03 October 2011
Surfing for Beginners
Do you have anything that you're dying to try but you're afraid? Not afraid of failing but actually afraid? Like maybe you would love to take flying lessons but you're afraid of flying? Or you've always wanted to skydive but you're afraid of heights? Stop laughing! This is a real thing! No one is perfectly rational 100% of the time.
So I want to surf. I want to drive a VW bus and have parties on the beach with Frankie and Annette and Dunebuggy. And I want to skim on top of the sparkly waves like I'm being chased by the sun. I live a half mile from the beach and I watch people do this every day. I should do this. Why can't I do this?
I'll tell you why.......because when Liam was born, water suddenly became a dangerous and powerful force that could take him away from me.
Before he was born, water was my friend (ok, there was the time I asked for a kickboard while snorkeling in the Caribbean - but that was because I couldn't figure out how to swim and look at fish at the same time. But besides that....). I loved being on and around the water. Loved it. And I still love it - but now it's accopanied by an overwhelming sense of potential danger. And it's my responsibility to prevent tragedies and save everyone.
That's a lot to think about.
It doesn't help that Liam's agility - his ability to not fall off things - does not even register on a scale of 1 to 10. If there is something to fall off of, he will. I'm aghast when I see parents walking on docks with their children and NOT holding their hands. Docks just don't provide enough width for him to self-correct. When we rented a lake cabin last summer, I saw the dock and thought, "He's definitely falling off that."
And he did. Twice.
Can you see why I have a complex?
And, yes, he can swim. But, unlike most children, his golem-esque physique doesn't have a shred of body fat to help him stay afloat. When he's in the water, he's working HARD to not sink. So if he falls off a boat, and I'm not there to save him, he won't last until the Carpathia arrives.
Oh my god, I'm sweating.
I first became aware of my fledgeling phobia on a pleasure cruise off the coast of Maine several years ago. A booze-cruise, if you will. We filed onto the big schooner and started ordering drinks and I felt this urge to ask for a life jacket. It took several minutes to convince the crew member that I was not joking. Another mom heard me and stood by my side; "I want one, too," she said. We wore our life jackets proudly while we mingled and made small-talk with 5o semi-drunk shoe industry professionals. We were sober.........and we would save them all.
Can you surf with a life jacket on? If so, I think I would be really good at it. I have a low center of gravity. I have years of dance training that developed a strong sense of balance and a wide stance that would give Larry Craig a run for his money. I have legs that I would describe as....."substantial." In fact, my high school boyfriend's dad felt the need to tell me so; as I bent down to tie my shoe one day, he flippantly said, "You have little feet. Big legs, though."
He says this to a teenage girl. What a ding dong.
So I won't fall down in a hurricane. And I think I might be good at surfing. What would it take to get me over the hypervigilance and make the phone call?
A gutsy 9 year old girl named Nadia, that's what. Nadia was coming from Minneapolis for a visit and her special request for her East Coast Adventure was a surfing lesson. Seizing the opportunity,, I went straight to the phone a made arrangements..........for Nadia and Liam. I would be the hawk on the beach doing a never-ending headcount. Should Liam back out (due to his newly revealed fear of seaweed), I would step in and learn to surf with Nadia.
But he didn't back out. He was all in as soon as he saw his wetsuited instructor backlit by the sun........"Hey! Wanna catch some waves?"
From that moment on, there was absolutely no hesitation, no trepidation, no exertion for chrissake! These kids just popped up time after time after time and then begged for more. As if the water wasn't 60 degrees and didn't insist on knocking them down over and over and over again. The way they smiled for that hour should be documented and used in a campaign for happiness.
How could I not do this?
Twenty four hours later, I was stretching a wetsuit over my "substantial" legs and dragging a surfboard across the sand next to my newly seasoned surfer child. At low tide, the beach is wide and the water is far. We walked in giddy silence (dying to do a little skip! hee hee!) with our instructor, who is a total dude. His highlighted hair flies behind him in the wind and his eyes focus on the surf like he can't wait to get there. He smiles the entire walk. Occasionally, he goes "Awwriiiiiight......" Sort of aloud and sort of under his breath. Awwriiiight......
I do exactly what the dude tells me to do; I walk straight into the ocean holding my board by my side and I jump high when a wave comes toward me, I duck and dive through when a big one goes over my head. I hold my arm over my head when I spill into the ocean and the board flips over my head. I paddle when he says, "PADDLE! PADDLE! PADDLE!" and I pop up when he says "POP UP! NOW! YOU GOT IT!"
It was as if I didn't have time to consider the potential dangers. I had to "POP UP! NOW!"
I was surfing. And when I was standing there, actually standing up, skimming the wave and shaking from exertion, I was so wishing I could also be on the beach watching me. Not that my low center of gravity helped AT ALL. Nor did that well-honed balance or my wide stance or my substantial legs. But I was doing it. Just like Blue Crush or that girl with one arm. I was bruised and battered but I was doing it. And I just wanted to see it.
Mike was there for one good run but he didn't get a photo because...........
Yeah, that's a good question. People whip out their cameras and snap photos of acorns on the ground or lint between their toes but you don't snap a pic of your wife surfing for the first time. It's ok - maybe I'll try to draw a picture of what it felt like to be surfing and I'll put that in the photo album next to the 91 pictures we took of Liam's first day of surfing. Really, it's fine. I'm not really good at drawing but I'm sure it will be just as good. I sort of look like a stick figure anyway. Or maybe I should just have you re-enact that good run for me on my yoga mat........every night before we go to bed for the rest of our lives.
Not like I'd forget it. I'll never forget the bruises on my knees and hips from falling into 5 inches of water (I just assumed it was over my head. I assumed this several times). I'll never forget searching for the surface and wondering if my eyes were open or closed. I'll never forget coming out of the water and screaming "WHERE'S LIAM?!" and searching for his head. I'll never forget the panic I felt when I realized that I was forgetting to panic about him.
And I'll never forget the first time I stood up successfully and felt what it was like to ride a wave. I couldn't believe how far it took me..........I just kept going and going and going. Long enough to have time to think "This is surfing. Cool."