Why I’m Going To Learn How To Surf

I have discovered the underlying appeal of surfers. Let’s think beyond their evenly suntanned bodies, and their hair touched with glints of gold, and their perfectly toned legs, arms, abdominals. And let’s overlook the fact that their teeth are always so damn white, and their voices are slightly more Australian sounding than the average human’s voice. And let’s pretend for a moment that their swim trunks don’t hang at a perfect height, where you can see the start of protruding pelvic muscles and the outline of strong bones, but nothing more. And let’s say that we don’t notice the way that they firmly hold a slick surfboard as if it is a woman whom they cherish dearly. And the way their bodies move look when they are actually on the wave.

Let’s now pretend that all of that is an insignificant shard of glass – off a huge, wall length mirror – that we can put to the side for a moment while we examine the unbroken frame.

This morning, about 9:30 a.m., I watched them surf in all their glory. And I sat there at the edge of the water, in my chair – half sunken into the quicksand of a wet beach – and I meant to continue sobbing over Hassan’s needless death in my new favorite novel The Kite Runner. But instead, I watched the surfers. Without my prescription glasses on, I could not see the details of their faces or bodies like I could if I were up close. Instead, this is what I saw. A lone human, atop a slim board longer than two of me, sailing freely across white foam. The foam was both a predecessor and a result of the surfer and his board, and they worked in perfect unison. He cut softly but sharply (how could these two opposites be simultaneous? Observe a surfer, then you will understand) and rode the wave as if he had been born atop it.

And then, the inevitable happened. He fell off.

There was no fuss, no fight, and no outward anger. He simply knew the time had come, and he gracefully slipped off the board and into the abyss of white foam. And then my eyes were pulled to another surfer, who stayed atop the foam for a grand total of three seconds, before he proceeded to fall over as well. It kept happening, not just to the two of them, but to every surfer out in the ocean. And I realized then what they already knew – when you are in the ocean, falling is the only way to get off a surfboard.

But what other sport ends this way? Basketball, soccer, football, baseball, tennis, field hockey lacrosse, golf…the object is always to remain upright on your feet. If someone falls, whistles are blown by short, stubborn men in black-and-white striped shirts, and the guilt is placed.

There are sports where you do not remain upright. In swimming and rowing, you are never standing on your feet. But, you don’t fall. You don’t hit the ground, and inevitably suffer at least a minuscule amount of personal, physical pain. Or emotional. Falling bruises pride. The only “sports” that encourage falling in a sense are under-appreciated – dance, karate, wrestling, and surfing. I was – and still am – a dancer. I did karate for 10 years. I have done a form of wrestling through karate sparring, but my purpose was to take down the opponent, and avoid falling myself. And now I know that I will learn to surf. Because people who learn to surf, learn to fall. Which is considered by many to be the equivalent of failing.

So let’s get back to the avid surfer appeal now. They all accept that they will fall down every single time. And then they laugh, stare up at the sun, and hop back on that slick piece of wood, plastic, and paint. Surfers have learned to accept their fate of falling. This translates into their overall demeanor and personality. They have fallen, or in other words “failed”, and have continued to pick themselves up and improve their sport. They walk with ease because they have experienced supposed “failure”, and dealt with it each and every time they surf. And people who give off this vibe – of relaxation and pure enjoyment of life – attract everyone to them. And this results in a stronger sense of self, an in-tuned perception of nature, and a resulting outward beauty.

And so, this is why I will learn to surf. That, and because I swear I was a mermaid in a past life. TC mark

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image – Guzmán Lozano

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