As I type this, my hair is filled with salt and sand and I refuse to wash it.
This isn’t entirely abnormal for me, seeing as I firmly believe in a don’t-wash-don’t-tell hair policy, but the fact that it tastes like the ocean and partially like blood is an indication I should veto that policy immediately. I won’t do it, though. This is my blood, sweat and tears moment.
If I reach up to run my hands through its tangled strands, a pulling, searing pain shoots down my neck, straight through my underarms and down through my obliques.
The shaggy and salty discomfort I’m experiencing today is completely unrelated to the bike injury I endured last week, which is still very much a member of the ROYGBIV family. Instead, it’s a result of trying to surf like Bethany Hamilton without ever having stepped foot on a surfboard before.
“It’s just like snowboarding,” my instructor said as she pulled me into the swell.
Except that I can actually stand up on a snowboard and carve like I know what I’m doing. The only thing I was doing on my surfboard was sunning myself like a beached killer whale — my black wet suit clinging to me like the uniform of a Lululemon employee.
Surfing was entirely my idea. When my husband and I took off for a girlfriend’s wedding in Tofino, B.C. I made sure it was on our agenda. It has forever been an item on my bucket list and seeing as I like to think I’m naturally good at everything, I assumed it was a great idea. The opportunity to surf has been presented to me many times, but I’ve never taken it. All three of my brothers learned to ride waves in California while I sat staring at the Polaroid I took of my hands in Marilyn’s and timing my tanning rotations obsessively. I guess there are priorities and then there are priorities.
As we sat at our reception table seven hours later, the aches of the day just starting to set in, we settled into the familiar nuptial routine of speech, toast, speech, toast. This particular bride has been a friend of mine for close to ten years. She has always been the leader of the gypsy pack — running from Vancouver to Florida to Australia and, finally, settling in Tofino. She was the one I would — and still will — turn to when I get that restless feeling inside. We were always the freedom seekers.
Steve sat beside me rubbing my burning shoulder blades as the speeches went on. The new brother-in-law was reading from an iPhone about the relationship and about words of wisdom regarding love.
“Being deeply loved,” he loosely quoted Tao, “gives you strength.”
“But to deeply love someone gives you courage.”
I thought back to all the times, alone, I chose not to go surfing. The times I chose not to say yes to adventure even though my motto was Lynyrd Skynyrd’s Freebird. I thought about all the times in my life I have held back on anything I’ve even slightly wanted all because my fear got the best of me.
When we drove into Tofino, we stood on Long Beach staring at the men and women slicing through the wild ocean like shooting stars. I thought to myself, maybe I can fake appendicitis again. The wind was cold, the water looked frozen and I knew I was about to eat dirt something terrible.
“I’m so excited for tomorrow,” I said out loud.
We are led to believe finding freedom and adventure means going it alone, but if this weekend was any indication, the real common denominator is simply courage. And, as the marriage of yet another gypsy soul has reminded me, where there is love, there is plenty of that.
Hang ten, baby.
— Andria is a 20-something blogger from Kamloops