We motored through the channel slowly as I stood on the front of the boat poised to perform my duties as second mate. These duties involved fairly simple tasks like securing the boat on its mooring ball. I took my assignment seriously, however, always eager to prove myself as a worthy water girl.
As we pulled into the harbor my attention was momentarily caught by a beautiful peeling wave just outside of it. Scott noticed it too. After the boat was secured we headed over to the break.
It was beautiful and we were the only ones out, but the best waves eluded me. I felt this probing and unnecessary need to prove myself by finding the better waves this swell and spot were offering. Time for this objective had run out, though. The sun was setting and it was time to go in. Scott had found the perfect waves, and I was happy for him, really, I was, but I couldn't help but want the same for myself.
The next morning I awoke with one goal in mind: to prove that I could find and ride that perfect wave. Scott wanted to body surf and offered to document my hopeful journey. But the ocean, for the most part, wasn’t having it. I couldn’t figure out where to sit in the line up and the set waves broke either in front of me or to the side of me. For most of the session I could only catch the medium sized waves that petered out in the channel. Finally, after about an unsuccessful hour of wave hunting, the wave that seemed to be running from me during my time here came right to me. My mind quickly flashed over the details of the scenario- the beautiful location, the warm day, some of my favorite audience members watching from the channel, my husband with the camera poised to capture me riding this perfect wave.
As I got to it I realized I would be taking off late.
"That's ok" I thought. "I have to make this wave because I want it so badly."
I committed to the wave as I paddled, I was taking this wave no matter what. I pushed myself up, found my feet and planted them in my wax. The wave hit me in the back so I held onto my rail to keep my balance. It felt like being under a waterfall.
"Keep going" I told myself. "Don't fall!" and then I didn't. Listen to myself, that is. As I began to stand the wave conquered me and I was head over heals and swimming. In this natural washing machine disappointment conquered me too.
When I surfaced I wore my frustration on my face. My father saw it and this only made things worse.
"This isn't that big of a deal" I tried to convince myself as I paddled. "Keep it together!" Adding my usual guilt trip go to "Think of all the suffering people without food. Your situation is not sad!"
It wasn't. It wasn't even remotely close to being as sad as 99.9% of other problems, but what I saw as failure upset me nevertheless.
"Let's go!" my dad called from the dinghy in the channel, waving his hand for me to hurry over. "It's getting windier and the crossing will be that much harder now."
I had surfed longer than I should have. As I pictured my mom and sisters swaying in the rough seas I stacked selfishness on top of the disappointment sandwich I seemed to be building. And then the tears came, washing away all of my previous attempts at reasoning.
When we returned to our sailboat in the harbor I began to pack my surfboard away in our board bag on the top of the boat. The wind whipped the boat's halyards into a howling frenzy as I did so and then came to harass me. The gust knocked my surfboard over and slightly dinged its rail. It was getting windier and my extra surf time would now potentially put us into rougher seas for our next sail. With all the problems weighing on me I couldn’t help but laugh, just a little, because sometimes your own failure can be so perfect.
Photos by Danielle Holloway and Scott DeMint
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