Once a Surfer . . .
I recently came across this old photo of me and my surfing buddy Karen. We were probably 15 or 16 at the time – wasn’t I cute back then! Obviously no surf that day, so we were coming in early. I used to spend 7-8 hours a day out on the water in Ogunquit, Maine when there were any kind of waves – only stopping for lunch and hot coffee to soothe my chattering teeth and blue lips, then going back out until my family stood on shore and waved me in because they wanted to go home. Now, almost 45 years later, I still don’t want to get off that board. Can’t wait for summer! Karen, Brenda, Margi, Becky, Violet, fellow SUP Gals and all lovers of being on the water, do you feel me?
I can only remember one bad experience on the water as a surfer. It was November and a hurricane had passed by leaving awesome waves in its wake. I begged my father (I didn’t yet have a driver’s license) to take me surfing. He took me to Safety Beach in Nahant and stayed in the car, watching me with binoculars.
Surf was running 10-12 feet; my norm was 3-5 on a good day. It took me a long time to make it out beyond the breakers. He says I was half way to Egg Rock (probably 1/2 a mile out). By the time I got out, I was exhausted and had to sit out the incoming set of monsters while I caught my breath, plus I was scared shitless, never having been out in surf that big before. Three or four big swells raised me high to their crest and then down into their trough. Then I made the near fatal mistake of turning my back to the sea. The next wave was huge, and when I looked back, it was preparing to break over me. There was nothing I could do. It crashed and sent me flying from my board, and sent my board careening to shore without me (they didn’t have tethers back in those days). After that, every wave crashed on me, pushing me far below the surface in a maelstrom of swirling water. I would reach the surface just in time to grab a breath of air, before the next wave crashed, pushing me into the depths. I was certain I would drown that day. Thank God it was cold so I was wearing a full wetsuit or I certainly would have. At the same time, the current was pushing me further down shore from where I had gone in.
I eventually made it to shore, collapsing exhausted at the water’s edge where my Dad arrived to help me back to the car.
That experience gave me the greatest respect for the ocean, which I still love passionately, but with the healthy modicum of fear, that we all should have.