My irrational passion for surfing

The year was 2007. The time was around March or April. I had been working non stop leading up to baseball opening day for almost three months straight. Two AM I believe it was. I had just finished coding something. Tired of life, I began drifting off in the cyber world, looking for an escape. It might have been fate. It might have been coincidence. Who knew. I stumbled upon a surf camp. In Morocco. True to my character, I booked it immediately.

At that time I had never surfed before. I have always been attracted to its culture. The carefree lifestyle of an alluring sport that comes with so much grace that it in some weird indescribable way defines "life". At least that was the perception from the outside looking in. The only thing that had stopped me from attempting it, despite my proficiency and passion for its sister sport snowboarding, had been my childhood fear.

I grew up in a family that embraces active sport. We were avid swimmers as kids -- my brother and I. One summer when I was in 4th grade we went to Hua Hin, a sleepy beach town not far from Bangkok. I only learned later in life that Hua Hin to Bangkokians is a bit like Hamptons to New Yorkers. 4th grade was the prime age where I was just entering competitive swimming seriously. Brother and I took out a plastic ball, free from KFC with kids meal, to play in the ocean. It was late afternoon. The tide was strong, pulling outward. At one point I missed a catch. The ball began to drift with the tide. I chased it. I didn't know how long I tried. All I knew is I failed. By the time my body screamed "I give up" I had lost not only the ball, my brother, but also land. I was stranded in the middle of the ocean alone. I will never forget the moment of panic. Something in me told me to just keep moving. One stroke at a time. Of course for every stroke forward the tide kept pulling me back out. I lost consciousness. You know that thing you sometime hear about people who can do crazy things because of adrenalin that comes out at the last moment of life? Yea. It's true. Obviously I survived the swim. On shore, tired, still alone, I sat in the dark. The sun has set by now. I made it back alive. It sank in my consciousness on that day -- no one would have come to save me if i hadn't saved myself. When I rejoined the family, all I got from them was "where the hell were you?"

From that point onward through the next twenty years I would dream of drowning at least once a month. Until Morocco.

I still remember the first time I went out in the wave. Every swell filled me up with irrational fear. Every break reminded me of drowning. Every time my feet can't touch the ocean floor, the little girl inside me screamed. I had to learn to trust something unfamiliar (the board). I had to re-learn to trust the very skill that got me nearly killed (swimming). I had my mind set to it tho -- conquer it. That which does not kill you will make you stronger. Over the week I became more comfortable. Fear gradually became love. From that point on, the drowning dreams went away.

For me, surfing is a hobby of irrational passion. You have to work so hard to paddle out. When you are starting off, 99% of your effort goes to waste. Each wave is so hard to detect, all different, all fleeting. It's the 1% of that fluke perfect ride that makes you feel like you've stolen a moment of glory never to be repeated again by anyone. That moment is yours to ride it. And it's amazing. And so you do it again. Out you go in colder waters, further seas, to find your joy. Eventually the payoff between eating shit in the wave and catching them balances off. I'm not there yet. But my eye is on the prize.

Love, in a way, is a lot like surfing. You start off afraid. Then one day you jump in, allured by the illusion of what it could be, only to fail and fail again. For every failure you become more familiar, more drawn in to it, because you know that soon enough you'll catch it. But that requires patience and a lot of learning. If you don't sit there long enough, if you don't fall enough times you'll never know which wave to pass, which to catch. While it feels like magic -- the reality is it's a lot of work. A lot of facing your own fear. Whatever insecurities you might have comes to life before your eyes. If you choose to ignore them you will never get better. Eventually the pummeling outweighs the joy. Eventually you'll hurt yourself. Maybe you'll even give up. But if you choose to say "hey, I don't know how to do this. Teach me." Or "I wonder if I'm going about it the wrong way. Let me try something different." the learning brings to light the joy you seek. And that's when love grows.

Everything that precedes it, everything that will come after it, melts away. You are one with the present. You seized it. And even though you may have learned it, every time you go out you know you will fall and fall again. The water will be different. The wind will be different. And you -- you'll always have to change, adapt, adjust. It's ok tho. It's not the destination. It's the journey.

I still suck at surfing to this day. But I do keep trying.

Thaniya KeereepartComment