Friday, February 28, 2014

Things I think about in the sea when I should just be focused on getting waves.

People often talk about how, when they go surfing, their troubles drift away or at the very least, they don't think about them. Or that they see it as time out from the stresses of their life. I've never really felt like that. I don't know how they disengage like that!

I was thinking about these things this morning as I surfed. I was having a great time in the water. There were little waves breaking down on the inside that were fat but they broke long and clean, and every so often there was an awesome double-up that came through. I was having a ball and I got a lot of waves. Like, a lot. The water was clear as possible, the sun was out and there were only a couple of other people anywhere in the vicinity. Seriously, it was so great.

But my brain kept thinking about things on the shore, on the land, awaiting me at home. A large part of me wanted to stay out the whole day in this watery playground, but my brain kept dwelling on the responsibilities I have and the things I need to achieve. I'm not saying this is a bad thing because I don't necessarily think it is, but I realised that it's a rare time when I can just surf without concerning myself too much about the rest of life and what it is I need to get done. And I realised that maybe that head-space is a luxury afforded more to surfers who live away fro the sea - those who have to organise themselves and travel to the coast to surf. Those who have to find time for it. When you surf from that position, you don't worry about what it is you have to do later because you have had to fight to make time just for this time in the waves. There really is luxury in that, I think.-

Because when you live by the sea, when you can surf whenever you want to, when it is a part of your everyday, it becomes an obligation of its own. Well, it does for me anyway. If there is a day when I don't get into the sea I feel as tough I have wasted a day. I feel as though I have missed out on something. Of course, that's stupid - I live at the beach and can go surfing whenever I want! If I don't go one day I can just go the next - twice or three times if I want! But still, no matter what it is I have on that day, I can barely stomach the thought of not going surfing that day.

I wonder how much of that desperation for waves is born from my time away from the coast, living in Brisbane. I wonder how much of it is born from the knowledge that my access to the surf now is so momentary and finite. Of course, that's kind of stupid too - there will always be more waves - but that position on surfing and my time here is certainly a driving force in getting me up and out of bed each morning to get into the sea. It's the driving force that pushes me back down the hill again in the evening as well.

Living in the city, I learned not to take the sea and surfing for granted. When you have it close every day, when you can access it any time you want, there is something less magic about it all. I've moved between both of these spaces and I've learned from each. I've learned that there will always be waves so I don't need to panic, but this is offset by the knowledge that life is complex and multi-layered and that sometimes you need to compromise and face up to your responsibilities.

Living in the city,  the times I got away to the sea were more precious and important than surfing feels when I live close by. But my relationship to the sea right now is more based on rhythms and tides and winds and sunrises and there is a magic in that too.

I'm just a lucky woman, huh.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Tanlines: Legs edition

After a solid summer of surfing for hours every day, I am a marked woman.

My body is marked with lines burned onto my skin by the sun. I wear these marks with a mix of pleasure and concern – as all Australians know, there's nothing healthy about a tan. I know that being so much in the sun is a huge risk to my long term health, as well as any aspirations to long term vanity I might have held. Cancers, wrinkles, freckles, sun-spots, lost elasticity are all a payment for surfing. With luck I'll pay the price with everything but the first.

And so my body betrays my indulgent summer. A summer spent paddling, sitting, laughing, turning, trimming, nose-diving, bobbing about on the surface, even catching some waves. A summer spent with old friends and new in the sea. A summer spent, morning and evening, almost exclusively at one break. A summer, indeed, of love. 

And all of this is marked out in tones on my body. My legs, more than any other part of my body, are browned by the sun. Well, except for one thick band that circles the skin below my right knee. This spot remains white. Not as white as my bum, but white nonetheless. It is the most amusing part of my body. It stands out when I wear dresses or shorts. I saw a photo of me speaking at a work event recently. I was dressed up and made up and in smart sandals, but standing out more than all of that was this tan line circling my leg just above my calf. I looked ridiculous!

(Thanks Ryan Kenny!)

To those who don’t surf, it must be a slightly confusing tanline. But for other surfers it's an indication of the amount of time I spend in the sea. It can inspire laughter, but it also inspires jealousy. 

But it's a bit more complex than that too. Because it marks me out as a person who wears a legrope, which in the surfing world I'm a part of, is not so much the done thing. Well, it's not cool anyway. Legropes are laughed at, admonished as a waste, as an object that holds you back, as a tether, as unnecessary. And I don't disagree with all of that. I wear one for a host of reasons that are not really relevant to anyone else. I know they are not cool, but then, neither am I.

And so the white band about my leg highlights all sorts of things about me and about my relationship to surfing that, if you surf, you will be able to read pretty quickly. The placement, the depth of the mark, the fact that it even exists on my leg, all mark me out in a range of ways: surfer, longboarder, dork.