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.
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.
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.
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?
Keep Reading! Check out the posts below:
Read more about our trip to Hawaii:
- 16 Lessons I Learned on Summer Vacation
- Little Surfer Dudes
- Life Jacket Required – Lessons from Snorkeling
- Learning to Disconnect and Listen
- Sunrise Surf, Yoga Sutras and Mantras
More Ways to Follow Love, Life, Surf