We take a break for lunch. A Clif bar, a coconut water and the world’s best BLT later, and I’m back in the water. Not quite as glassy as dawn patrol, but still thumping. The guys and I paddle out in different spots. I like to avoid the thick of the crowd whenever possible on account of my flailing and inability to paddle battle giant men with huge lats.
When it comes to paddling out, I’ve finally embraced the concept of timing. Watch, wait, paddle like hell. Works like a charm. Much better than the ‘power your way through it’ angle I’ve adopted in the past. Yet another example of how concepts in life can be applied to surfing and vice versa. Surfing with my ex was always stressful; I was never in the moment. He was always so worried about everything that I felt worried, too. Alone, I don’t worry. I just surf. I feel the calm center in my chest where the present moment occurs, as though the world slows down and I see everything the way it really is— not the way my ego perceives it.
So I arrive into the lineup with a smile on my face and my bikini bottoms still graciously hugging my behind (watch for my next post: Bikini Bottoms VS Shorts, the Pros and Cons). I find an empty five yards flanked by two good-natured looking hotties, and stare gratefully into the horizon. About 3 yards out I notice something moving. A little black-tipped fin poking out of the water, tooling idly around. Instinctively, I lay down and pull my legs up. I look around to see if either hottie #1 or #2 has noticed this. They haven’t. I can see Josh and Nick down the lineup and consider getting their attention and making some sort of shark-like gesture with my hands. However, I decide to err on the side of surf propriety and just keep the whole thing to myself.
I watch the little fin come nearer. It zigs and zags. I can almost touch it. I feel a little nervous, but not scared. The drop-in is a lot scarier. My ex always defaults to New Smyrna, so I’ve surfed there a lot. The New Smyrna inlet is purportedly the sharkiest break in Florida. You see a lot of sharks. At first it is scary, but you look around and no one else seems scared and nothing bad ever seems to happen, so it becomes mundane.
The fact that I wasn’t scared out there alone in the line-up, with giant sets rolling through and this tiny shark checking me out, startled me. What else had time and repetition turned into complacency, my biggest fear? Once it sets in, the will to change slips quietly out the back door, unnoticed. What is truly frightening are the things we learn to endure.
A perfect peak is coming right to me. Finally, I will escape my tiny predator. I turn around and start paddling. To my right, hottie #3 (where did you come from?) is frantically paddling for the same wave. He is right next to me. Normally, I would pull out, deferring to the better surfer, but I’m fed up with the shark and my own complacency so I just go. The wave has me, my heart pounds and I know I have it. I see him stand up. I could touch him, I hear his breath. I flail under the pressure. And I eat it. Hard. I don’t see how I didn’t completely take him out. I probably did (sorry, hottie!). Karma comes into play instantly as I am pummeled against the ocean floor, only to come up for air and get rocked again on the inside.
Eventually, I make it to the beach. I’m having a hard time catching my breath, and my heart beat is loud in my ears. I’m tired. I lay down and I fall asleep, instantly. Right there on the beach, covered in sand, not cute sleep like a kitten or a child, more like a dead body (super sexy).
When I wake up, I feel lost. I find myself looking down the beach for Brad, wishing he would walk up to me and smile. I don’t know why. I haven’t thought about him for days. Surfers and sharks share a unique relationship. We fear them and we love them. We wish they didn’t exist, but we would miss them if they were gone. It hits me that we are all sharks in the water. Always moving, always hunting, trying to stake our claim in an ocean that belongs to everyone and no one. The predator is not the thing to fear, it is complacency that is the real killer.