I am a competent surfer but not an accomplished surfer. And certainly, I am not a pretty surfer, unless caught in a photo at just the right instant. The few seconds on either side of the snapshot would reveal otherwise – feet turned out rather than pidgeon-toed, hips too centered over the board rather than forward to accelerate or back to break, hands over the same rail rather than opposing rails, head looking down rather than up and down the line. Okay, in all candor, perhaps there are more than the occasional good pop-ups with all of the elements of my stance coalescing and contributing to a steady ride down the line.
I paddled into my first wave some 13 years ago at the age of 45. In these past eight months since my near drowning on a reef break in Costa Rica, I am making peace with the notion that I am just not a natural. I suspect I am about as good as I am going to get. And that is okay. My efforts from this point forward will surely produce a share of fun rides and even some thrills, but whether I’ll become markedly better at dropping in and trimming and carving on larger waves, that remains to be seen.
Is a part of me disappointed? I don’t know yet. But I do know that a part of me is relieved. It’s that part of me that believed that I’d be cool if I was a really good surfer, or that in order to be cool, I needed to be a really good surfer. Either way, I am fine with not being a really good surfer. I am fine with not being cool and with not needing to be cool. I am cool with just being me, being Peter, whomever I appear to be or however I appear to be to the world around me. If and when I surf, I’ll go out because I want to be on the water, or because I want to paddle since paddling is a great workout, or because the waves look accessible and fun and even challenging. I’ll go, too, if someone invites me to join them in the line up. How ironic it would be if now, after all this time in Santa Cruz, after having given up the fantasy of really good surfing and instead settling into my more humble reality, I were to develop a small tribe of buds because of surfing.