When we first visited Guiones back in June, I did not have a successful surfing experience. The waves were big and the currents powerful, and I was never able to paddle out past the whitewash to the breaking waves. This time, however, I was surfing with a friend of mine who helped me get past my fear. He told me that if I needed to, I could just ditch my board and go under the waves. That reassurance really helped. But the first time out with him, I still didn’t make it out past the whitewash. After hitting wall after wall of churning white water, I was exhausted and knew that even if I did make it out, I would be completely wasted and out of breath, only to be hit by a clean-up set. So I gave up, let a wave wash me into shore, and just sat there, catching my breath and watching the action.
After about twenty minutes, I decided to try it again. Since the current had quickly pushed me into the path of the biggest waves the first time, I went farther north before venturing back into the water. This time, I made it out, just barely, and paddled out well past where the waves were breaking. The waves were much bigger than anything I’d successfully surfed before, but it helped to know that I could ditch my board if I got caught on the inside. After catching my breath, watching what other people were doing, and mustering up my courage, I finally went for a wave. It was probably about shoulder high, and the drop was steeper and faster than anything I’d experienced before, but I stuck it and rode the wave all the way to the shore. I had decided that if I caught one wave and didn’t die, then I’d be done. Successfully paddling out once was about all that I could handle. But after that first wave, I knew I had to try one more time. And I made it out again.
The second time out, I did get caught on the inside of a large set. A massive wave exploded in front of my face and my life flashed before my eyes, but I ditched my board, dove down deep, and was able to swim under it. I caught another wave, and another and another, and ended up staying out for another two hours. During the next several days, I sought out bigger and bigger waves, definitely surfing some that were overhead. The last wave I caught was huge and closed out. I was right at the crest as it broke, and I felt like I was in a movie as I fell straight down, arms and legs flailing, to be tossed around for what felt like forever. That was my longest hold down yet and I began to get a little nervous, but that too I survived.
Throughout the week, my surfing definitely improved, but my growing courage and knowledge of what is possible were the most valuable takeaways from that week. In life I often feel like I’m learning to surf. I’m often guided more by my fears than by my goals, but it’s beautiful when someone comes alongside with encouragement and a perspective shift that gives me the courage to keep going.