As I paddled confidently against the drift, jockeying for position among the other wetsuit warriors at Lido last week, I was struck by a realization: I was at home here. My heartbeat firm and steady within its neoprene nest, my mind quiet like an animal, alert and unencumbered by the anxiety of human ego. When I first started surfing, Brad’s response to nearly any question or complaint was, “time in the water.” This mantra, as it turns out, is the solution to every problem— in the water and on land.
This thing I do, surfing, has become mine. I own it. From scoping spots to changing in the parking lot to paddling out and being in the line-up; its second-nature. If surfing were a man, I would say we’ve reached the point in the relationship where I can use the bathroom in the morning without running the water. Inside the space of this familiarity is freedom. The firmness of my surfboard under my body, the push and pull of the ocean, nothing else exists. No worries, no wants. I am my best self; both grounded and buoyed by the ocean. Happiness; unadulterated. As surfers, we call this the stoke.
Sure, I’ve been stoked all along, but I’ve also been nervous and self-conscious. Until last week’s epiphany, I was an outsider, burdened by a subconscious narrative that told me I didn’t belong. Don’t get me wrong, I’m still quick with a smile and a ‘sorry’ in the line-up because I frequently find myself flailing in one way or another, but I feel different inside. The ocean and I are tight now. I belong. I deserve to be here. This calm feeling of belonging carries over into the parking lot and follows me home, lingering a little longer after each session.
Brad was right, all I need is time in the water.