The Greatest Thing About Surfing

12 May 2016 3

COASTALWATCH | Surfing Mums Partnership

Written by Surfing Mum Alicia Trout

Bruised. Grazed. Broken.

Learning to surf and skate as an adult has not been elegant. The judgment has been more pointed due to my gender and role as a mother. I’ve written about breaking my elbow six weeks after giving birth to my first child and how the general consensus was: It’s not ok to be falling and hurting yourself as a grown woman- You’re a mother for God’s sake!

As we grow old it’s easy to shrink our efforts in the face of others’ criticism. We grow fearful of falling. Losing face. Our growth then stifled. More and more, I’ve come to see falling and failing as being at the very heart of spreading your wings, tapping that stoke and flying.

Learning to surf in your twenties isn’t all poops and giggles. The ocean’s in constant flux and it’s hard to hone your skill set when the stage is shifting. Nailing that pop up, tuning in to the wave’s sweet spot and picking those gems is hard and the ocean continues to school you for as long as you engage with her.

For all that, the most difficult thing I found about being a full-grown kook was dealing with the vibes others can throw at you. Many surfers were encouraging- happy to see a fellow sea-goer enjoying the salty brine. But others shot some serious stink eye and verbal spray my way.

I cut my teeth surfing Manly’s beachies. One day I was surfing near first pipe. I paddled for a wave, was on the inside, and an intense twenty-something bloke stroked aggressively next to me. He pulled back as the wave broke. I took off and ate it.

I popped up in the wave’s wake to see my intense surfing buddy furiously slap the water with his hand, roll his eyes and grunt like a beast before muttering “waste of a wave” whilst paddling away. The message was implicit: That wave was wasted on a kook like you. You’re not good enough to be here.

Alicia and her son, Photo by Leonie Blignaut

Alicia and her son, Photo by Leonie Blignaut

These lousy vibes weaseled their way into my head: I felt unworthy of waves compared to surfers of superior ilk. That stink of unworthiness arose every time my kook moves were exposed: Popping up onto my knees. My board flying backwards between my legs as I duck dived. Kicking off a wave and giving my board a Glasgow kiss as I tried to super-woman onto it. Falling. Failing. Floundering. Again and again.

I kept at it. Despite my insecurities and lack of prowess. I knew that those who mocked me had walked the same path. Perhaps they were young groms, but at some point they were kooks to boot. I came to understand it wasn’t really their judgment that bothered me, but my own. And what mattered most to me was having a go- triumphant or not. Holding back in fear of being judged was the greatest failure of all.

We recently headed South for a Surfing Mums camping weekend. The crisp Westerly and chill in the water juiced the peaky swells. I’d caught a couple when a set wave swung in. A few blokes paddled for it, but I was in the best position, digging in hard before rolling into an oily left. I cruised down, leaned on my heel side rail to bottom turn, over extended my knees, flapped my arms like a chook and landed a spectacular back-buster in the wave’s face.

I popped up in the wave’s wake smiling. Proud I’d had a dig and owned it. That’s all I care about really. I’m most inspired by people having a go. Watching the style and finesse of a gifted surfer is a sight to behold. But what I most admire is witnessing someone push themselves beyond ease.

Everyone that surfs, falls. From WCT pros to the hapless beginner. It’s inevitable and beautiful and life affirming. Because as surfers we all fall and we all get back up. That’s got to be one of the greatest things about surfing, why I do it and what I want to show my kids.

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