Last weekend my boyfriend and I took the opportunity to leave the city and the Shire for wide open waves. Well, being a lifelong surfer, he was slightly more eager than I was.
You see, I’m terrified of the ocean. I love to look at it, sit by it on the beach, and hear it beating at the shore…But! I don’t like to get in it. It terrifies me! As a chronic sufferer of severe anxiety, the ocean is one of my great arch enemies. I step into the shallows and the tide instantly wants to grab at my calves lurching me deeper into it’s domain in an attempt to take control from the queen controller. It would be great to just step into the water and have it ignore my presence as I would its. Ideally, the water would lay still and silent around my feet. Instead, it is cold and full of motion, presenting itself to me as a strong overwhelming body that could take me by surprise at any given moment, while the underwater occupiers hide safely beneath the turquoise reflection of the ocean’s coat. All entities conspiring to whisk me into the abyss.
Sounds dramatic and a little humorous, huh? This is honestly how fear chooses to talk to me; it is the most effective way to dish drama to the Drama Queen.
We rented a cabin at One Mile Beach Caravan Park. The major perk, it was a stone’s throw from one of the best novice surfing beaches in NSW. I was psyched…3 days before actually having to stand in front of my waiting wetsuit and learner foamie. My boyfriend, who I will refer to from this point as ‘SASI’ – Seriously Awesome Surf Instructor, was very patient, laughing at all the right moments and pushing me with a firm ‘you can do this’, at others. This experience was at the top of my ‘face-your-god-damn-fears’ list. I HAD TO DO IT! And, surfing really wasn’t the challenge; it was just a big enough reason to make me face my fear of the ocean.
Getting the wetsuit on was, however, a challenge. Hats off to guys that do this so elegantly in car parks. I almost smacked my head countless times on the bathroom vanity – it’s like trying to squeeze your ass in to those 90% off sass&bides that are clearly two sizes too small – times ten. It was impossible and a serious cardio workout. Once I got it on, it was a different story. I became Angelina in Tomb Raider…I was wetsuit-spanking HOT!!! Well, at least it felt that way. I have never stroked my own ass so much in my life. My bod was rockin! If I could get away with wearing a wetsuit everyday of my life, I would! Instant self-esteem escalation.
As my anxiety had set in during our quick ‘let’s check out the waves before we suit up’, escapade, the whining began pretty instantly. Waxing my board became a precise and drawn out process due to avoidance of what I knew I was expected to do, now that I was suitably attired. Looking into the trustworthy eyes of Sasi, I picked up that 6 foot something surf board, slung it under my arm and head straight for the beach.
That’s what you wanted to hear, right?
First of all, the board had wax on it. That stuff may smell pretty but it is simply gross, and there was absolutely no way I was messing up my wetsuit. Safely holding the board wax side out, I set off. Within a few short metres of the cabin front door I encountered a problem. I was born, let’s say, petite. My legs are not lengthy and therefore my arms aren’t either. In just a few short metres of lugging that board, my arm started to ache, followed by a trail of anxious whining. Cue Sasi stepping in to carry his high maintenance girlfriend’s board under his free arm.
The journey continued from that point with me seriously lagging behind, while my man carried both boards with what appeared to be the look of a seaman hearing his siren call, the call of ‘his’ sea. He was off and I could bloody well make it, whenever I chose to get there.
I did make it. I made it to the beach. I posed for a photo. I grabbed that board under Sasi’s instruction and head courageously towards the sea.
“The sea was angry that day, my friends, like an old man trying to send back soup in a deli! I got about fifty feet out and suddenly…”
No, actually it wasn’t. It was calm and welcomed me with waves that were perfect for my first real ocean experience. I am 37 years old. This fear I have of the ocean has been with me my entire life. Where did it come from? I have no idea. I’m not sure it is even directly associated with the ocean. It is just another side effect of a person overcome with lifelong anxiety, fear of placing themselves in a position where their control could be compromised by something greater than themself.
The photo taken of me, belly pressed to my foamie, sums up what that experience felt like. It was powerful, scary and a massive challenge, but, taking that small step into one of my greatest fears and riding its wave, brought the most profound joy… childlike joy.
I’m not, nor do I have any intention of becoming, a weekend wave warrior. I’m a person having an experimental life and surfing was a truly great experience.
Dear Sea, I’ll be seeing you. Sam xxx
[Gratitude to my soul mate, my Sasi, for holding my hand and encouraging a new experience that brought me true wholehearted joy.]