Notes on surfing, or not doing things you don’t love
Here is something that I should preface this story with: it is well-known among my friends and family that I do not like getting my face wet. Yes, I wash my face. No, I do not swim with my face in the water—I prefer an awkward and not entirely athletic version of the doggy paddle. I plug my nose whenever I jump into the ocean, and then emerge ungracefully, sputtering and triple-checking that I did not get water in my eyes (and thus in contact with my contacts). Despite my love of waterslides, I have never been an exceptionally strong swimmer and I am generally scared of large waves. I can count on one hand how many times I swam in the ocean during my year living in Australia—an account of rip tides and strong currents that I read on my first day down under terrified me out of anything more than dipping my toes into cool off. My grandmother never learned how to swim and my mom isn’t a big fan of bridges or boats or basically being out on any open water, so I feel like just the fact that I can swim and I have things like my open water scuba diving certification a pretty big deal.
Alas! Despite all of these concrete facts about myself, one of the things I pictured in my new San Diego life: me as a surfer. I’ve surfed before, in the warm and relatively calm waters of Hawaii and Nicaragua and even on my own with a girlfriend in Malibu last summer, and generally pick up board sports quickly. I was going to move to San Diego and become a badass lady surfer and have a really cute wetsuit and also incredibly sculpted arms and spend my mornings contemplating life while out on a wave. Aly and I were going to take girlfriend surf trips to cute little towns in Mexico! (Have I mentioned that I watched Blue Crush A LOT in high school?)
We took that first lesson last weekend. It was a little chillier than I would have liked for an adventure in the ocean, with temperatures hovering around 60 degrees but the sky was blue and the sun was out. I felt confident: my San Diego daydreams were about to become a reality!
About 30 minutes into the hour-and-a-half-long episode, my feet were numb from the cold water (the full wetsuit did a wonderful job of keeping the rest of me comfortable) and I had just gotten rocked by a few big waves. Something in me clicked: the confidence wavered, and the fear returned. But more than that: I realized that this was not something I loved. I do not love being in the ocean. It scares me more than it rejuvenates me, especially when the waves are crashing. I do not like diving into waves, especially with a surfboard attached to my ankle. I spotted a yoga class happening on the cliffs that overlook the waves, and I thought: man, I’d so rather be doing downward dog in the sunshine with this view.
And so: I gave up. I do not like to give up, and perhaps even more than that, I do not like to waste money. I had paid for this lesson! This was our shared experience! David was having a great time! (David is also a former lifeguard and extremely strong swimmer whose favorite beach activity is body surfing.)
But I realized: life is too short to spend it doing things I do not love (is this the almost-30s talking?!). The money spent on the surf lesson was perhaps a different kind of lesson: the reminder that I don’t actually have to do things that I don’t want to do, and that it’s OK to change your mind, and that it’s also OK to quit the things in your life you don’t love (whether it is a surf lesson, or a job that makes you miserable, or a toxic friendship), and that it’s always good to try the thing to make sure you really like it before you spend a lot of money on it (aka: I’m really glad I didn’t buy the wetsuit or the five-pack of lessons).
And so. I am not going to become a surfer in San Diego. When David heads out to catch a wave, I’ll do a vinyasa flow on the cliffs that overlook Pacific Beach—and be totally OK with being a person who loves the beach but hates being in the ocean.