Surfing in New Zealand

Dunedin, Smails beach
Smails beach, Dunedin (photos: AS, 2018)
“Getting back on that wave”

This is a story about one of the best sport experiences, surfing in New Zealand, that became a kind of turning point in my life. Everytime I am in a bad mood or something doesn’t go well, I go back to this adventure and I get a proper mindset to go forward. 🙂

Getting back on that wave (transcription)

There is a common belief among many surfers that either you fall in love after catching the first wave, or you just abandon it  after the first lesson. 

It was January 2018, when I got my first surfing lesson in New Zealand.  Differently to other places in this crazy expensive Commonwealth, New Zealand is where surfing is affordable. You just have to spend some time on finding the right guy… And that’s what  I did.  

Troy, originally from Dunedin, was  eager to lend me his old and used board in exchange for equipment maintenance. He even offered to take me to the coast every day if I agreed to clean the staff after each session. Of course, what else could I say: I said yes! Yes to the experience. Troy did a little crash course for me: he explained how to use boards and properly catch the waves. It was completely new to me, but I enjoyed staying in the water and also we had very good conditions at the beginning.

I remember one day, when I woke up a little late, as usual, and I felt there was something afoot. On our way to the beach Troy picked quite a sentimental song: “Another day in paradise” by Phil Collins. The song that the composer wrote for his wife who failed a fight over a fatal disease. It was just the perfect piece of music to get me back to the darkest place of my life, the end of my relationship. Even though I clearly seemed a little bit off  and questioned Troy’s choice, he decided to wait until the end to change it. 

Honestly  I still partially blame what happened that day on that particular song. The ocean was a little bit more agitated but I was really acting like a clown on that board. I was completely off the sea’s rhythm, struggling with the waves instead of catching them. I was moving my legs and my body way  too much to the front of the board. Unsurprisingly, I got hit very badly by an upcoming wave and got pinned to the bottom of the ocean.  I totally lost my orientation and I struggled to get up. The waves were truly crashing me and I couldn’t escape them. Three in a row, one after another, pushing against me and though I tried to grab some air, I couldn’t move my head and got pinned again. Luckily there happened to be a short break in the cycle, I got up and I put my head outside of the water. I stayed  there a few moments, trying to keep the balance and then moved towards the beach. Gosh, I stayed there long enough to remember it quite well until today… This feeling of helplessness, of being paralised and totally out of control.

Right after this experience I sat down on the sand, exhausted. I felt mentally so incredibly lonely and it felt as if I was still under the water… ( I couldn’t comprehend that I wasn’t under the water anymore…)

I remember that even Troy came to see what was going on. Even though I was covered by a towel, shaking and still cried, he asked if I was alright. Oh Troy … I wasn’t even hearing what you were saying. I was daydreaming. You probably said: “Come on, get back on the board”. You waved your hand at me and you went back to the water. 

I knew that was the right thing to do, although I tried to jump back on my feet but for some reason…I couldn’t. I was still on the bottom of that ocean, struggling to escape something that was stronger than me…The sudden images were passing in front of my eyes: being fired from the university, the embarrassment I experienced in front of my parents caused by my professor, the conversation with my ex boyfriend after his accident in the hospital and the feeling of being humiliated when his mom told me that I wasn’t the only one. 

All of this overwhelmed me that moment…. I felt as if everything that I have ever wanted suddenly vanished, leaving an empty space in the place of my past achievements and future hopes. 

However after a series of dark flashbacks, my mind took a new trip – to the immigration checkpoint in Melbourne.   I was seeing myself again, leaving the airport after the 36 hour flight and being so surprised by this Pacific sun shining through big windows while it was the middle of the winter in Europe.  It felt like everything was waiting there to comfort me. The feeling of happiness of being somewhere new and so beautiful, was stronger than anything else. And when my mind got me back to New Zealand, I connected all the experiences together. Suddenly I realized that a couple of waves can’t let me forget how lucky I am. Nothing was worth it to stop me from making dreams come true. I just had to remind myself of this. 

Within 10 minutes I was in the water again. Ready for the new experience and new life.

A few days later I  finally got my First Big Wave.  It felt like flying above the ocean for a moment. Would you believe that? I was so close to abandoning surfing that day, and I could have missed that. Happily, even though it was a tough experience, I got back in the ocean that day. It was the best thing I could have done for myself, because it was also the beginning for me to get back on the wave in my life again. 

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