I grew up in Cape Town, South Africa, considered by some to be one of the premier surf spots in the world. In fact, I grew up in Camps Bay, home to the fiercely “locals only” Glen Beach. And people said that if you could surf Glen Beach, you could surf anywhere in the world. My school, Camps Bay High, sat perched on a cliff, overlooking the ocean, and during class, the surf boys would line the desks at the window, perusing the beach break.
I spent my teen summers on the beach, baking myself to a unhealthy crisp, admiring every other girl’s tan and smoking cigarettes on the rocks that hugged the waves. We watched the boys don their wetsuits, and lusted as they stripped them down. The cool kids sat on a bench, wearing UGGS. The surfers and the hot girls. While we down below would hope that nobody really noticed us hoping that someone noticed us.
Every now and again someone would pull out an old Boogie Board, which would be used to paddle out to the far away rocks, where we would smoke even more cigarettes and hope that our parents couldn’t see us. I didn’t have a Boogie Board, but I did have the red sausage shaped inflatable that came with our Kreepy Krauly pool cleaner. While the machine diligently scrubbed our pool, I would paddle out to Whale Rock on the sausage, just left off Camps Bay beach, the painted maniacal grin leading the way, until I got to the seaweed, which freaked me out since I was sitting legs dangling downwards, and someone on a Boogie Board would have to come and rescue me from the murky depths. I always made sure to be carrying the smokes so that it was a necessity to retrieve me.
But in all those years, nobody ever offered to teach me to surf. Me, or anyone else I knew for that matter. Now, I know I could have asked, but that just doesn’t come to mind, and I don’t remember any girls surfing. Ever.
So at the ripe old age of 38, I took it upon myself to become a surfer. While living landlocked in Colorado. Myself and two girlfriends went off for a week of surfing bliss with Las Olas Surf Safaris in Sayulita Mexico, and almost a year later, I am still surfing at every opportunity. I surfed in Cape Town, where my best friend Tanya thought it was hilariously eccentric that I’ve taken up surfing. My surf instructor from Gary’s Surf School, (who was really there to prevent me from being eaten by a shark, truly!) said that I was much better than he had expected me to be. That’s a good compliment from a 17 year old born surfer. What he really meant was that I wasn’t too bad for an old girl.
I’m now able to quite competently catch a wave and actually ride it to the shore. Ok, I know you’re not supposed to actually hit the shore, but as I mentioned, I’m old and it’s my excuse for a break, because surfing is hard work! I feel so accomplished when I surf, and although the photographs, where I look like a big black sausage hunched over a board, belie my emotional agility, how I feel in my head and my heart. It just feels to goddamned great to catch a wave. It releases my sense of adventure and it makes me feel alive. And one day I’m going to go back to Glen Beach and sit on that fucking bench with my UGGS on, because I now own four pairs, ok?
I think I’m going to surf for the rest of my life. And hopefully we’ll soon move to the beach where my husband will no longer have to moan about me running because I’ll be surfing. With my kids. Who will wear UGGS and sit on the cool bench.