Monday, 9 April 2012

Surfing mamas


The beach is my church. I grew up in the waves and on the sand and feel just as comfortable in the water as on land. Each Sunday as a nipper I could be found on the long stretch of white sand at Leighton Beach. When I learned to drive I would steer the surf club's rusty, salt-encrusted old ute through the corrugations in the sand up to the dog beach at Cables and south down to Sandtracks. I read the English classics with one eye on the crowds while sitting in the patrol tower at Port Beach, where the cranes and stacked sea containers of Fremantle's busy port loom over the narrow strip of sand carved out by the swell that crashes against the seawall.

I was a clubbie, but I always wanted to be a surfer. I tried to learn a couple of times as a teenager. It did not come naturally to me and I felt too self conscious floundering in the waves to stick at it. When I moved to the south coast in my early twenties I thought I would give it another try, and drove out around the peninsula to Salmon Holes with my body board in the back of my car. I bobbed around in the swell, watching the young guys catching every wave and steering clear of the slippery walls of granite that slide into the treacherous cove. I still wasn't ready. I wasn't any good at it and it was all too embarrassing.

When we moved back to the south coast I said I would learn once the children were older and I had some time to myself again. Whenever that might be.

For my birthday last year Grant bought me a surf board and some lessons with the local surfing school. Quinn was still only a few months old at the time. I had a good few years of procrastination left in me. But I signed up for some lessons with a friend and together we paddled out into the gentle swell at Ocean Beach. I no longer cared what anyone thought, or whether I was any good or not. I just wanted to catch a wave or two, to be alone on the water, to reconnect with that wild and free part of myself that got forgotten while I was mothering my little ones.

Every Sunday since I have strapped my board onto the roof of my station wagon and headed out for an hour on the waves. One hour of silence and solitude, alone with the elements and my thoughts. I have gradually progressed from wobbling shakily to my feet to a more fluid movement, my limbs finding their rhythm where once they flailed. After a year of Sundays my body seems to know what to do - my feet plant themselves wide and my body crouches low as I steer my longboard along the face of the wave.

I headed out with a friend this morning. She has four kids. She did have a babysitter who would watch her little ones while she went surfing each Tuesday, but since her helper headed off to university in the city she has not been able to surf as much as she would like. There is a strong community of female surfers here. Surfing mamas, who know the exhilaration and freedom that the ocean gives. Older women, their children now grown, who offer support and guidance on the waves. "You catch this one. I've got all day, you have to get home to the kids." Words you would never hear from guys reluctant to share the swell.

Sitting out the back with my legs straddling my board I watch the waves curve around the headland into the bay. Craggy limestone cliffs stretch out into the vast blue expanse of the Southern Ocean. Heavily forested hills cling to the folds of the river, soft and green, as it snakes its way into the hinterland. Each and every time I give thanks that we live where we do, this little corner of paradise where the forest meets the sea. I journey home with a light heart. The beach is my church.


11 comments:

  1. Your blog just gets better and better Al. Really enjoying it.
    Z

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  2. What a lovely thing to do for yourself. I think I'd be too scared of sharks.

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  3. You write just so beautifully. Fabulous words for other mammas to read.x

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  4. A gorgeous post and so well expressed. My husband once bought me surfing lessons for Christmas as it was on my list of things to learn. I had great fun learning but have not been on a board since those classes unfortunately - glad to hear it's become such an enjoyable pastime for you x

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  5. That is so great! Excellent post. Very inspiring and very cool. Oh, that ocean!!

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  6. I grew up on the beaches of NZ...we have some mean surf there...and while I always wanted to be one of those suffer chicks, I am much more apt on a boogie board :)
    Xx

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  7. I'm new to your blog and I adore this post. Beautifully written. I'm an ocean woman too and I can relate to the peace of being in the ocean. I've always been a bit scared of the powerful Margaret River waves and frustrated with the scrappy waves in Perth. I keep dreaming of having Indonesian waves at my doorstep to surf... Anyways...it's nice to meet you!

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    1. lovely to meet you too Nicole! I was just lusting over a surf book about the Indonesian Archipelago in the Margaret River bookshop. Back at my home break now and happy it isn't as giant as around the coast a ways.

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  8. i used to surf when i lived back on maui and your words brought me there for a bit. i mainly surfed with the guys who taught me, but i love the idea of surfing with a bunch of mums.

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    1. Maui... Now you have me dreaming! You should dust off your board and get back out there, I bet there are mums aplenty to share the waves.

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