Memphis is pretty landlocked aside from the giant brown river that it borders, which is kind of deceptive because you can’t really get out in it without A) finding a body B) Catching cancer or C) Getting swept the eff down the river. Needless to say I didn’t get a lot of water time as a kid and a bad ocean experience as a teen left me with a healthy respect (terror) of the ocean. However, I couldn’t help but be insanely in love with it from afar. So much so that I would convince myself that if I didn’t see/smell/taste it on a three year cycle I might just freaking die. That being said…I’m sun-phobic. I couldn’t swim until last summer. I don’t really like boats. I’m absolutely certain that everything in the ocean is trying to kill me. (jelly fish, sharks, unexploded mines, the kraken)
And now I live three miles away from it.
It was Dana’s idea that we learn how to surf. She was incredibly adamant about taking lessons and embracing our new coastal culture while we were still planning the move in Memphis and I completely agreed because there was no immediate threat of being swallowed whole by an octopus in Shelby County. To make a long story short, I was completely and shamelessly terrified by the prospect once we got here although I would go down to the water at least once a week to try to make peace with the sea gods. (no luck) We found out our neighbor surfed and he offered to take us out because he had a couple extra boards. Still…people in Memphis are all the time offering to do stuff with/to/for you but its mostly polite lip service. (I was way content to watch how-to surf videos in my livingroom for an eternity.) Not so much with Chad, our neighbor. A few days later at 8 am on a completely grey and cold morning we loaded everything in the car and followed him to the pier. I put on a borrowed wetsuit backwards (off to a good start!) which I had to turn back around at the water’s edge because no one noticed until then. After sorting that out and embarrassing Chad, I waded into the ocean towards a certain watery demise.
What happened for the next two hours was pretty awesome. Lot’s of getting rocked by crashing waves. Lot’s of falling off my surfboard. Lot’s of flailing and swallowing of ocean water. Not a lot of actual surfing occurred, but a lot of confidence building and an overall feeling that I had to learn how to do this because it was in me all along. We bought wetsuits and two clunky, beat up, used surfboards a week later.
I’ve gone out since then and have swallowed less ocean and done less flailing. I’m still not “surfing” per se, but I’m getting closer. I study the wave reports for Malibu and Santa Monica. I do pop-up exercises. Today, two seals swam around and between us, ducking in and out of the water, checking us out. And that NEVER happens when I’m in my living room.
(An aside: A brazillion thank you’s to everyone who sent me supportive messages and well-wishes after the last post. You all are the best. For serial.)