I paddled out over the break waves, further than I’d gone in years. Normally I’m with my feet in the sand, or ankle deep with a toddler wrapped around my legs.
I’d done my share of watching for today. I’d fetched the chips, togged up the big girls, waved them off between the flags on their boogie boards, whilst Daddy was paddle boarding towards the horizon and Alice napped in the buggy.
I had watched patiently and in quiet admiration.
I had remembered my youthful years of wind-surfing on summer holidays in France and on the south coast of England. I reflected on the fun I’d had, care free before parenthood, boogie boarding the waves off many a beach in New Zealand. I had watched the little nippers running into the water without a second glance, in awe of their enthusiasm and energy, and a little envious at their freedom to do what they love.
Now, finally, it was my turn.
I felt the rush of excitement and adrenalin in my veins as I pumped the paddle fast in the water, turning the front of the paddle board head on into the wave. This was only my second time on the board. I wasn’t confident to stand yet. I knelt and kept my eyes focused on the approaching wave. It seemed to be towering in front of me. ‘Geez,’ I thought, ‘Where had this monster wave come from?!’. It looked so calm earlier, when Dan was out – standing on the board, calmly bobbing over the crest of each wave and surfing back in on them with ease.
A voice yelled out to my side, ‘Wow, check out this wave, it’s a big one!’. The voice came from one of the young, daring boogie boarders, who flipped over the waves as naturally as dolphins.
So I wasn’t imagining it, this was a big wave. ‘Great!’ my inner voice said – with absolute sarcasm.
The front of the board started to rise as it met the crest of the wave. I kept paddling until, with huge relief, the board came down on the other side of the wave. I smiled and then looked further out, expecting calm beyond the break waves, just a gentle swell… but no, there was another one. I could see it building momentum, gathering height. The shout of glee from the youths nearby confirmed my fear. I felt old. The inner voice taunted me with, ‘What do you think you are doing? A mother of three! Two years shy of forty!’.
I looked down at my knees on the centre of the board. They were firmly planted there and, for a moment, I imagined myself knelt at a church pew in prayer. I would not be defeated! I rose my chin to the oncoming wave and gripped onto the paddle. Again the front of the board rose up toward the sky as the crest of the wave took it like a rocket, firing on full power under a cauldron of powerful, foaming water (that might as well have been flames). I thought I was going to find myself pushed back, falling into the whirl of water with the board on top of me, thrown around like a little lost sock in a washing machine.
With grateful thanks to the sea gods, and anyone in the Universe who was listening, the board returned to calmer waters on the other side and a gentle swell, finally beyond the break.
I decided to try and stand on the paddle board, to feel the swell under my feet. My legs rose gingerly. I felt like a foal that had just been born. My legs shook weakly and I felt frail and pathetic. My feet slipped a little on the board. I wasn’t sure if they were slipping through nerves, lack of balance or just that the board was slippery. I decided, given the miracle that I hadn’t yet been tossed into the whirl of two giant waves, I should go slow and kneel back down – there was definitely room for more prayers of thanks!
Time to turn towards shore and try to ride a wave or two in…
As a wave crept up behind me I felt under the spotlight, with an audience in front of me yelling, ‘It’s behind you!’. The back of the board started to lift in the water and I paddled hard, remembering Dan telling me to lean back and, for a moment, I smiled as the sensation of riding on a wave hit me…
but it was over all too soon. I lost my centre of gravity and toppled off the board sideways, thrust into the white water of the wave with the board swinging out wildly on the bungee cord that was strapped to my calf.
I was at least a little closer to shore – but back in the breaking waves and too close to the youths on boogie boards to chance any more daring stunts. I didn’t dare make eye contact. I felt like I was too much of a danger to others – let alone myself – to stay in the water for much longer.
I made my way to the beach, whilst being buffeted around in the break water. ‘Another day,’ I thought, ‘I will be back, but best not to push my luck.’
I may not have lasted long, but I’d captured a bit of my youth – whilst feeling like an old fool to boot!
I rediscovered something I love – The feeling of salt ruffled beach hair and slipping on jeans without underwear after a quick change on the beach post hitting the surf. Yeah baby!
It’s not surprising I hit on the ‘Rose’ with my dear Mum a little earlier than our 5pm benchmark… erm, I definitely needed a little something extra to settle the nerves 😉
I’m not sure what my children thought of their mother behaving so recklessly – there was definitely a look of surprise on their faces when I jogged out into the sea to give it a go.
Paddle boarding is amazing, but I might just wait for a much, much calmer day next time!
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