As I stood in the sand, barefoot and looking out to the sea, I thought, ‘this can’t be right’. Standing next to me in board shorts and a sopping wet rash guard, Zack gripped my hand.
“It’ll be fine”, he murmured in my ear. Then he beckoned me to follow him as he made his way to the water.
I did. I don’t know why I did, but I did.
Lugging the long, waxy board, I struggled under the weight. The sun beat down on me and heat radiated off my body, creating little droplets of sweat that rolled down my back. The cold of the sea was a nice welcome. I plunged my entire body in, holding tight to the bobbing board next to me and scanning the ocean for Zack. There he was, just ahead of me. He waved and smiled, then beckoned once again that I follow him. ‘I can do this,’ I thought, ‘it’s not like you haven’t been on a board before’. I thought of the many times I had strapped one to my feet and ventured down a snowy mountain. Water itself isn’t new to me as I’ve spent many summers behind a boat, the only thing keeping my afloat being the board under my toes. ‘So what if there aren’t any strap?’ I asked myself, ‘So what if the ocean scares the bejesus out of you?’
I pulled my body onto the board and paddled towards Zack. I paddled for what seemed like hours. My arms were exhausted. I must have gone miles into the ocean. I focused hard on the paddling so as not to let thoughts of the dark ocean creatures that were surely just beneath my feet creep into my thoughts. It didn’t work. Soon enough I’ll be on the board and making my way back to the beach. That thought was comforting, at least.
“I think we’re out far enough,” said Zack, next to me. He looked at me, studying my face.
“Do you remember what to do?”
I nodded yes, all the while wondering if it wasn’t too late to back out. I could paddle back to shore, just as I’d paddled out to this point. Then, at long last, I gazed towards the shore. The gentle waves that lifted and lowered me seemed to grow as the lunged towards the sandy earth. The sea sucked mightily then spit back out, sending crashing giants tumbling onto the shore. That’s what I just paddled through? Terrified, I clung to my board.
“Ready?” Zack called out to me, “Here comes a good one! Start paddling! Paddle! Paddle… paddle!”
I froze. Clutching the edges of my board I shook my head ferociously and squeezed my eyes shut. The wave surged beneath me and scooted me forward a couple of feet, but other that that no damage was done. Once it passed beneath me I opened my eyes and peered in wonderment as the wave took on new life, churning and spitting, then gurgling it’s way onto the hot sand.
“It’s ok. You can catch the next one.” Zack said. “Don’t forget to paddle this time.”
‘I didn’t forget.’ I thought, gritting my teeth.
I could see the next wave coming. Zack nodded to me and this time I took my position and began to paddle. ‘What are you doing? You must have lost your damn mind,’ I thought to myself. Suddenly I could hear the wave surround me. It picked me up. I thrust forward with my arms, throwing myself into a crouched position atop the board. I wobbled back and forth, and then suddenly the momentum of the wave pushed me forward.
To be continued…