I remember many an early morning mocking my friend as he donned his wetsuit on a cold January morning as early as sun up. As he would grab his surfboard and leave the apartment, just as hung over as I was, I would think to myself,” He must be insane. It’s twenty degrees out, and he is going surfing in the cold ocean.” Who would have thought my views would change so drastically in the future?
Ever since I was a small child, I have always been searching for an adrenaline rush. Whether it was climbing a tree, jumping my bike, or in recent years, firefighting, rock climbing, and snowboarding, however, the thought of subjecting myself to the brutality of the elements like that seemed absurd. For the most part I have always been eager to experience new and exciting things. I hope to skydive, and maybe even bungee jump someday. It is fun to cheat death with each new experience. The thought of surfing seemed fun, maybe if I was in California, but my thoughts were,” There aren’t any waves in New Hampshire,” about which I would later be proven wrong.
After much prodding, I finally agreed to give surfing a chance. It seemed like forever and a day before the opportunity arose for me to surf for the first time. Day after day, I called the surf report with the same message,” nothing today, but there’s a storm brewing off the coast, maybe some waves for the weekend.” I thought I would never get the chance to surf. While at work one morning, plodding through the beginning of yet another long day, my friend Chris called to inform me that the storm had finally hit the coast. The surf was head high plus, which is 6-8 feet. That is abnormally big for us in New England. I was excited. After all this time, I was finally going to learn how to surf. I had a hard time focusing that day on my work. My mind and thoughts were on the ocean and what lay ahead for me. Finally, time to punch out and see what fate awaited me. I drove like a madman to Chris’s house. Quickly we loaded the truck up with the two surfboards and wetsuits. I really hoped I would enjoy surfing, especially after an astronomical investment of over five hundred dollars.
Before I knew it we were on our way to Hampton beach. It was nothing like I had ever seen before. The number of people on surfboards boggled my mind. I never thought there could be that many surfers in New Hampshire. But now I knew why. These gigantic waves were rolling through, crashing with a most impressive force onto the beach. I watched in awe as a surfer caught a beautiful ride. The anticipation and anxiety were mounting as I struggled with my wetsuit. It was getting closer and closer to the moment I would embark onto the ocean, not yet knowing whether I would live or die. I began to realize that my first day out should not be on such a big day, however, my friend quickly made me realize that today was the day. He made me aware that it could be days, maybe even weeks before we got another swell that could hit like this again. That is the moment that I knew today was the day. I had just finished waxing up my board, and it was now time to enter the water. As I walked down the beach, the smell and sound of the ocean seemed to call me. The sharp rocks under my feet didn’t faze me in the least. My mind was set and intent on accomplishing this goal. I was in the water. It seemed cold at first, but my wetsuit quickly went to work and resolved the problem. I walked and walked with my board under my arm until I had to float it on the water. All this time the waves were crashing all around me knocking me over on occasion. This made my trek difficult, but didn’t deter me in my quest.
Finally I was at the point where I need to begin paddling. I couldn’t believe how physically demanding and grueling this task was. Trying to remember what Chris had told me, I leaned forward on my board and dove beneath the wave like a duck. This helped, but still pushed me back ten of the twenty feet I had just paddled. At last I was finally there. I was sitting in what is affectionately called,” the zone.” This is the area just before the waves break where one waits for the perfect wave to roll through and carry you away. Right now this was the place I needed to catch my breath so as not to drown. I has never had any formal lessons in surfing. In fact, I could never stand to be in the ocean for more than ten minutes at a time without feeling frozen to death. My surf education came from watching surf videos and listening to the advice of my friend. This is all I had with me as I sat out on the zone awaiting my first ride. In the distance I saw a wave. It was forming into a nice gentle swell.
As it approaches I begin to paddle into its’ path, I look over my shoulder and look at what appears to be a smaller wave, five to six feet, and headed right at me. As the wave picks me up, I lean forward to make sure I get in. Before I know it, I am being thrown off my board into the churning ocean. As I am rolling along the bottom of the ocean floor, I wonder just how long I can hold my breath. At that moment, I surface and gasp for air. What seemed like forever, actually only took thirty seconds. After realizing I am still alive, I begin my second paddle into the zone. It took a few minutes, but now I was refreshed and ready to search for another wave. I had high hopes that this time I could actually ride the wave and not get my ass handed to me. Once again I saw a wave rolling along. I began to paddle with all my might. As the wave picked me up, I remembered not to lean quite so far forward. Before I knew it, I was on top of this wave, and all its’ fury. Now was the moment of truth, I had to stand up. I was nervous, but at the same time pumped at what was happening. Slowly I brought one leg up, and I was in a kneeling position. I was a little wobbly, but I was still on the board. Slowly I brought the rest of my body up. I did it, I was finally surfing! Now, what to do with the wave? As I stood on my surfboard atop this wave, I began to plummet . I dropped down the face of the wave at least four feet or so. The adrenaline running through my body at this point was incredible. I never thought it could be like this. I decided to cut to the right and see where it would take me. I found myself speeding across the top of the water with the wave closing in behind me. I leaned forward causing my board to pick up speed. As I reached the bottom of the wave, I cut my board hard to the right causing it to race to the top of the wave. Now the ride was over, so I jumped of my board in elation. I couldn’t believe the feeling inside of me after this ride.
After paddling back out to the zone to meet up with Chris, I had all I could do to tell him about the ride I had just got. That had to have been the most intense thing I had ever experienced. All I wanted to do now was spend the rest of the day in the water. It hurt me to think about the soon approaching darkness that would force me out of the water. I now know why he would suit up in the middle of the winter to go surfing. It is something one can’t explain to other people. As foolish as it sounds, it seemed like a religious experience, and I am far from being a religious person. I knew the moment I stood up on the wave, that surfing was now a part of me, and me a part of it. Every once and a while I look back and remember how I used to make fun of Chris. While I am reflecting, I am usually busy putting on a wetsuit at the crack of dawn on a chilly February morning. As I hop in the truck and put on my sunglasses to prevent the pain of the early morning sun; I think to myself,” I am on my way to church, and I like it.” soon approaching darkness that would force me out of the water.
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