When I was 16 years old my friend Mila and I were allowed to go on an organised youth holiday without our parents. We looked through the Vinea youth holiday brochure and discussed which type of holiday would be our best bet for meeting cute boys. We scrolled through a Spanish language course and a pony camp but when we saw that they organised a surf camp, we knew this was where we had to go. We had never really thought about surfing before and had definitely never tried it, but we figured surf camp was the place to meet the heartthrob of our dreams.
Turns out we were right. The boys that attended the camp were straight out of our teenage fantasies: sea bleached blonde hair, blue eyes, freckled skin and SuPeRCo0oL. But apart from them, we found out that we actually loved surfing.
We approached the waves exactly the way we approached life: Mila was wearing the tightest sexy wetsuit she could find, and went straight for the big waves in the back. I found a second hand wetsuit somewhere and loved the sea, the paddling and looking around so much that I forgot to actually catch a wave.
We went back the year after, and came up with the theory that surfing makes a great analogy for life:
In order to get out to the back to catch the unbroken waves, you first have to go through all the walls of white foam. Every wall of foam is like a setback in life. Sometimes there were too many setbacks and we just gave up trying. But sometimes we encouraged each other, or the teacher would help us, and we would just block out our thoughts, believe we could do it, and kept on trying. Again and again and again and again and again. Until we finally got to the back.
Out in the back there was the fear of the high waves. You could either push yourself to still go for the big ones even though you were scared, or you could just give up and regret having missed a good surf. Sometimes you pushed yourself too far and you came out crying or bleeding. But you learned about your boundaries.
Then there was the contact with the other surfers. Every peak has room for 2 surfers, so you have to paddle out and try to be the closest to the peak, and then you are officially the surfer that can ride the wave. But I always let other people take it, so in the beginning I never got the chance to catch a wave. Mila didn’t even look at the other surfers and would just drop in on them in her sexy wetsuit. She would smile and get away with it every time.
And all the while, the sea would just continue being the sea, no matter what. Sometimes the waves were high, sometimes the sea was very calm. But the sea stayed the sea, always changing in form but never being afraid of those changes. She would just be. And maybe sometimes we tried to challenge her a little bit by riding her waves, but it was always obvious we could only catch a small fragment of her power and her calmness.
Something in that blue infinity made me feel at home, and surfing allowed me to be close to the sea as often as possible. The perfect mix of feeling at home and feeling adventurous. The sea cures my pains and takes away my thoughts, makes me awake and present. I fell in love with the sea and everything about her and, as you do with the ones you love, want to try to understand her.
During the next few months I will try to answer the following questions about the sea, hoping to better understand her:
How have humans through the ages tried to capture the sea in words?
The science of the sea – how are waves created and how does the sea influence our daily life?
The symbolic sea within ourselves – the importance of intuition and how the sea can help us follow it