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.