On Friday I decided to quit. No more surfing for me. It’s too hard.
Maybe it is because I watched the JBay Open where the surfing was at the level of the gods and showed me where I was on a scale of zero to poop.
Or maybe it was because my leash got snagged between my toes just before a wave hit. While I am grateful to still have all ten, that slash in the webbing was the last straw.
Maybe it was the silly mistake I made when I didn’t see someone and dropped in on them. It is such a basic, unforgivable, stupid thing to do and here I am, not only a kook on the wave but still, STILL, a kook in the lineup.
So I decided I was done. Sell the board. Pack up the wetsuit. It’s been fun but it’s over.
But then, later in the afternoon, I was massaging someone (perfect opportunity for quiet thoughts to swirl round in my head) and I remembered the time I learned to weld. Yes. That time when I was doing volunteer work (You can read about the reasons and the vibe here: Building without borders )
First, I was devastated that I had to work in such a dirty environment and second, it was so difficult. I cried behind my welding hood because every time I struck the arc I would hear whooosh as holes blew in the steel. Over and over again. No matter how much I listened to instructions, I just couldn’t get it.
A similar thing happened when I learned to do artificial nails. I could not find any other job (welding does that to your CV) and I had a husband at university and bills to pay. I discovered that false nails are fiendishly difficult to do well. Some products are glue on and some you sculpture into shape. The more odorous products cure by evaporation, others by catalyst and some by UV light. Air bubbles, adhesion problems and that elusive perfect un-false shape are the stuff of nightmares. The only way to get them right is to practice until you have a feel for it. Nothing compares to the stress of a client watching you struggle with her fingertips. It is mortifying.
And then there is writing. I discovered that taking parts of speech and weaving them into an intricate web to make an emotional impact on a reader is almost impossibly difficult.
Eventually, with lots of practice, I learned to weld. In time I got the angle right and the electrode did not stick when I struck the arc. I got a feel for shielded metal arc welding. Soon I executed horizontal, vertical and overhead welds without spatter or porosity. It became fun TBH. Creative. I learned that I can enjoy doing difficult things if I keep trying.
Same with nails. Many cold sweats and do-overs later, I learned to do nails well. (Okay, maybe not acrylics. My acrylics were always horrible.) But gel nails were my bread and butter, and they supported us when Rick was studying civil engineering.
And writing? Well that doesn’t support anyone unless you are JK herself, but I am stoked about being published, two manuscripts and I’ve-lost-count-how-many-rejections later. Yesterday I completed a zillionth round of edits for my publisher. Turns out that, after multiple passes by myself and professional editors, I have an affinity for the past perfect tense. A proliferation of hads and past participles persisted in the manuscript. If I gave up writing when I felt like it, or when I found mistakes, where would my manuscript be today?
So should I give up SUP surfing because it’s so hard? Because I stick my bum out, don’t bend my knees, hunch my shoulders, take a stupid line, look at my feet, get scared, get hurt, can’t go left, can’t top turn, drop in, kook out?
I probably should.
But I have a suspicion that surfing might be one of those feel things. Like welding, sculpturing nails, and throwing down a first draft. It is one of those things you need to persevere with until you get a feel for it.
So maybe I won’t give up this week. In the past learning difficult things gave me confidence, put food on the table and kept my feet on the ground. Maybe the ocean is teaching me a lesson. If I may quote a rare gem from Stab magazine:
“Look at the wave and do what suits it best…As humans we tend to think that we are the universe, that we’re masters of the universe. We’ve got that dominant headspace and it’s important with the ocean, surfing and waves to be happy to take a backseat and realise it’s a bigger better power than you every day of the week and you might as well just ride along and enjoy it. ”
Are you wrestling with something very hard? Are you about to give up?
Well, tomorrow looks offshore and clean. Maybe I won’t give up just yet. And my gut feeling is, neither should you.