We pulled into the space and walked to the beach. To see what the waves were doing. Crossing the sand, we sank into the shoreline fifteen feet from the water. We didn’t need to be that close; thunderclaps from massive waves reached his car. But to see them was completely different.
They were breaking a couple hundred feet off-shore. Swells of around six feet with a few sets of eight foot rockers. And I’m a terrible surfer. Great.
But the worst thing that could happen was only drowning. Maybe get flipped and then nailed with my board. Maybe — definitely — get rocked by a nine-footer.
We put on wet-suits, and walked into the surf. My friend Jake was held inside the breaking waves for ten minutes, but then made it past the six- seven- foot pushers that kept me contained. Trapped inside the breaking waves I was hammered for another fifteen minutes. Progress was ruined with each rolling set that pushed in and swept me backwards. Duck-diving — holding the board’s nose down and kneeling your board under an oncoming wave — doesn’t work well when you’re an amateur and you’re facing regular sets of one to three foot overhead — five to seven foot — waves.
Eventually I made it past the breaking point and was fucking tired. So I rested. Caught a couple waves and ate it every time.
There was one where I was trying to paddle into a two or three foot overhead wave. I slid off the front off my board, and was swirled into this behemoth eight foot wave. I maelstromed into the tip of the crest, and was bitch-slapped into the murky water below with the power of Thor. I was under for a good half minute. That’s when I swam in and rested and munched blueberry crisps, apples, pears, crackers, and yogurt from the car.
Taking a rest to eat was glorified bitching out of going back in, truly. Because getting pounded by two to three foot overhead waves fucking blows. And I was tired. And a little scared of the waves. They were huge, and I’m not that good at surfing. I know, nothing really bad is going to happen. But going out, knowing you’re going to get your ass beat? It’s not something you go in to grinning ear to fucking dick about.
But I went back out. And got beat. But it wasn’t as bad as the first time. Jake and I got some McDonald’s, and went out one more time. And I got my ass beat again. Less, but there was still significantly damaged ass. But by this third time out, I was having a decent amount of fun wrestling with huge waves.
So, why do we do these things? Why do we wrestle with waves we know are too big for us? Why commit to write every day? Why do we meditate, take hard hikes, climb mountains, do unpleasant things?
I’m not entirely sure. I’m not sure why I wanted to keep going out even when I knew it would be really rough. Maybe because facing a big wave and climbing a tall mountain is how we face our fears. If you duck out, if you bitch out when it comes to a wave, what does that say about you as a person?
It’s your own personal test with Nature — what you’re made of. And yeah you can complain and say your arms hurt, the waves are huge, and getting rocked is terrible. But that’s also really, really easy. Really easy. Anyone can dip because things get rough.
Maybe these are the exact waves you need to surf, bro. Maybe these are the waves to teach you humility. Respect. Reverence.
Maybe just to decide to rock up at “some of the biggest waves I’ve ever surfed” — Jake — when you’re a terrible surfer because hey, if there’s any moment where you’re going to learn about yourself, it’s going to be there.
And it makes a decent story. Don’t take the easy route.