Our time in the Pacific Northwest was categorized by adventure. Trail running, exploring, hiking, climbing, getting lost in nature, plunging into cold waters, jumping on our bikes to just go, without any expectation about where we’d end up.
So far in San Diego, there’s one overwhelming force that’s stealing my heart: the ocean. I can’t write anything that hasn’t already been written about the magnificence of the ocean, but no matter what, every time I see a sunset, or hear the sound of waves crashing against shore, or dive into the salt water, it’s like being swept away by magic.
Last week, two good friends came out to visit San Diego while we were there. Seeing familiar faces who know both Stephen and me meant so much. It was like a touch of normalcy, and even though I didn’t realize it, it was truly just what the doctor ordered.
Karissa and Pi booked us all surfing lessons near their AirBnb for one afternoon. Although Stephen and I had been surfing once in Costa Rica before, I didn’t remember any of the lessons or tips I’d picked up … in all honesty the only thing I remembered about surfing was just how accurate the surf lesson from Forgetting Sarah Marshall actually was.
Our guide in San Diego imparted some wisdom on us as we squeezed into our wetsuits and practiced popping up.
“The ocean always wins,” he told us. “And when a wave takes you down, let yourself roll with it with a smile on your face from underwater.”
I giggled at the thought of doing that, but something told me he wasn’t kidding in the slightest.
Turns out, it was the best advice I didn’t know I needed to hear. As someone who likes to do things well (and who often takes things too seriously), after the first bigger wave that took me out, I knew I was going to need to start getting used to that feeling of the ocean having the upper hand.
I channeled my inner Garrett McNamara and just kept getting back on the board. It was windy, there was a rip current, the waves were choppy (as I learned how to better read them throughout the afternoon, they curled in from both sides rather than opening up cleanly as they more often do early in the morning). There were moments after a wipeout, after I washed almost all the way to shore, that I just needed to stand and recollect myself before pushing my board over the white water and breaking waves and paddle back out towards the outside.
But once I got past the choppy, breaking waves, and I hopped up on the board to watch the horizon, everything got quiet. In between sets of waves when it felt like the whole ocean took an exhale, it felt like the most peaceful place on earth. How wild, I thought, to experience the intensity and thrill of paddling to catch and ride a wave in with all the factors that inevitably race through your mind: What if I fall? What if I get rocked by this wave? What if I collide with another surfer? What if I injure myself?
All valid questions, but on the flip side, to also be able to experience sitting out there on the board beyond where the waves break – a noticeable shift from effort to ease – how simple it can be for the thoughts to slow and the mind to find some peace.
Both experiences existing within a matter of minutes. The comparisons we can draw surfing and life are no secret. But what really stuck out to me this day was just how easily the water can shift from an intimidating force to a calming presence. And it wasn’t for me to know how or when the energy was going to shift. My only job out there was to ride the wave. To recognize that I didn’t need to be in control. And to smile to myself when a wave inevitably got the better of me. The ocean always wins, after all. We might as well learn to roll with it.