I have had a wetsuit hanging in my closet for over five years. I am talking tags on, never worn, navy blue and pink. Finally this month, the wetsuit hit the water and I paddled my heart out and I tried on surfing. It was a Friday, the skies were ridiculously blue, as they are 97% of the time in the Summer afternoon in Southern California. My friend rolled up with her Jetta wagon packed with the boards on top. I was immediately nervous and excited all at the same time, as I often am when trying something new. Will I be good enough, will I get up on the board, will I fail, will I be embarrassed, what if I hurt myself, maybe I will be awesome, oh who am I kidding, I hear it is really hard.... all the stories. It is so crazy our minds and the ability to run in a doubting direction.
So we are driving out to Malibu to a beach called SurfRiders. Obviously. And upon arrival, I actually try my wetsuit on for the first time. Thankfully, it fit. That's right, I had never even tried the damn thing on. I grabbed my foam board off the roof and clumsily carried it to the shore. My friend, Kir was teaching me the ways of the waves and had let me know that this place was pretty localized. Which means, people can get a big aggressive about their waves, their spot, their surf. I think to myself, "Okay, shit".
As we near the sand, I note there are already quite a few surfers in the water catching the "gutless waves", or the tiny waves I was going to learn on. And just like that before I could even overthink it, my friend glided right in the water and I followed and there we go out to sea. Paddling out, and paddling, and paddling. First off, holy arm work out. Note: I had to take quite a few breathers.
We arrive out with the surfers and she does some mingling and asking about waves. We sit on our boards, which is quite the balancing act in itself for a first timer, and we watch. I see quite a few bumps in the water and seasoned vets get on them and ride them in. Kir grabs one and I try to paddle for it with a first failed attempt, as I see her ride it. Like a pro.
After a few more (failed) attempts, I immediately catch myself turtling into my beginner's shell. I become an observer on my foam board for a moment, allowing everyone to catch the waves and almost backing away because I think I am not good, or because I am new, or because I fall. This fear takes over that I don't belong and I am in the way of all the 'locals'. We are talking a few attempts that I fail and I am hands-in-the-air-done-for in a matter of seconds. Don't mind me, the new girl over here slowly gliding out of wave riding potential. I'll just float over here.
I take a pause to get out of my head and I look around at the mountains overlooking the sea, I take in how magic and different the environment is when sitting on a foam board in the ocean versus that of sitting in front of my computer or even on solid ground, for that matter. And that I actually like being out here. And in that moment, I remind myself that I am not going to learn by sitting back and watching. I have to get out there and try again, feel the waves in my body and go for it, even if I fail (again and again).
And so, I paddle in closer to the break and get my mind right.
From then on, I try for every wave that seems right. I listen to Kir's directions and I pull back when another surfer is already on the wave. I fall of my board again and again. I stand up to my knees versus my feet one time. I don't paddle enough another time. And I am learning, out there with all those locals. Because hey, about thirty minutes have passed and I actually realize I am local, too.
Did I catch a wave that day, no. Did I rock the shit of being a beginner, oh yes.
As I paddle in, exhausted and excited all the same time, I feel really proud of myself. Proud of myself that I tried something so uncomfortable, so humbling, so adventurous and new. Proud that I chose to learn to fail versus turtle back. My navy blue and pink wetsuit glistens as I pull it down to my hips and walk back to the car to pack up. It feels right on my body, like it had been waiting all five years in my closet just to meet its purpose. And to be honest, I feel right in my body. This whole wetsuit+surfboard look is pretty badass, if I do say so myself.
Already wondering how I am going to get back out next week and the week after and the week after that, I wonder how it will feel to ride my first wave all the way in. One day. One day.
Give yourself the gift of the moments to be a beginner. Learn to fail and go for that wave, and the next one and the next one.