1 year and 9 months. Finally surfing.

paddle out

I strapped on my leash and placed my board in the water, took a deep breath and started paddling out with Nico. As my arms started to find their familiar rhythm, I watched the choppy water and caught glimpses of the reef beneath me.

I felt anxious about surfing again and the conditions seemed the mirror the clash of emotions I felt inside – excitement, anxiety, fear and anticipation – all coiled so tightly. It was windy and the current was intent on drawing us away from where the waves were breaking as if to say we should just go back to shore now.

There were a number of other people out that day, mostly surf schools but a few locals. Chuns Reef was one of the few places on the North Shore that had some waves in the summer – small, rolling, fun waves.

Once we got to the outside, Nico and I sat up on our boards and waited for the right wave for me. He spotted one and told me to get ready. I laid down on my board and started paddling, looking over my shoulder and watching the wave slowly bulge behind me. I paddled harder until I felt the tail of my board start to lift. I pulled my arms back on my board and stood up.

chuns reef surfing

Photo: Willi Edwards

It had been 1 year and 9 months since my last surf. It had been 1 year and 5 months since my second knee surgery. I had been waiting a long time for that ride.

One of the main reasons we decided to go to Hawaii, and Oahu specifically, was because of the gently rolling waves, waves that were easy for beginners to learn on and that would be forgiving for someone returning to the sport after a long lay-off.

Since I hadn’t been in the water for so long and it was a new-to-me break, I signed up for a surf lesson. I felt more comfortable having someone out there with me in case something went wrong or if my knee decided that it wasn’t going to cooperate. Mostly, Nico helped me regain my confidence.

The first half hour or so, I was scared. Plain and simple. Even after that first wave, I was unsure and nervous. This was a shallow reef break. I’ve never surfed a reef break before and there were a million things at the bottom of the ocean. I was petrified about stepping on a sea urchin.

chuns reef surf

Photo: Willi Edwards

But as the weather started to settle down and the conditions started to clean up, I started to calm down too. I caught about 6 or 7 waves that day, two of which stood out in my mind. The first was a long right. As I paddled into the wave, it felt like it was going to sputter out beneath me. Instead, the wave surged again giving me a chance to turn my board down the line and ride it out.

The second wave was my last of the day (I think) – a left on my backside. I hate going left because it always feels awkward and I feel like I’m going to topple over onto my bum. But as the wave started to pick up my board, I started grabbed my rail and started turning the board and got a nice long ride.

north shore

My knee felt surprisingly well and stable. I was wearing a brace, more for my peace of mind than any real pain or instability. I remember standing in the ocean last summer in Montauk, feeling the waves tug on my knee and believed that I would never feel comfortable in the water again. Actually, I wasn’t entirely convinced that I would be able to surf this summer but I knew that I had to try. Even if this was going to screw up my knee again, I needed and wanted to ride another wave.

I think I had a smile on my face the rest of the day. I forgot how much I missed being being on a board. I also forgot how hard it is, and how much you do have to fight for each wave. And how much you want to fight for that wave. It’s addictive like that – that rush, that feeling that you just NEED to experience again.

Have you ever returned to something after a long lay-off?


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  1. Bron says

    You made me so happy reading this post – I have a big smile on my face for you! I know how additive surfing is and I think you are wonderful for just getting through this last year and nine months. The photos look great – I bet you were tired after wards but in that wonderful “I just had a surf” way! Welldone, cheers
    Bron x

    • says

      Thank you Bron! It’s funny but I did think of you, Valerie and Michelle after I surfed and couldn’t wait to share the news because I knew that you would understand. It was incredibly fun and I was exhausted afterwards! I forgot how tired I can get after surfing.
      Christine Yu recently posted..Spaces in betweenMy Profile

  2. says

    I am so happy for you and I LOVE the photos! I can only imagine how good it felt to get out there. I have had to wait for long periods of time to run due to injury and I love how it feels to get back. There’s nothing like it.
    Ilene recently posted..The FamiliarMy Profile

  3. says

    I remember returning to pilates and yoga after months of bed rest with a complicated pregnancy and then the resulting caesarian. I was so excited to get back to my fit life and yet not sure I could trust my body. My body held up and the trust began to build. Thrilled your body held up too. Enjoy the surf
    Karen Main recently posted..Celebrating the Magic of FriendshipMy Profile

  4. says

    I always imagined that surfing felt like flying, or something spectacular like that. I returned to writing and photography after a long layoff and that certainly felt like flying. Or something spectacular like that.
    Tamara recently posted..I Love Your Heart.My Profile

  5. kate C. says

    I used to do triathlons and it’s been over 5 years since I’ve gotten on a bike due to an injury, and nearly 8 years since I really was able to ride. Someday I hope to be back on my bike, but I already know I’m going to have to deal with that fear you talked about. (except in my case it’s not about oceans and waves but rather cars! I just to be fearless… but that was all before I had three kids…)

    • says

      It is scary going back to something. I find that as I’ve gotten older, and definitely since I’ve had kids, that the fear creeps in more. But I think that it’s taking it step by step so that we can rebuild that trust in ourselves and in our bodies. I hope that you have a chance to get back on your bike.
      Christine Yu recently posted..Spaces in betweenMy Profile

  6. says

    Congrats on being able to get back on the board. I haven’t surfed since my San Diego days (6+ yrs ago) and fear what would happen if I tried again. Good idea on going out there with an instructor, even just for the peace of mind. I fear a lot of things when returning to something I haven’t done in months like running (injury) or yoga. Heck even swimming. I think it’s more of a trust issue with my body, wondering if it will fall apart again or hold strong.
    Sonia the Mexigarian recently posted..Marathon Training Week 3My Profile

  7. says

    I *NEED* to return to surfing after a long (LONG) break! When I was living in South Carolina, before kids, I was out there every. single.day that there’re was a break, March-November. I actually met the father of my children in a line up waiting on waves, haha! But after they were born, it became so much harder to get out there. My poor board now resides in a garage in New Hampshire, poor thing. I’ll make it a priority to paddle out next summer. Great job getting back out there!
    Heather @ Relentless Forward Commotion recently posted..Run For Your Lives – Race Review – NH 2013My Profile

  8. says

    I have surfed several times in my life but I always find it so difficult. Actually the first time I did it was the best. I think the waves are really important when you are a beginner and I’ve surfed some waves that are a bit advanced for me! As far as returning to something after taking some time off, that is going to be me in a few weeks when I return to cycling and weights after fracturing my elbow. It will have only been six weeks but that is the longest I’ve ever gone!
    FitBritt@MyOwnBalance recently posted..Fall Into Fall Plus Detox Day 2My Profile

  9. says

    Way to go you! Yes, surfing is so difficult, that paddling out and then the paddle to catch a wave is the toughest!

    I went back to downhill skiing after about 2 years off. I used to go all the time when I lived close to the Rockies, but moving to Scotland, with barely there winters, hampered my ski efforts. That, and the fact I had left my skies in Canada. We went skied the Italian Alps this past April, and every part of that trip was perfect: the skiing, the weather, the resorts, the B & B, the FOOD, everything. We hope to do it again next year :)
    Danielle @ I Eat Therefore I Run recently posted..Half Mary Musings | Week 7 – easy weekMy Profile

  10. says

    Just beautiful! I’m so happy for you. I’ve never tried surfing b/c I have a fear of all those things I can’t see in the water, like sea urchins!! Whenever I have to take an injury break from running, the first run back is always amazing and happy and smile, smile, smile through each and every mile!
    Good for you!!
    Allie recently posted..Tales from a Twin (Fit) PregnancyMy Profile

  11. katharina says

    so glad you’re back out there in the waves !
    i’m struggling with similar knee problems, remember my post encouraging you to surf again after knee surgery?
    congratulations – it worked out for you.
    question: what kind of brace did you settle on? i’m still looking for the perfect brace, not too lax, not too bulky to use in the ocean. any recommendations? i use mostly a Mueller or McDavid with lateral metal stabilizers.
    thanks for you help.
    – katharina


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