You’re always safest on the shore.

I began venturing into the ocean, farther than I’d ever gone out before, at the prompting of my husband about a year and a half ago. For my 36th birthday he bought me a great new wetsuit; for my 37th, booties to go with it. (See a theme developing here?) Little by little, I have grown more comfortable out there in that breathing, lively abyss. I’ve still yet to graduate from body board to surfboard, but I look like I sorta kinda know what I’m doing out there next to any standard newb, which would impress you if you knew how afraid of sharks I am.

Often I wail and chortle out there—lost in my own adventure (because my husband is usually much farther out than I am and because I know that people on the shore can’t truly hear me). It’s a different world out there where nature must be reckoned with wave after wave. I laugh also because I am reminded of my grandmother, Lillian, who often warned me against such reckless adventure.

Don’t go walking anywhere by yourself, she would say. There are predators waiting to take you from us.

It’s like that with the sharks, too. I laugh it off, imagining them just waiting for me out there.

I get in the ocean virtually alone even when I’m with Mat and/or the kids. I go out and dance water ballet in 3 feet of water just because I can. I bounce over waves because it’s more fun to leap in water than on land. I am enthralled by the physics behind a good wipeout. Every now and again, I catch an amazing wave that no one saw me catch and it doesn’t matter one bit. I was there. That’s all that matters.

Mat’s been hounding me to graduate to a real board lately, and I’ve been hesitant because the bruises I get from body board impacts smart bad enough. Imagine if those bruises came from a heavier board. No bueno.

Two weeks ago on a Sunday morning, he came home from surfing and I asked him how it was out there. Then, I noticed his swollen and bloody face. He fell and his board rose and twisted sideways to smack him. He was knocked out momentarily. He made it to shore and asked a couple nearby how bad it looked. They looked away and took furtive steps backward as they told him it looked bad and offered no assistance whatsoever (self-concerned tourists wouldn’t want to inconvenience their vacation now, would they?).

Local surfers did offer assistance, but since he was so close to home, he drove home and tried to reassure me that he didn’t need to go to the hospital. It’s a good thing I wasn’t going to agree to that because he needed to get the inside of his lip reattached to his gumline. He also needed stitches on the tip of his lip and his nose was likely broken. He looked like Foofer for a few days (for those of you familiar with late ’80s Saturday morning cartoon references). He still can’t smile or pucker his lips, but he looks like himself again. He is also officially the bravest man I know for sitting still and not thrashing and screaming through getting those stitches!

I am now officially more frightened than ever at the prospect of getting on a real board. I can hear my grandmother telling me that’s what happens when you’re not careful. It’s always safest on the shore. But I think deep down every once in awhile we all want to cast off the clutches of civilization and ride it out where there’s no knowing for certain which way the wave will take you. Some of us just can’t shake that urge.


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