You might not know this, but I’ve tried surfing, several times in fact. I did this my first year at Jacksonville University in Florida at the beach with my then boyfriend from Virginia. I know; it’s a complex and long story — not the story that I want to tell here, on this last day of March.
The story about surfing that I want to tell happened in a book that I’m reading, a book that I’m in love with. Black Cake by Charmaine Wilkerson captivated me from the first short chapter and I have savoured my time with it, moving forward slowly piece by piece, then cycling back to ensure I have soaked in all the details. During our silent reading at the beginning of class, I took in this section of the story; Eleanor Bennett, the Black mother of two, learns to surf and her son, Byron recalls her lessons.
They had always gotten stares, the little black kid and his towering mother, leaning into their surboards in an era when many Angelenos believed the sport had been invented by blonde men.
“Some people think surfing is a relationship with the sea,” his mother said one day, when Byron was struggling in the water. “but surfing is really a relationship between you and yourself. The sea is going to do whatever it wants.” She winked.
“What you need to do, Byron, is know who you are, and where you are at all times. This is about you, finding and keeping your center. This is how you take on a wave. The you might find that you need to practice more, or there’s a storm swell coming in, or the wave is simply too much for you. You might even decide that you’re just not cut out for the surfing and that’s all right, too. But you cannot know which of these is true unless you go out there with your head in the right place.” This was true of surfing and it was true of life, his ma said.
I tried to surf. I didn’t find my centre. The wave found me and sent me to the ocean floor, head first, mouth open. I experienced a relationship with the sand because my head was not in the right place. Unfortunately, this lesson often takes a long time.
Surfing wisdom arrived too late for me as the waves of family and colleagues and friends. I haven’t always had my head “in the right place”. But the book arrived exactly when I needed it.
You must be logged in to post a comment.