Notes on surfing, or not doing things you don’t love

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.Christine Amorose Merrill surfing in San Diego

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?)

Surfing in Pacific Beach, San DiegoAnd so, for Christmas this year, David and I got each other surfing as a shared experience: we bought a lesson in Pacific Beach, and were going to invest in quality wetsuits and our own boards.

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.

Surfing in Pacific Beach, San Diego

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).

Yoga class overlooking Pacific Beach, San Diego

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.

  • Caitlin Jones

    I think a lot of us fall in love with the idea of something – other people love this, so I should too! For years I tried to make myself love running, and then I finally realized, I LOATHE running. But, I wanted to be the TYPE of person that loved running (dedicated! disciplined! a closet full of cute running pants!). I just finally had to accept that running isn’t for me, and I’d rather do yoga every day than run once a week. Know thyself and have the courage to accept what you are and love 🙂

  • Girl, yes. I had the exact same experience only with snowboarding. I fell on my butt 100 times, was freezing cold, and generally hated every minute of it. Now when we go to the snow I let Brett snowboard and I sit in the lodge with a hot chocolate reading a book by the fire. No regrets 😉

  • Briel79

    This sounds so much like me in regards to water (other than the actually trying to surf part). I can swim but I too hate the ocean waves and would 100% rather swim in a pool. I can’t go under water unless I plug my nose (which everyone makes fun of me for). I love to visit the beach for a walk or just to sit and enjoy a nice day but I’ll usually never go deeper than my thighs or waist unless it’s completely calm, which it never is in San Diego. I’m definitely not a fan of water sports. My family went to a lake and went tubing one time and, while I did try it once, I made sure that they were going pretty slow (relatively speaking compared to the others who went) so I wouldn’t go flying off and get a face and nose full of water.

    It’s great that you tried though and at least now you know! 🙂

  • Medmiston

    Have you been stand-up paddle-boarding?! You don’t have to get your face wet, no waves necessary, and still a solid arm workout! I rent one on the bay in PB through ClassPass quite frequently if you ever want to join 🙂

  • 100% agree, ha. I actually love being on the water and everything to do with the ocean, but surfing just doesn’t appeal to me. Same with bungee jumping, or skydiving, or whatever…I’m just not interested. (Also, terrified.)

  • I’m totally with you on the face in water thing. I react pretty much the same way. Which is why, in hindsight, it was silly of me to go canyoning in Slovenia. The first two things we did were jumps into deep pools. While I did enjoy surfing the two times I’ve tried I still hate the bits where I get water up my nose.

  • Riana Ang-Canning

    Thank you for this! It was a really great read and I actually screenshot a section of it to keep as a reminder for myself. It’s okay to not live up to some fabricated image we have in our minds of what we’re supposed to do or like or be. And it’s definitely okay to say no to things we know we don’t want. Thank you for that reminder. Thank you for your honesty and for owning this moment. With people on the internet and on social media, it’s so easy to think they’re perfect and living perfect lives all the time. Thank you for your realness!

  • Maureen McKendry

    This blog post made me laugh because it reminded me of a song by The Magnetic Fields called Surfin’, It’ has really droll lyrics about how much he hates surfing and how pointless it is. Worth a listen!


  • This was such a good read and really spoke to me, especially the end, about money spent. I have struggled with this sort of thing in the past – forcing myself to do an activity because others will have a great time, or because I already paid for it. Even with finishing food I dont like or that isnt good for me, after I have already satisfied the cravings, just to not be wasteful (tho, both of my grandmothers survived the Leningrad Blocade during WW2, so throwing out even a crumb of bread was always the gravest of sins in my house). But now I try to rationalize it like this – the money is already spent, I either dont have it and be miserable, or I dont have it and not be miserable. So, a couple of years ago I even left the Royal Box at the Mariinsky Theater in St Petersburg after the 2nd act (our of 3), because the Stravinsky ballet was plucking at my last nerve.

  • Brandy

    I love this – it’s so hard sometimes to let go of this vision we have of ourselves doing something or being something, even when it turns out it’s something we don’t like. At least you tried it and can move on knowing you’re happier looking at the ocean than being in it!

    I love to swim and be in the water but as far as the ocean goes, I’m weird in the sense that the water needs to be crystal clear in order for me to actually get in above my ankles. If I can’t see what’s below me, I don’t want to get in!

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  • Monika Maurer

    Well said Christine! I agree – an important lesson in being ok with yourself. I have a husband and two boys who don a wetsuit and hurl themselves into the Atlantic at any given opportunity. Me? I can’t even bear the thought of getting into a wetsuit and I MIGHT go in up to my knees if it’s hot enough (rarely, in the UK). But I LOVE beaches, and I’m soo happy sitting, watching, reading, recharging. Each to their own.

  • camorose

    Haha yes I’m actually the same way about running! I’d love to be a runner (and my husband is a runner, so it feels like a nice thing we could do together ) but I’m just…not. We actually went hiking last weekend, and David decided to run the trail and after two short jogs, I was like, I’m going to take this at my own brisk walking pace and be 100% happier about it. I’m so glad I did!

  • camorose

    Haha yessss! I keep thinking that one day I’ll be a snowboarder but at this stage in life: I think I’d also rather just sit in a lodge with hot chocolate and a good book 🙂

  • camorose

    Oh man I am WITH YOU on tubing. I went a few times with girlfriends in college and I was always like, whyyyy would anyone sign up for this? I’ll happily stay on the boat and soak up the sunshine/drink a beer instead! I’m also a dedicated nose-plugger, which David always gives me a hard time for, but I have zero shame and it always makes my water experience much better 🙂

  • camorose

    Ohhhh I love that you can rent it through ClassPass!!! I didn’t realize that and I love SUP–i actually thought about that when I was surfing. I’d much rather get the core workout and be calmly paddling above the water instead of dealing with going into the waves. We should totally get together and do that sometime!

  • camorose

    Haha I have checked bungee jumping and skydiving off the list in my younger days and while I am glad to have no more curiosity about it, I hated it about as much as I expected to haha! Love a good adrenaline rush but no need to do it again.

  • camorose

    Haha yes I went canyoning in Switzerland on my first backpacking trip after college and as soon as I got there, I was like…wait, what did I sign up for?! I plugged my nose in every one and although I am glad I tried it and survived it, it’s not something I need to do again!

  • camorose

    Yes! I’m so glad you enjoyed. it, and agree that it’s good to have a slice of what’s actually happening beyond the Instagram–keep things in perspective 🙂

  • camorose

    Haha I listened and I loved it! Thank you for sharing!

  • camorose

    Yes! My friend Katelyn likes to remind me about the “sunk cost fallacy” (http://www.lifehack.org/articles/communication/how-the-sunk-cost-fallacy-makes-you-act-stupid.html). Once you’ve spent the money, it’s gone–so might as well enjoy it or figure out something else! I also totally fall into this trap, but it’s something that I’m getting better with as I get older!

  • camorose

    Haha that has never bothered me too much–I think probably growing up in California with the Pacific Ocean and then lots of lakes and rivers had made it more of a real treat to be able to see the bottom than a standard. But I do much prefer to swim in the Caribbean, where the water is warm and the waves are small to non-existent and you see the bottom!

  • camorose

    Haha yup! It’s funny–both my husband and I love going to the beach, but for such different reasons. I always want to be sitting in the sun and he only wants to be swimming in the water. Nice that we’re both able to enjoy it in very different ways!

  • Medmiston

    Yes, we should!