Surfing as Self-Care

How I Learned to Love Riding Waves During the Pandemic

Credit: Daniel Dreifuss

When I was 7, my dad tried to teach me to surf, taking me to Santa Claus Lane with a five-foot, soft-top board. But while paddling out, I’d complain that we should put the board back — I just wanted to play in the water. As waves approached, he’d push me into them, usually holding on as we rode to shore. As he got more confident with my ability to stand up and balance, he would let go of the board. 

Usually, I was fine surfing a few waves. But after wiping out once, I was done. The board would throw me off, tumbling me under the white water, with mouthfuls of sand and saltwater causing my ultimate frustration. Surfing became a boring and annoying routine of catching a wave, standing for a few seconds, and then crashing, with my life flashing before my eyes as I was pinned underwater. I felt like I was in a washing machine, a ragdoll with whiplash.

As I grew older, I’d say yes when people asked if I could surf, but really, anyone could do what I did. I just wasn’t that into it. 

The turning point for me was last fall, when I went camping near Morro Bay the weekend after school started. My friend, my mom, and I were walking on the beach near Morro Rock, which was emerging out of the morning mist. As we got closer, we began to see all these surfers shredding some awesome waves. 

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It was warm, yet foggy, and so magical to see people catching these big waves with such ease and grace. I was dancing around, in awe of how fun it looked. Right then, I decided to improve my surfing skills. My dream was to go with the flow of the ocean and dance through the rhythmic swells. I found it so calming to watch the surfers, and my excitement peaked as I thought about what fun I would have, being that person gliding through the water. 

The day I got home from camping, I grabbed the foam board that I had bought a few years prior, found my mom’s wetsuit (that I didn’t know existed), and headed for the beach. Campus Point was the plan, but we ended up going to Mondos instead, where I loved surfing the mellow waves and met new friends. I started meeting them there about twice a week after school. 

I even inspired my mom to fulfill her life-long dream of surfing. She took my longboard, bought me a slightly shorter board, and kindly outfitted me with a new winter wetsuit, which I thought was unnecessary, but wow, the water is cold! Since then, we’ve upgraded our surf spot to C-Street in Ventura, where the waves tend to be bigger. 

The ocean is simultaneously predictable and unpredictable — though the swells, wind, and tides can be tracked, no one can actually be sure about what will exactly go down. There is a level of trust that one needs to have within themselves and the water. Surfing is a go-with-the-flow sport, best appreciated if people are able to let themselves go and surrender to the power of the wave. 

Today, I really love surfing, which makes my body, mind, and soul happy. The wipeouts that I despised as a child toughened me up because they helped me become stronger and more confident with surfing. During this pandemic year, it’s become a source of endless enjoyment — even if I only catch one wave during a session, it is completely worth the trip.

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