I paddled out on a surfboard for the first time in 10 weeks on Friday, July 31st. Nothing was in my stomach except scrambled eggs, an avocado and sourdough toast from breakfast. No tiny, tumbling baby. My mom keeps telling me she wasn’t ever really in my stomach anyways, but that’s where it felt like she was so I stubbornly remain anatomically incorrect.
When I started surfing during my pregnancy it was because the doctor said it was ok and I couldn’t imagine doing anything else. Of course I watched the heaviest winter swells through our camera lens. I counted all the seagulls passing by when it didn’t seem safe. I rode a soft foam board from a local company. I took up bodysurfing in the last month and a baby I didn’t know was a little girl came along for all of this. I can tell these experiences shaped her based on the way she is calmed by swinging in her carseat and bouncing in my arms around the backyard.
I never expected that all of this would change me though. I think I did my best surfing when Sprout was on board and that’s because I was out there purely to enjoy the experience with nothing to prove.
I knew I would miss her when she had to stay on the sand once she was born, but my mom also told me that it’s good for her body to be hers and mine to be mine sometimes. So I paddled out by myself for the first time in 50 weeks.
A perfect wave came to me right away. It was like the ocean had been keeping track of how long I’d waited to be back out there too. This wave was blue like a marlin when he jumps out of the water, which made the white part look all that much whiter, like teeth in a Colgate commercial. I had to squint to see it. The left was long and slow, kind of ambling along like this lady I see walking her basset hound and clipping daisies in our neighborhood. Even at this pace, with plenty of time to prepare, I totally missed the wave that seemed destined for me. Turns out holding an ever-growing new baby doesn’t tone your arms the way you’d hoped when you were bouncing her on your knee at 4 a.m. for the last five weeks. My ribs ached for weeks after those first sessions back and I missed a lot of other waves I normally would have caught, but I was smiling after every session like I’d just been shot out of a pit at Teahupoo or ridden for five minutes on an outer-reef left at Raglan.
The most true thing I can say about right now is that everything is different and everything is better.
Now when I’m out surfing I scan the beach for Sprout as much as I scan the horizon for waves.