This last swell was full of exciting firsts; driving alone from break to break listening to Rage Against the Machine too loud, struggling through a tough paddle-out only to emerge into the line-up alongside Brad (awkward!), inadvertently picking up a hot date on the beach (more, please!), and catching lots of waves.
For the majority of my first year of surfing, I didn’t catch waves, I was wrecked by them. This is because my pop-up sucks. In theory, this surfing fundamental is simple. Just watch me do it on the living room floor—I’m an expert there. Put your hands down under your chest, look at the beach and pop-up to your feet—one simple, fluid motion. No problem, yeah?
Historically, my pop-up looks more like a hobble-up, or the Baryshnikov as I like to call it, because it results in this position (see photo), with my back knee down as though I am preparing for my pas-de-deux. Occasionally, I hobble up from the Baryshnikov into a more surfer-like stance and actually go down the line, but its ugly (the tiny bikini bottoms are intended to off-set this ugliness, but its a vain attempt). Lately, though, things have changed.
I discovered that its not the mechanics of the pop-up that are difficult to manage, but the fear. The Gulf Coast is blessed with dumpy shore pound; If you don’t make the drop, you’re likely to get pounded into the sand. I’m afraid of this. And not just of this. I am afraid of failing. There is a moment after you paddle for the wave, just as you’ve felt it catch you, that is both the scariest and the best. The ocean has you. You are staring down what feels like an endless chasm, you feel gravity suspend, everything gets slow and quiet except for your heart, and in this split second of weightlessness you must act. This moment is ripe with fear. Surfing has taught me that it is in this moment when I am most afraid, that I must act in order to succeed.
Everything worthwhile that I’ve ever done in my life has scared the shit out of me. Reward always begins with risk. As my friend Tait says, “No pressure, no diamond.” In relationships (in life), that moment when it starts to feel terrifying is the same as that moment in the water. It is when the potentiality for success and failure are equal that you must act. If you hesitate, or keep your eyes down, you will get tossed. But let go, release the fear, and charge forward and claim your reward (true love or a sick turn, what’s the difference, right?).
That is where life happens, in the moment immediately following the fear.