Words Michèle Dams
It makes me feel more uncomfortable than I already was and I automatically paddle back a couple of meters towards the shoulder. Why though? Another set comes through, it’s gigantic by my standards and I see many surfers paddle, but few really paddling for it. I start to analyse where the wave breaks, how it bends and what about that sketchy inside section?!
I allow myself to sit back and look at a few more sets before even trying to paddle for a wave.
I decide to take a smaller one that breaks a bit more on the inside, if I screw it up I will be close to the channel for people to rescue me from drowning. There comes a wave, it bends straight towards me I have five guys telling me to go go goooooooo….and so I go. I airdrop, make it, then freeze as I didn’t think I would make it so I miss the section and get my head ripped off by the lip. It is a rather violent wipeout. I have no control over my body being pulled under and tumbled around…but it is really only a mere second and before I know it I am down the lagoon, board, leash and body intact.
I paddle back out.
Usually after my first wipe out, I feel more secure because knowing that I survived a hit, everything seems less complicated. But somehow, at this very instant, it has the reverse effect on me. I paddle back out with my tail between my legs.
The guys are smiling even more. Are they actually having fun at this? Do they actually want to see me struggle and get hurt?
I feel out of place. I try to paddle a few more waves, although I am obviously too far down the shoulder to be actually catching it. I just don’t really want to catch one do I? This is not how it went in my imagination.
It was then that I saw my own reflection all over his face. The look of insecurity. The look of not believing in yourself. The look of feeling inferior. It was then that I knew who the real beast was.
I realised the people watching me as I jumped off the boat and paddled out, were giving me looks of amazement, looks of encouragement. The look of, ‘yeah, you go girl’ rather than staring at my butt. It was then that I realised that the guys at the peak were smiling at me cause they were happy to see a girl eager to charge a bigger wave rather than laughing at me.
It was then that I realised that when they told me to go, they really wanted me to catch a wave and enjoy myself rather than wanting me to fall flat on my face. If there was one person laughing at me, it was myself, the very own beast inside of me. The beast that held me back every time I tried to get out of my comfort zone.
I take a deep breath, say goodbye to the guys, paddle back to the boat and smile. I probably just took the biggest step forward in my surfing.
I am happy.
Michelle has written a poem inspired by surf experience.
Take me to sea with your rip,
suck me up in your lip.
Slam me down with your power,
so I forget about the hour.
Grate me over your reef,
like a raw piece of beef.
Rip off all my limbs,
till I can’t even swim.
Pull me down way too long,
until I forget that I’m strong.
Leave my lungs with no air,
so I forget all that’s there.
Spit me out at the end,
and do it all over