Does everyone remember their first wave? Mine was 20 years ago and I can close my eyes and live it like it was yesterday.
Having taken a ‘surf lesson’ where I was pushed into waves and fell gracelessly off every single one of them, I was determined to get this on my own. I bought a board, keeping it simple with a 7’8” egg … plain white with a balsa stringer and three glassed in fins. Having spent my early childhood in southern California, I had the advantage of understanding waves, body surfing, and feeling confident in the ocean. But at 27, learning to pop up and actually maintain my balance on the board was my biggest hurdle. I could catch a wave, but I couldn’t ride it.
Then came that evening, at Tourmaline. I had just finished work and rushed home before sunset. Pealing off my scrubs, I tucked my board under my arm, and jogged the quick block to the beach access. I had been getting frustrated with my lack of progress but I can be tenacious when it comes to personal goals and I wasn’t going to give this up. After almost an hour of falling off every time I tried to stand, determination began to flag towards discouragement. Then I saw the dolphins. It was a small wave but glassy, rippled with the reflection of a colorful sunset. I watched as the pod of dolphins began surfing. There was no way I was going to miss this wave, and no way I was going to fall off. I was going to surf with the dolphins. And so I did.
That was my first wave, I still remember what it looked like and how it felt to stand on the board and ride down the face. I remember how thrilled I was to have finally figured out the delicate equation of timing and balance. I remember laughing at the dolphin’s effortless grace and I remember wanting more!
It is something that gets you at the core. In the 20 years since that moment, my relationship with the ocean and surfing has evolved. I have made friends because of our mutual love of the sport. I have traveled all over the world exploring new oceans and marveling at the common threads that bind all of us surfers. I have had great sessions where everything synced and awful days where I thought I was never going to want to surf again. The ocean has humbled me, challenged me, celebrated and exalted me, and constantly reminded me that I am but a small speck in this great big world. I have shaped my life so that I can live by the ocean, and I have vowed to never move away from the coast. I surf as often as I can, traveling to new places and meeting new friends. And when the dolphins come out to play, I say silent thanks – for their encouragement, their example, and their help on that first wave.
Does everyone remember their first wave? I think they do.