Wondering & wandering
An overcast sky greeted me as I rolled into the parking lot. With boyfriend, sister and sister’s friend in tow, I walked towards onto the beach with the determination of a champion. There was no doubt in my mind that I’d be carving like a pro. Today is the day my Slater-esque skills would be revealed. I’d pounce on the board, a panther, right foot arched towards the wave that’s mine.
Well, clearly my imaginary skills are sharper than my surfing skill set. And when I say surfing, I mean paddling. Because paddling is all I did today. Paddle paddle paddle. It was like doing a fucking turtle dance on the surface of the water. I imagined the amusement of a shark circling beneath me: “So, this is what the bottom of the food chain looks like.”
There I was, looking like Timothy-Traddle, but with the biggest smile around. I felt my core working in time with my limbs, everything coming together like clockwork. At least until it was time to stand. Granted, my board is not the greatest to learn on (it passed through a bunch of really great locals before I bought it in 2004) so I can, at least, cut myself some slack in that I would be standing on a long board at least.
As time went by, the waves grew bigger and my laughable attempts at catching anything became, for want of a word, smoother. Less wobbling around and more focus.The boyfriend, in exasperated tones, explained that I wasn’t paddling hard enough. Paddling hard enough? Are you kidding? When I offered the board to him I heard all manner of excuses. It’s too shit. It’s too small. I’m too big. Pah, lies. It’s not the board, I shouted at him while he skulked back to the shore, it’s you. A spat in the water, great. Just the thing to mess with the good vibes I’d been building. I looked behind me and saw more surfers pulling in. The waves were getting better, and two grommets were (in my mind, anyway) having a chuckle at my lack of technique. A ballie and his seven-year-old son were catching foamies, and he asked if I’d surfed before.
“First time in a few years,” I replied.
“Ah, it’s like riding a bike man!”
“Ja… If you didn’t suck the first time ’round.”
He laughed and I resolved to catching waves with his son. Who caned me, by the way. Just hopped up the second the board launched. No worries when he bailed. No humming and haaing when it came to picking a wave. Just moving, no thoughts. And that’s when I realised what was holding me back: fear. Seriously, a massive ball of fear was holding me hostage in my gut. I felt it in my arms when I didn’t paddle hard enough. In my stomach when I didn’t jump up quickly enough. When I saw that I was the only woman in the water, and grew self-conscious around all the men. I was so worried about looking like an idiot that I didn’t try hard enough. Paddle further out. Try a bigger wave. Trepidation governed my every moment in the water. Is this symptomatic of adulthood? Of society? Or is this the way women feel in a space dominated by men? Without too much analysis, I can say that the friendliness of surfers I’ve bumped into or chatted to in the past two days has made me feel a lot more comfortable. Encouraging words from the ballie post-surf sealed the deal:
“Hey man, did you enjoy that?”
“Yeah… I did.”
I’ll be back tomorrow.
Kook Level: 8
Stoke Level: 8
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