Sunday, 18 May 2014

Riding the waves

We'd been at the beach all summer, a long holiday after finishing Year 12. Our days were spent swimming, surfing and riding waves.

We lived in a shack, with no power and had a cold shower at the beach. There was tap water on the property and an outdoor's toilet. We cooked on a gas cooker, played cards and listened to music by lamplight at night.

During the day we went to the beach, loaded the wave ski into the Ute and drove 3 minutes to the beach. We couldn't walk with the ski. It was too big, too cumbersome and the sun's rays beat down on our bodies as early as 10 am in the morning. Walking 1,000 metres to the beach with the ski, well it may as well have been a mountain climb.

Besides, Matty knew how much I loved the ski. It was his but he bought it for me so we threw it into the Ute each day and drove the short distance to the beach.

I'd take the wave ski out over the breakers, timing it so I rode up and over the waves' crests satisfied to hear the predictable thud of the ski's base on the water's surface. It was a sound which made me feel happy and content. It made me feel as if I was in control, the master of this ski, working with the ocean's rhythm on this sunny day where the waves curved in beautiful unison, slowly and unrelentingly spanning the beach's horizon.

I glided effortlessly over the water, delighting in the rhythm of the paddle's twirling as I pulled it either side of the ski, propelling me outwards, fearless and youthful. My feet strapped into the foot holes gave me leverage as I settled my lower body into the seat, shifting as water ran in rivulets around my buttocks and underneath my outstretched legs on the ski's frame.

It was a huge ski, full-sized around 184 cms and unwieldy. I moved it from the sand to the water only by picking it up, tucking it under my armpit and dragging it to the water's edge.

Being Matty's ski, he bought it to fit his frame, 184 cms tall and weighing around 78 kgs. He bought if for the summer break. However it was me who used it, dragging it into the water each day while he sat on the sand and watched.

At 170 cms, I stretched the ski's length and my just feet reached the footholds. I curled my toes upwards clinging to the rubber bands. The ski barely registered my weight, a little over 8 stone. I was a bantam weight in an arena of overpowering variables, such as an ocean without mercy and a piece of equipment which could become a deadly missile if I misjudged a wave's force or my timing was miscalculated.

My lightness was an advantage. My weight was irrelevant to the ski's instability. In fact its cumbersome design worked to my advantage. Its construction, well built on either side splayed outwards across the water. I felt its stability around my hips and lower torso. It released me and freed me to ride the waves.

I was almost out beyond the breakers and I could see the waves curling about 10 metres in front of me. It was 35 degrees a hot and clear summer's day. There were surfers around but the waves were endless and there was space for everyone. No-one bothered each other, no-one bothered me. I was free, free to paddle, glide and rise above the breakers as I wanted or turn around and glide back into shore. It didn't matter; my choice, my decision out in the ocean, where its lure today belied its unfathomable fury if conditions were otherwise on this clear and sunny day.

I was ready, I could see it and hear it rolling. I knew this was the one. This was the breaker I was going to catch, on this wave ski, this wave ski which was too big for me, yet I knew its very size would work for me.

However, I needed masterful technique, especially on these breakers, to handle its clunky design. The wave unfolding before me was my challenge.

I turned the ski so my back faced the wall of water and I paddled. I could hear the splashing of water as it fell away from the paddle's strokes and the view ahead of me was clear and uninterrupted.

I was expectant, unaware the wave rolling my way was more than I had ridden before.

It was too late to turn and too late to bail. I would be churned inside a whirlpool of white water with an out-of control ski turned projectile smashing into my vulnerable areas, my head or back if I opted out now.

It was then upon me. I could feel it lifting me and carrying me on its crest and I paddled to keep up. It lifted me up and up until I was balancing on a peak; a tiny speck, alone in the vastness of the ocean. It was in that small space of time, I knew I needed to do something. I needed to do something quickly because this was big. It was the biggest wave I had ever ridden and I was scared. I was scared because it was unexpected, its crest was unanticipated. I sensed its energy underneath me and at my shoulder. I knew this challenge was bigger than my planning and I braced for it.

As its sound vibrated in my ears, I could feel the wave's aggression bearing down on me and I could feel the front of the ski tipping downwards into the breaking wave. For a second I thought I was gone; fear gripped me in my stomach as I felt the wave's energy hurl me forward. Not wanting to drop into its core, I eased my upper body slowly backwards hard, connecting it to the base of the ski. Its tip stopped dipping. However it wasn't enough as I could feel the wave's energy underneath my back, powerful and merciless and I knew it would dump me ruthlessly if I allowed it. The ski was no longer a ski but a deadly projectile, out-of-control on an even greater uncontrollable wave.

Lying flat, I arched my neck so as to see my environment, I dipped the right hand paddle close to the ski's side and held it until its nose turned upwards and I guided it slightly to the right. I held the paddle pressing my shoulders into the base of the ski to maintain the nose's upright position. I could hear the ocean rumbling. Positioned at an acute angle to the wave, I slowly changed the paddle's direction, to the left and secured the same position, skimming the water steadily. This saw the ski turn, more front-facing. Still pronate, I directed the ski using the paddle at the right side again, keeping it facing frontwards. The ski and me wedged into its seat descended into the wave's curvaceous vacuum of energy and hurtled towards the shore.

I experienced a mixture of euphoria, fear, excitement and joy riding the breaker's unexpected fury which only moments prior had left me impotent. The thrill of speed was like an injection into my bloodstream.

I revelled in the unexpected. I had conquered the wave, which for a moment out there I knew was too big for me. I went with it, for good or bad. This time I had out manoeuvred it.

The wave ski stopped abruptly as I surfed through to the shallow waters, landing on the sandy shore. I emerged from its seat, holding the paddle high in a symbolic gesture of all I had conquered, and rejoicing in that moment. There was no other moment, no past or future, except that moment to savour until it too would pass and become a memory and a story to revisit again sometime in the future.

As the long summer days got shorter and the days slightly cooler, we knew our summer break had come to an end. It was time, time to store the wave ski in the shed, lock up the shack, pack up our belongings and head back home.

It was time to find work, pay rent and build lives. Lives which meant lifestyles would be more ordered and structured and where other experiences would reveal themselves as they do in anyone's life-cycle of relationships, travel, work commitments and a myriad of other events in what makes up the rich tapestry of our lives.

As the long summer days got shorter and the days slightly cooler, we knew our summer break had come to an end. It was time, time to store the wave ski in the shed, lock up the shack, pack up our belongings and head back home.

Image courtesy of Michelle Meiklejohn at - beach flags

Image courtesy of EA at - crashing waves



  1. Hello again, Allie-Millie! This is a wonderful piece of writing. Your story of conquering an unexpectedly large and dangerous wave is a metaphor for turning fear into power. The same principle applies to the ceremonial barefoot walk on fire that was performed in my NLP seminar series.

    I can also relate to the experience you described because I love the sea shore and spent countless hours of my youth out in the water body surfing the waves. I remember many occasions when an abnormally large swell approached and I needed to make the same split second decisions. Should I duck under and risk getting pummeled into the sand by tons of churning white water, or should I quickly swim TOWARD the wave before it breaks, mount it like a wild stallion, find a way to harness its energy, tame it and ride it to submission? The answer was always the latter. You never feel more alive than times when you face a difficult challenge, put all your senses on high alert, draw upon your instincts and skills, meet the challenge head on and emerge triumphant.

    I am thoroughly enjoying your blog and our budding friendship, Allie-Millie. As you might expect, I regard friendship as a two way street. As the Motown Supremes once sang, "It's a game of give and take." Reciprocation is very important to me. I am counting on you to "meet me at my map of the world" by taking the same active interest in my life and my blog that I do in yours. That interest is manifested in reading my posts and leaving kind and supportive comments like I have been doing here on your blog. I'm sure you agree that genuine friendship transcends blog content. I don't expect you to be keenly interested in every topic I discuss and every song I present. However I do expect you to be keenly interested in building a genuine friendship with me. My philosophy is that blog friends are real friends and friendship is a pact, a commitment. Friends make time for friends. Friends show up for friends. There is no arm twisting involved, no feeling of obligation, because true friends derive joy from visiting each other, saying a friendly hello, finding some way to relate to the content and leaving a thoughtful, validating message.

    This coming Friday, May 23, I begin an exclusive interview with one of my favorite recording artists of the 1960s. The interview continues in a second post the following Friday, May 30. This blog series is my main event of the year. It is very important to me. I am calling on all of my friends, old and new, to show their support by leaving a generous comment for the sweet and talented woman who is the subject of my interview. I want to thank you in advance for being there for her and for me.

    You are an intelligent, charming woman, Allie-Mille. You and I are separated by a great distance. We live on opposite sides of the world. Your summer is my winter. Sometimes you use words with which I am unfamiliar and I need to look them up to understand you. I don't mind that at all because I love to learn and I appreciate a challenge. Reading your posts is like listening to a jazz tune that I've never heard before. I tune in. I don't tune out. Given your interest in the human potential movement, I have much more in common with you than I do with my other blog friends. Ours is a friendship that I very much want to nurture and I hope you are equally enthused. If you are then I ask that you remember that I am just as proud of my blog as you are of yours and that I am waiting there to share with you my life, my music, my humor and my genuine friendship. A warm welcome awaits you at SDM&M, dear Allie-Mille. Thank you very much!

  2. Hi Shady,

    Thanks for your post and I have now been to your blog and added a comment. I look forward to your post on Frid and best of luck. Thank you, I am pleased you enjoyed the story.

    Everyone identifies with getting dumped in the water by waves and equally surfing one onto the shore, so it's universal isn't it, body surfing, surfing, wave ski surfing, swimming or simply paddling at the shore. Everyone has their stories good and bad - holidays, beach holidays and more - LOL

    I'm keen to write more about team work, so I am posting another blog on the roles team members assume and how various compatible combinations are often associate with success. For example good Chair and Innovator (plant) combinations are often associated with success.

    These examples come from by my research and study on collaborative teams.

    More detail on this posted, soon, stay tuned

    1. I will stay tuned, dear friend, and thank you very much for your comment on SDM&M! Have a great week!