and with a sense of knowing that I have found enormous joy in the ocean for the years I was able to surf.
What’s interesting is that since that Sunday I have been in the water 10 times, enjoying the challenge, hanging with the local groms, catching lots of waves, finding my confidence and my fitness again and feeling alive – very alive.
Having turned 50 I am aware that I am no longer ‘on the up’ when it comes to fitness, energy and strength and part of me finds that quite depressing. At the moment I genuinely resent this part of growing older and I do not look forward to 60, 70 and 80. I don’t like feeling my body ache and my muscles weaken. Maybe I will develop an acceptance of this, but for now it just pisses me off.
After 40 years of being in the water I really don’t ever want to leave. I don’t want to be a person who ‘used to surf’. It would be the closing of a chapter – the end of one of my greatest sources of joy and I imagine something inside will die if and when that happens.
For now I will continue to find joy and give thanks for what I can do. And I don’t intend to make any changes any time soon.
Good journal Hamo. I have seen many ‘fat dad’ friends give up surfing in their 30’s only to pull out their guns in their 40’s and get back into shape and surf as good and as passionately as they ever have before.
I hope I am still living and exploring in the water – scuba diving, and mountain biking well into my 70’s.
I saw a great film at the Banff film festival called ’35’ about life passions and ageing. Very inspiring –
Hi Rich – I saw that Norway video on your FB and downloaded and watched it last night! Very enjoyable indeed. Will check this one out. No surf for a while by the look of this weather now…
Hi Hamo – the link above is a different film to the one I posted on FB. This is very different but well worth watching. And the whole movie is free!
Hi Hamo the link here is to a different film than O posted on FB.
You are a great writer, Hamo. I enjoy reading your stuff here on the other side of the world.
Great post. 53 and still passionate about riding waves and dancing on water. Observation is that most i’ve seen ‘quit’ the Pilgrimage of faith OR surfing – drifted away. Never conscious they were quitting. Beware of drift… Paul somehere i think.
…and my goodness that’s a nice set approaching in the banner picture! Where’s that?
Wish I knew John!