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My friend Torre De Roche, met a man fell in love, and sailed the world with him even though there was a chance of drowning. Her book comes out this week, so be sure to check it out.
Equal parts love story and travel memoir,
href="http://www.amazon.com/Love-Chance-Drowning-Torre-DeRoche/dp/1401341950">Love with a Chance of Drowning is witty, charming, and proof positive that there are some risks worth taking.
I like the water because it’s quiet. The mental chatter in my head stops. The voice in my head shuts up. I get to experience the real me instead of the voice that pretends to be me. It’s one of the rare times I don’t mind being completely alone.
When you see the world through the lens of waves, everything seems much clearer.
The future seems brighter
The past seems to get washed away
You get to experience what it truly means to be present.
I haven’t been in the water since last Sunday, the waves are shit, and the voice in my head is getting restless with it’s endless commentary about all my shortcomings, downfalls, and failures. I surf because it all goes away when I’m in the water.
A few years ago I was standing on the shore at Playa Madeiras in Nicargua with a surfboard in hand. I turned to my friend and said “dude, this looks pretty big. But I guess we’re already here.” I didn’t just step outside of my comfort zone, I drove across it at 100 miles an hour. I always said that surfing in Central America was like a constant balance between courage and stupidity. For me to get in the water that day was just stupid.
I had never surfed waves like that, and I wasn’t skilled enough to surf them. The day before had been one of the most challenging days I’d ever had in the water even though I managed to snag a couple waves. But, something made me get in the water despite knowing I might not make it out.
Maybe it was the fact that I had finally been excommunicated from corporate America a few days before. I received one of those emails from my boss that said “can you give me call.” I knew I was going to be fired. If I drowned it would finally be over. At least I’d never be fired again.
Despite my better judgment, I paddled out. I don’t even remember how the hell I made it to the outside with the waves as big as they were. Over the next several hours my frustration increased because I watched every other surfer take off on wave after wave. It’s an interesting thing because we do this in life.
We watch people around us succeed catching one perfect wave after another, and think “how the hell is it I can’t even get one?” But if we’re too busy watching other people catch waves, we won’t be ready when it’s time to take off on ours.
The waves seemed to keep getting bigger and breaking even further out. I had to keep reminding myself “don’t panic or you won’t be able to paddle.” Every set was a scramble not to get caught inside. Live in the moment but keep your eyes on the horizon was the mantra of that entire session. My job that I had been fired from seemed to matter less between every set as I contemplated the possibility of being washed up on shore. At least a friend from LA was visiting so he could inform my friends and parents everything that had gone wrong. He was smart enough to sit on the shore and drink a beer after the day before
And then I saw it in the distance. A gargantuan set was about to start. Every surfer in the water paddled as if we had now entered a race in which there was a prize for getting to the take off point. The prize was not getting your ass handed to you by the ocean in one of her biggest mood swings of the day. My arms were like jello and my muscles were burning as I paddled like hell. And then I heard something. A guy to the left of me yelled “oh shit.” I figured that I had just escaped being in the wrong place at the wrong time. But he was the one who had escaped. The “oh shit” was meant for me and if he had time he would have said “hey dude, you’re about to get your ass handed to you.” All the love I’ve ever had for the ocean was about to be returned with complete indifference. I was in the impact zone of the biggest waves I’d ever seen
In moments like that there is no time. All your most primal instincts kick in. You go from worrying about all the pointless shit in your life to really experiencing what it means to be present. In the movies when people die, their life flashes before their eyes in a marvelous tapestry of scenes experiences, memories, and pictures. This was the closest I’ve ever been to thinking I was going to die, and my life didn’t flash before my eyes.
And there I was in the wrong place at the wrong time. These were my options
- Let the board go: If the leash snapped, I’d be completely screwed because we we really far off shore and I’d have to swim out of this mess.
- Duck Dive: There was no way that was going to happen since the board would hit me in the face.
- Hang on to the board and pray that it didn’t whack me in the head.
My primal instinct settled on option 3 and I got to experience what it must feel like to be inside a washing machine.
The wave dragged me under water, and I was no longer on my board even though I felt it attached to my foot. I covered my head with my arms so I wouldn’t get hit by the board. Eventually I came up for a breath of air, and because this was the first wave in the set, there were more coming. I took a breath and the next washing machine cycle started. It felt like I was being dragged across an underwater football field where the shore was the end zone.
And in the last cycle of the washing machine I felt my rashguard get ripped off my body. The ocean had decided she needed to undress me to show me that she always has the upper hand… And then she was finished, bored, and ready to move on to another lover and tossed me on shore.
My friend Tobias was looking at me with his beer in hand and said “dude, what happened to your rash guard?”
I said “it’s in the water, give me a beer. I think I’m done surfing for a while.”
Two days later all I could think about was getting back in the water. And I returned to Tamarindo and did exactly that.
Sometimes you get caught inside, you end up in the impact zone, and you take a beating. This happens in life and surfing. But if you want to surf, you have to get back in the water, live in the moment and keep your eyes on the horizon. Sometimes you fall in love even when there’s a chance of drowning.