Last weekend I went with a surfer friend to see a film called What the Sea Gives Me and was inspired to finish some thoughts I’d begun about how healing the ocean is to me. Before I begin my thoughts, let me provide some details about the movie. First off, I enjoyed it thoroughly, and the music (composed by a friend, Chris Prescott) was really rad. I was surprised that more surfing footage wasn’t included in the film, but not necessarily disappointed. The movie was focused on a variety of ocean lovers with quite different lives: a talented female body surfer, a man who lost a leg but still surfs, a fisherman, and a photographer, to name a few. The common theme for these people is that the ocean is a huge part of each of their very different lives. They all seem really emotional about what the ocean does for them, and I am certain that many of you surfers can relate to these types of feelings.
My ties to the sea were tried, tested, and used to the maximum degree just recently when I was subjected to a health scare. A series of tests were done and I didn’t get the “You’re fine and the results are insignificant” result for an entire month from the day the potential problem was found. Dealing with the stress and anxiety of not knowing whether I had a potentially life threatening health problem was almost too much to handle. I took it day by day and tried so hard to remain cool and calm. My saving graces were the following: spending time with my kids, husband and friends, blasting music loudly to drown out worrisome thoughts, obsessively working in my garden (finished a huge project in record time!), and spending time near and in the ocean. Just seeing even a glimpse of the deep blue every day was calming. When I was not being told I couldn’t go in the water because of some incision that I’d had for some test, I was surfing as much as possible. Although surfing helped me to deal with the stress, the high level of anxiety I felt didn’t help my surfing abilities much. But that’s OK.
During this crazy time I found myself reflecting on my life and feeling grateful for all of my experiences thus far. I also found myself reflecting on how much the ocean has always been a place of calm for me. I grew up in the Ventura area and spent many foggy mornings roaming the coastline with my mom and little brother. Being at the sea was just natural and normal for us. The longest period of time I was more than an easy car ride from the coast was when I lived for one season in South Lake Tahoe. After about 6 weeks in the mountains I felt the insurmountable desire to bolt west for a few days. I didn’t have money for a hotel room or any sort of plan, but I had a truck with a camper shell, so there was no stopping me. I headed to Santa Cruz, slept in the back of my truck with a friend and just smelled the salt air. I didn’t step foot in the ocean during that wintery trip, but I was surrounded by its beauty and soaked up the views until I was satisfied. Once I’d had my fill, I was ready to head back to the mountains, for a brief time. After the experience living in the mountains I realized that the sea is where I belong and should always be. It sounds totally cheesy, and it is. A few of the surf mags have featured articles in the past few years on the “spirituality of surfing” (particularly the November 2013 Surfer Magazine article, Of Surf and Sport). These articles always draw in letters from the haters- those who say that surfing is just a sport like any other, and that people need to stop saying that it’s anything more. To those haters I say that surfing is what it is to each individual. Although some pro surfers may see surfing only as a sport, I am so certain that most pros gain much more from surfing than just exercise and an income. I personally feel closer to nature, my own spirit and more grounded than ever when I’m out on or in the water. The many hours I’ve spent under water diving have been some of my most memorable moments that I often revisit during dreams. The ocean is a beautiful and surreal place, and it is to each person whatever she needs it to be. As absolutely cheesy as it sounds, I will always be grateful to the ocean for all it gives me.