I wake up as the sun peeked through the curtains. The warm light touches my skin as I squint my eyes. I look to the left and see my alarm going off. I reach out to stop it, six o’clock. I sit up on my bed, slowly waking my body up. I open the curtain and the sun was starting to come out, turning the sky from black to pink and orange. It was the end of summer and the beginning of fall. I walk towards the bathroom to brush my teeth. The minty taste refreshes my half-asleep mind and I wake up. I bring myself to the kitchen to have breakfast. What happened during the morning was now vague. But it was nothing compared to what was about to happen in a few hours.
I go upstairs to go change. I see a long swimwear waiting for me in the corner of the room, my wetsuit. I put it on and feel the fabric fit on my body. I zip it up. I am ready to surf. I hustle downstairs and reach the garage.
“Don’t forget your towel and your board,” my mom mentions.
“Of course,” I smile as I reply. I could never forget the board.
I hold the longboard, put it inside the car, and ride in it. Driving straight for one destination, Torrance Beach. We drove for fifteen-minutes. I was excited, but much more nervous. I was running away from my comfort zone, straight away from the fear that lurks behind me.
Finally at Torrance Beach, I gaze at the pink horizon reflecting the sky of the sunrise. The door opens and the cold, salty breeze blow through my still-warm cheeks, then through my hair. I hear the waves crashing and my thoughts of fear whispers across my mind, almost draining my confidence. But I manage to shift my thoughts, repeating to myself in my head, “You’re overthinking again, just go for it.” That word had always saved me from uncomfortable situations, it helped me push myself and take what it felt like was the biggest step, “Go for it.”
I open the trunk to grab my board. I hold it above my head, three fins up, and start walking down to the water. I look to my right and see Ken, my coach, waiting. A couple of students had already gone out. He gave one look at me and smiled.
“Hi Yukiko! Glad you came,” Ken exclaims.
“Glad to be here. Really nervous though,” I express anxiously.
“You know, that’s perfectly normal. First times are always hard. But the more you fall from the board and get wiped out, the closer you get to catching a wave,” explains Ken.
It is a real, genuine talk with Ken. He knows what he is saying. Everything he says with confidence, and it makes sense. This conversation will stick with me. Somehow that message will become an important part for me and I will always reflect upon it in my life, not only in surfing.
The moment finally comes. I grab the head of the board, tail of the board dragging on the sand, and waves up front. The adrenaline pulses through my veins and I can feel my heartbeat. If it was more quiet, I am sure I would hear my own heartbeat.
The Day That Changed It All
The chilling water touches my feet and then reaches my knee to my hip. The white water breaks near me, and I hear the waves pound into the water with a mixture of sand. The thoughts of doubt and fear lurk behind from the shadows of my subconsciousness. But on this day I understand what fear does to me, and I understand that everything that I want is on the other side of my fears. So I push the ground and hop on the board.
I look straight, chest up, and paddle out. The waves are coming right towards me. Waves higher than me approach. I paddle over it and the wave breaks behind me. The salty scent surrounds me as well as the small bits of water that splashes from above.
I reach where the waves don’t break and I sit on my board. I wait for a wave as I glance at the sunrise. The sun isn’t pink anymore, but is surrounded by a bright light shining on us. I wait for a few minutes, look at the horizon and see a lump. A lump means that it’s going to be a wave.
The wave is just right. The speed, height, and momentum is perfect for a longboard. I turn my board to the direction of the shore, where the sun glows. For a slight moment I can feel the warmth. I feel a fight or flight response coming. I am becoming hesitant, but there is no time to think. This morning I want to be brave, I don’t want to stay the same.
All kinds of scenarios flash through my mind. But I decide to go for it. I paddle fast, deep strokes into the water. I push up as the wave begins to pick me and my board up. I put one foot where my knee was and the other between my hands. I push up and stand on the board looking up. It’s only for a few seconds, but I feel the wind brushing through my neck and arms. My board sliding and carried by a wave. It is all in slow motion. I feel every part of my body relax and suddenly it is only me and the wave.
Soon I lose balance and I fall with the wave; everything becomes fast again. This is my first wipeout ever. The clear blue waves fall on me and I tumble inside. Once I get my head out of the water and feel it drip from the top of my face to my chin, I replay what has just happened. Everything had changed for me at that moment. When paddling for that wave, something inside of me naturally clicked and there was a special bond between me and the wave.
My anxiety told me to avoid risks, but it wasn’t keeping me safe. It was just preventing me from having a life I wanted to live. It is something you realize you are going to miss the moment when you’re actually living it. Shortly after, I have an urge to get up and paddle, to do everything all over again.
It is nothing like I have felt before; a new sensation, a new feeling. After that I take every chance when a wave comes. I will no longer hold myself back and it is the small steps everyday that make a difference.
Who Do You Want to Be?
Alexander Gray, a professional surfer, came to our high school. He gave a speech about how he knew who he wanted to be and how he embraced every part of his life.
“Ask yourself who you want to be,” he said. “After you find your answer, don’t give up. Because that’s when you’ll be unstoppable.”
It felt like a wake up call when he came and talked about his story. I was in a room with no way to escape. Afraid to find a way out because I feared change that cost risks. The day I became passionate about surfing, it gave me something to look forward to. Ever since that day, my life was never the same. It’s been a year since I had found what set my soul on fire. And surfing has been my passion ever since. I go surfing every week to feel the excitement whenever I catch a wave, feeling the waves pass by me, and the bonds we have between the surf team. I’ve become close to something I never imagined I would. And it was all because I faced my biggest fear that day. Little did I know what had been waiting for me.
It gave me purpose in life when I was lost and afraid. It was a wide door that opened for me, giving me a way to be free from the walls I built myself.
It was the moment I decided to face whatever came through those walls. I am not who I was a year ago, and that’s what led me to fall in love with the process. Facing the fear let me trust the moment and that led me to where I am today.