I’ve wanted to surf since my diagnosis. Head out mid-morning when everyone was at work. I drive past a section on the freeway on the way to my oncologist where I can see the swell, and gauge how many bodies are out. The breaks between Ventura point and C Street. Would I be able for it? The cancer has moved into both of my hips and femurs. I worry, too, that I wouldn’t be able to carry my board because the disease is in my right shoulder. Most days my skeleton feels brittle and stiff. Some evil current runs through my back. It’s an odd feeling to be aware of. Your bones. I imagined I’d feel like this at 75. I have two boards, a 9’ Walden and a 7’6” epoxy egg which is my favorite. It’s also light, but I decide on the bigger one so I can scramble up the deck.
It’s Wednesday. The second day of a decent swell. Waist high mostly with the odd head high wave. Mid-day at mid tide. Perfect. I can surf inside with anonymity. If I struggled to get from the car to the shore who would know? I take my sister in law from Ireland. We get there at Three O’clock. The on-shore winds kick up. Kite surfers scream across the harried eyed chop. No pressure, right? I put on my wet suit that hasn’t been rinsed. Dry and tight. I sit on my step bumper to put on my booties, swearing underneath my breath as I pull on the heal, begging for it to fall into place. I look over. My sister in law is ready before me. We grab our boards. How will I negotiate down the rocks?
I got to the shore line. The unmistakable sound of waves crashing. The water rushing up my legs. The color of the water, neither green nor brown. The familiar rocks like familiar faces without names. The occasional drift of seaweed. The organic patterns of white water that glide over the surface. The water rushing back out behind my knees. A mop of sea grass waving below. This repeating itself over and over. Step by step. The timeless procession of waves folding over themselves.
Finally its time. I launch the board and lift my body on it. My neck hurts to look up. I can’t do this, so I look down. I see old nubby wax, but I’m still loosely aware of everything around me. Concentrated yet relaxed. Aware of all the others in the water but not letting on. No eye contact. No talking. It feels like an eternity to get out of the crash zone, if you could call it that. Then it came, already crumbing on the outer lip. I spin. Two quick paddles and I manage to get up. I don’t know how. My mind has nothing to do with it. The feeling is euphoric. Surfing means pushing limits; this is my limit, waist high on a little Wednesday.
Surfing looks easier than it is, but you have to get it on your own. Work and patience and timing and luck are all required. It doesn’t come without a cost. The next day I can’t move. I stay in bed all day. And the next. Dee is annoyed. Why? I don’t know why. My mind has nothing to do with it.