To love something and to be good at it is one thing. But to love something and to be truly bad at it, well that is quite another.
Here’s the thing: I love surfing. I love the anticipation of the trip, and the gathering of the gear, and the careful connection of board to vehicle, and the drive, and the sandy walk to ‘take a look’, and the speculation and assessment, and the walk back to the car for board, and the tricky changing into appropriate attire while simultaneously wrapped in a beach towel, and the checking of wax, and the walk to water’s edge, and the strapping of leash to leg, and wading in and rinsing of sand off board, and the up and over of a few waves followed by the paddling through the whitewater. I enjoy stroking up and over the swells, and finding my way underneath the breaking waves, and getting outside to assess everything again. I love seeing the sets, and picking the waves and of guessing where they will break. I love noticing the impending peak, and spinning around to paddle while simultaneously picking ‘left’ or ‘right’ and checking for any traffic. I love the sprint to match momentum with the wave, and of feeling the board start to move, until you finally hear that sizzle that lets you know you’re moving forward. I love the board pitching forward, and popping up and finding your feet and making a smooth bottom turn to make your way down the face of the wave until you finally step off and head out to do it again.
But here’s the other thing: the farther down the above list you go, the less accomplished I am. In fact, the final items on that list are only dreams in my head. And yet, and yet. I’m not sure there is anyone on the planet who loves this idea, this ideal, more than I. Sure, there is a palpable sense of disappointment when a wave finally comes my way and I demonstrate my ignorance and inability to anyone who cares to watch. It’s a tribute to my many teachers, actually, that I am so careful and safe and polite and quite accomplished at paddling out and sitting up on my board. Of course my pride gets dinged a bit when I realize that anyone who actually surfs must smile and mutter, “Kook…” to themself as I waste a perfectly good wave with my flailing. Of course it’s embarrassing to see someone following my lead, only to inevitably disabuse them of their misconception before seeing them paddle away.
It is humbling, this love of mine. But those two hours in the wind and water yesterday were energizing. Feeling the sun on my face and the board in the water was deeply relaxing. Tasting the salt on my lips was transportive. And actually getting to my feet on a handful of mushy waves, well that was just perfect.