Story #22: I am terrible at surfing. But I love it.

Story #21: I am terrible at surfing. But I love it.

I learned how to surf when I was living in Perth, Western Australia. I attended high school there for 6 months and surfing was an option for PE. Pretty cool!!! Even the kids there assumed that I already knew how to surf because I lived in California. “Don’t you surf to school?” they would ask. How crazy would that be, to surf your way to school?

I signed up for the surf class. It began once or twice a week at 6am at a beach on the other side of town from where I lived. Because I had a drivers license, I was allowed to drive in Australia. Their driving age is 18, so this was very unusual and made me quite popular. You also drive on the other side of the road, which made me nervous and definitely took some getting used to.

I would drive myself to the surfing class and then drive to school. This may have been the only time I seriously screwed up which side of the road I was driving on. I remember some car passing me and honking like mad. I guess my brain was still sleeping because it took me a moment to figure out why they were freaking out. Lucky for me that it was so early in the morning and there were practically no cars on the road (or maybe that’s why it happened? It’s much easier to follow traffic…)

Learning to surf in Australia was beautiful and fun. I was in a group of awesome girls and we all got to play in the most perfect baby waves on a white sand beach. It solidified my love for surfing immediately.

After leaving Australia, I barely surfed at all. Every once and and a while I would surf in Santa Cruz or when I happened to be traveling through a beach town. I didn’t have any friends who surfed and didn’t want to commit to buying the equipment. It wasn’t until I had been living in San Francisco for two whole years (about 10 years after living in AU) that I finally bit the bullet and fully committed to surfing.

My wonderful friend of many years was living and surfing in San Francisco regularly. She invited me out to Pacifica and I rented gear. We spent several hours surfing and it was the best! Why did I wait so long to get back to surfing!? I purchased a suit and eventually found a used board. We had surf dates every Thursday morning regardless of the weather. Sometimes if the surf was too big or insane, we would just go have coffee and breakfast. We would stare at the ocean and give each other high five’s for getting up at 5am to come surf.

The first time I took my own board out we went to Ocean Beach. It was the most beautiful clear sunrise over the city with the most calm 3-4 foot waves. I have only seen Ocean Beach with these conditions a hand full of times. We were having a blast in the water, when a fin caught my eye. “Maria! Dolphins!” I yelled. She looked at me and said “How do you know they’re dolphins?” My heart skipped a beat.

They were dolphins.

A whole pod of dolphins surrounded us, some even had babies. They swirled around us, catching waves and darting around. They made multiple loops, leaving and returning to our spot. It was exhilarating. I was scared, but felt that I was in exactly the right spot at the right time. That was one of the best surf sessions ever.

My love affair with surfing continues. It helped me start making art again after 2 years of inconsistent drawing. It became the inspiration for the Mtn Series, allowing me to explore imagery from past experiences, as well as present ones, and to meditate on human’s relationship to time. Surfing is something that I am not particularly good at, but is an activity that brings me so much joy. I want to cultivate this attitude of joy and acceptance of the process simply as it is. That is what surfing is to me.

Surfing is permission to be awful. And have fun anyway. It’s permission to have complete beginners mind and body. It’s accepting showing up exactly as you are. Surfing can be calm and relaxing and it can be wild and terrifying. It has faced me with all sides of my self.

Surfing is also the perfect excuse to be somewhere without a cellphone. There’s nothing quite like bobbing around in the ocean, seeing the land from the perspective of the sea, watching time go by…

What’s an activity that you’re awful at but enjoy anyway? Or what’s something you would love to learn? Write to me about it, I would love to hear from you.