I enjoyed some beach time this afternoon. Now that I am officially 38, I have religiously subscribed to bathing suits with underwire, sunscreen with an SPF no less than 70, oversized beach hats and sunglasses, supportive chairs (to feign flat abs from all angles), an obnoxious, Hamptons-style cover-up, and, most importantly, a juicy self-help book.
As I sipped on sparkling water and settled into my early afternoon reading, I couldn’t help but notice the powerful swell and number of surfers in the water. The guys were catching waves left and right, carving the shit out of them. If they happened to bail, they did it with grace and flair. No soft boards, no kiddie boogie boards. The water wasn’t gentle. Today’s ocean had zero time for beginners.
And then, I saw the guy on the long board.
He was right there with the rest of the young, wiry, quick short boarders. He would paddle strong and hard into a huge wave, get up and drop down its face with ease.
Having been around surfers, the surfing industry and actually surfed myself (not well), I understand the key to staying on your board is to get up quickly and stay low. Balance is most important. If you stand up too tall, you will immediately wipe out.
But Long Board Guy did something I had never seen before.
As soon as he was up, he stood stiffly erect. Then, he opened up his arms as wide as possible, arched his back and slowly turned his chin toward the heavens. It was the most beautiful posture I have seen on a surfboard. One of full, complete surrender.
I held my breath and thought, “If this guy doesn’t fall, he is the best surfer I have ever seen in my life.”
And, of course, the law of gravity immediately sent him plummeting forward, face first, into the crashing, aggressive white water. If the ocean hadn’t been so loud I might have been able to hear his entire torso slapping on the surface. I almost ran in after him to make sure he hadn’t broken his neck and drowned.
But he popped right up, fought and paddled his way back to the outside and did it again.
He held the same posture each time he got up: arms open wide, back arched, chin up.
And each time he fell.
After each fall, he got right back up. He kept surfing.
And I found myself cheering for him. Admiring him. Beaming. Applauding every time he fell and got back up. I totes felt his stoke.
After a while, Long Board Guy was finished. He got out of the water, smiling, and trotted over to his towel.
I glanced back down at page 19 of my book.
“If we are brave enough often enough, we will fall; this is the physics of vulnerability. When we commit to showing up and risking falling, we are actually committing to falling. Daring is not saying, ‘I’m willing to risk failure.’ Daring is saying, ‘I know I will eventually fail and I’m still all in. Fortune may favor the bold, but so does failure.” ~ Brené Brown, Rising Strong
When I looked up, Long Board Guy was gone. I had wanted to tell him he was physically living out the words on my page, but perhaps that moment was meant only for me.
It was obvious Long Board Guy didn’t care about he outcome of riding the wave; he just lived in the moment. And each moment added up to another moment.
And they were all joyful, brave, vulnerable and full of grace.
I now know Long Board Guy is the best surfer I have ever seen.