My first surf experience was a 15-minute disaster in Mazatlan almost ten years ago. While learning to paddle, I got hit by a jellyfish—session over. My next surf experience was years later on my birthday. I rented a board, paddled out in freezing water for an hour, and went right back to the surf shop and bought my first board. I was hooked.
Next month, I'll be 55, and it seems like a good time to reflect on all the gifts that surfing has given me. After all, one good wave often makes my whole day.
1. Good things really do take time and effort.
Learning to surf was the most difficult physical activity I have ever attempted. It took hours in the water (in good and very bad conditions), but after a few years, I could finally ride the waves. The time and effort I put into learning has paid me back with wonderful experiences.
2. Values can shift.
The best vehicle on earth is no longer one with a fancy emblem, it's the one that can haul boards and gear, and function as a dressing room. Surf booties outnumber high heels in my closet 4 to 1, and wetsuits outnumber dressy outfits 6 to 2.
3. Independence is fun.
I'm not one to advocate surfing alone in an isolated area—way too dangerous—but surfing is something you can do on your own. You can go to a surf break, paddle out solo, and find your spot to enjoy the waves.
4. The body is meant to heal.
Surfing is risky. I have been injured many times, sometimes badly. In Troncones, I cut my foot so badly the wound took two months to completely close. Here at home, I hit the bottom on a sand bar so hard it knocked the wind out of me and I had to fight to stay conscious. I've had cuts, plenty of bruises, and a concussion. However, our bodies are designed to heal. If you give your body time and care, it heals itself. You get scars so you can tell cool stories.
I can’t claim world wide adventures, but I’ve surfed up and down the coast of Southern California, Hawaii, Costa Rica, and three different locations in Mexico (including the jellyfish incident in Mazatlan and the badly cut foot in Troncones).
6. Surfing has made me aware of the weather, water temperature, tides, the cycles of the moon, shifts in the sand, and wildlife in the water.
I’ve had dolphins surf the wave right beside me, sea lions surface near me, and pelicans dive for fish in front of my board. I’ve seen sting rays in migration beneath my board, and even the flash of a shark’s fin as it chased after it’s prey - thankfully swimming very fast away from me. I can stare at the water and know when it is right to go surf.
7. It's never too late.
At one month shy of 55, I'm often one of the few women in the water at my local break, but in other areas there are more “surfer girls.” I know of a woman who is still surfing at age 83. She gets help to carry her board out past the rocks, and then she paddles out. I want to be like her when I grow up. Another gift to wait for.