surfing

Hovering Neon Droplets: a moment between the sea and me

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The tiny raindrops had stopped by the time I got back to the boat, but this was taken just after, so you can imagine how it looked with the raindrops falling!

 

Despite a day of gray, the sun refuses to depart unnoticed, surprising me and the thickly-clouded sky with a lavish splash of reds and pinks. The heavens then toss the light down onto the sea, where it warps into a hypnotizing tango with the water’s evening shadows. A dark line appears ahead. I study its form and decide to paddle over it. It lifts me up, and then I fall softly down its brilliant, berry-colored back. The second of the set is bigger, fuller–its arm reaching farther to the south… I calculate my placement as it nears, turning just before it’s upon me, and stroking twice.

 

I rise to my feet as it picks me up. Two quick, extended pumps and I’m high-lining along a blossoming, neon-lipped water wall. A moment later, the wall stretches out well beyond me. With one more high-toed pump I think I can make it, and crouch under a translucent-pink water roof. Bracing toes, surreal excitement, all of me aimed for the exit. Briefly there is no confusion, nothing out of place–just trim and bliss behind the waterfall…

 

Then poof, it’s over. The sea boils and the reef sucks dry just ahead of me. Dropping back to prone, I stroke for deeper water while attempt to take my mind back inside… The vision runs fugitive but the sensation lingers like an electric shock.

 

Before I start the paddle home, I stop to acknowledge my tremendous Gratitude to the Greatness. No matter the time or struggle between moments like this, I am thankful for All of it. For without the bitter, how could we know sweet? I take a deep breath and cherish once more the vast silence of alone and adrift between sea and sky. How oddly comfortable it feels… How marvelously empty my mind can be when surrounded solely by raw, undivided Nature and Wildness…? It’s as if I cease to exist, or maybe it’s more like reattaching to the Rest?

 

I wipe my eyes and watch tiny raindrops begin to collide with the shiny pink surface of the sea. They each send out a perfect, teeny ringlet. Soon a zillion miniature gongs are singing! My eyelids drift closed and I lay my head on my board. It sounds as if I’m afloat in a giant glass of just-poured mineral water; its effervescent tickle exceedingly delightful. The patter sends fine, glowing mist onto my face and into my smiling mouth.

 

I become so entranced I almost loose my balance, sitting up at once. But I’m quickly stolen into the scene again by the countless neon droplets that scatter across the sea upon their impact and hover just above it for one fleeting instant–touching, but separate—for one glorious final moment of their individual journey from the sky before sinking into oneness with the endless sea again. Mesmerizing…

 

A chill brings me back to my body; goosebumps rise on my arms. I turn and paddle for the boat, watching those miniscule hovering droplets scatter as I go, knowing I am just like them–momentarily and illusorily separate, yet inescapably and fantastically Part of the Great Sea of Oneness.

 

Sidetrip to India! Beyond the Surface Film Project…

With the Kovalom Surf Club in India.

The Kovalam Surf Club in India.

 

It’s amazing what comes along when you live wide open… Last year, I was sailing through the Marquesas when my sea-going friend and fellow Patagonia ambassador, Crystal Thornburg-Homcy, inquired as to whether I’d like to be involved in a film project in India!? From what I gathered it would be a combination of unique surfer women, seeking truth, sharing the joy of surfing with local kids, and practicing yoga in the land of its origin. We’d be highlighting the admirable efforts of Emi Koch, founder of Beyond the Surface International–which aims to empower impoverished youth through surfing…Mother India!! Kids! Yoga! A better world! I was IN!

Since then, Crystal and her husband, Dave, have raised funds through grassroots efforts to launch a film project with the potential to deeply inspire and bring attention to the power of self-awareness, compassion, and ecological creativity as our greatest tools for shaping a better world! Thanks to them, India is now only a few plane-rides away!! WOW!

Crystal and Dave, along with Emi Koch, Lauren Hill, Kate Baldwin, India’s first female surfer, Ishita Malaviya, and lil ol me will be traveling for three weeks up India’s south east coast looking for all sorts of adventure, learning, and inspiration in hopes of sharing it with the world!! For more info and/or to support the film project, check out: http://beyondthesurfacefilm.tumblr.com/ or follow my instagram photos by clicking the old camera in the upper right corner of the page!

 

 

Shaka Shakti!

Shaka Shakti!

 

 

Free, so Free to be Me.

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Poema and I on a surf adventure…No wave out of reach in the double kayak!

 

“However rare true love may be, it is less so than true friendship.”  -Einstein

 

A few days after my arrival back to Swell in January, Poema du Prel walked into the boatyard wearing a huge smile. Mutual friends had been long trying to connect us, but both of our rigorous travel agendas had precluded our meeting until that day. Ten minutes later I was loading my board into the back of her truck and we were off to chase down some waves…It had been a rough week for matters of the heart, but in her presence, I was promptly feeling like myself again…

In lieu of sleeping aboard Swell in the boatyard (something I’ve done enough of for one lifetime!), she invited me to stay in her home and for two months we shared meals, stories, waves, laughter, work, and dreams like old friends. She understands when I’d rather pee in the bushes than the bathroom, enjoy eating a mango more when its all over my face, need to howl at the moon, wear mismatched clothes, cartwheel in the rain, swing my machete, cut my own hair, or cut open my sunscreen tube to get the very last bit. Just like I understand when she runs through house in a beekeepers hat with a hacksaw in her hand to attack the wasp nest on the roof overhang, gets excited about diving for the kayak anchor, comes home muddy from head to toe, skateboards in circles at 6am around the house, gets overly excited about yoga with David Swanson, climbs the guava tree like a spider monkey, and brings home every sort of roadside fruit known to Tahiti. She countered the sorrow of heartache with the joy of a truly kindred spirit friendship. Never judging–just letting me be me, so lovingly!

There’s no mistake when the universe leads you to people who make you feel like your BEST you…cherish them! In fact, surround yourself with them! Poema, and all my dear and wonderful friends, thank you for making me feel so free to be ME!! Click to follow Poema’s Odyssey.

 

Poema, tending the vanilla plants...

Poema, tending the vanilla plants…

 

Rain or Shine, we're yours Mighty Pacific!!

Rain or Shine, we’re yours Mighty Pacific!!

 

Helmuth made a creative new handle for my teapot!

Helmuth made a creative new handle for my teapot!

Swelly got a new hat!

…and Swelly got a new hat!

 

More surf adventures, photo by Poema

Getting a pre-session shack in the cloud barrel with the girls! Photo by Poema

Going coconutty with Ema and Poema.

Going coconutty with Ema and Poema.

 

Let the sanding begin. New deck paint for Swell coming soon.

Let the sanding begin. New deck paint for Swell coming soon.

 

Surrounded by things I love!

Postcard living…

 

Boatyard sunset.

Boatyard afterhours.

 

Poema the anchor diving mermaid!

Poema the anchor diving mermaid!

 

New deck shower, yew!

New deck shower, yew!

 

Feeling back at home...

So happy to be healthy again…

You guys made a house a HOME!

You guys made a house a HOME!

 

You don't have to own it to call it home.

Grateful salutations to the SUN.

 

 

From a day in the ‘Vortex’

My not so artistic rendition of certain bliss...

Somewhere in my subconscious, I know its dawn. Force my eyes open, I roll out of bed for a peek…What? It’s pumping, again?! So much for sleeping in…Part of me hoped it would be flat after the week or more of non-stop swell… I wonder if my arms can take another day of this? Of course they can… “It’s now or never.” I tell myself. Easier to catch waves before the others come out. And surely they’ll be out…the end bowl is throwing round and makeable again, and if I can just pick off one or two sets I swear I’ll relax after that…sunscreen and a gulp of water… I’m out there.

…That might have been the best session of my life! I know I said that yesterday and the day before, but…that last wave, really? Did that just happen?

Back aboard Swell…yum, this mango tastes divine!…mmmm, walnuts too…whooooa…look at this set coming in…I should just go back out and get a few more while the sun isn’t directly overhead, right…? It’s not like I can get anything else done while this wave is taunting me…i’m fixated like a mutt on a bone. But these are the days! When I wake up in my favorite reality there’s no choice but to live it like there’s no tomorrow! The dishes and laundry are piling high and the water tanks are almost empty. There’s green scum clinging to the waterline. My neck and shoulders feel like industrial strength rubber bands, but time will be here tomorrow…this swell might not be! Back into my new Patagonia R1 Jane spring suit!! Yeeeeeeeoww!

Legally Challenged

I popped my head out of the hatch around 10am after another brutal passage east from Bora Bora the prior day.  Just then, the big gray French police boat pulled into the bay. My heart lurched. I had a letter from the yard stating that Swell was ‘unsuitable to take to the sea’ until the repair was finished to show to the authorities, but it did not explain why I was out frolicking around the islands rather than grinding fiberglass in the yard. Rather than fumbling my way though an explanation, I decided to avoid the situation entirely and hang out on land for the day. I packed a bag and went ashore to wander, read, write, and visit friends. At dusk I figured they were finished checking boats for the day and made my way discreetly back to Swell. I had planned to leave the following day to continue back east, so I hoisted the dinghy and made Swell ready to move as darkness fell.

…Up before the sun, I warmed up the motor and cruised quietly out the bay past the police boat. Not a uniform was stirring yet, so I contently set the sails and the course and headed out into the blue. The morning melted away into a glorious midday and I knew the surf conditions at my destination were going to be perfect! I dozed off in the cockpit, dreaming of the waves I was sure to catch in only a few more hours…

Lifting my head to scan the horizon, I spotted a boat far on my aft horizon, but approaching quickly. Twenty minutes later, that same police boat whizzed by with its course headed for precisely MY destination!

“What to do? What to do…?” I thought aloud. “Just when I thought I ditched them…but the waves are going to be…and I just wanted…why does it always have to be so…ugh.”

I was less than 5 miles from my destination by then and I could see the welcoming turquoise lagoon up ahead…

I couldn’t help it…

I entered the lagoon and dropped the anchor as close to the pass as possible, shoved a few bananas in my mouth, lathered on some sunscreen (www.smartgirlswhosurf.com) and fled to safer water with my 5’9” round pin to surf the rest of the day away.

I caught the last wave as darkness fell and paddled home with the rising crescent moon coming up over the island…

…I woke to a grumbling noise at 5:30am and peeked out the porthole to see the big gray boat exiting the pass…pheeeeeeeeeeeew. I’m free!!!!!

Don’t Kill the Star!

Post-surf stoke with a little coconut rehydration.

And the next day at ten o’clock sharp, Jimmy circled Swell on his stand-up paddle board.

“Come aboard,” I called. “I’m nearly ready!”

He descended into Swell’s cabin, eyes wide, taking in all the quotes and photos and details. I showed him my book collection, hoping I could give him one of my favorites, but alas, he’d read them all. And so we headed off to check the pass.

“It’s not the easiest wave,” I explained on the way. “It’s kinda shifty and there were long waits between sets yesterday, so it’s easy to drift away from the take-off zone.” He seemed slightly anxious, but unquestionably determined.

We paddled over and right away a big set leapt up in front of us. He paddled for the first but pulled out and caught the next two waves on the head. I cringed as the board pulled and snapped back just in time for another wall of water to crash in front of him.

“Oh no…” I thought,  “I’m going to kill him!”

But he came back out laughing, took a few deep breaths, and paddled outside a bit.

“Try to look for the waves that come in more from the north,” I suggested. “They seem to stay open a bit more.”

And just then a lovely head-high wave sprang up from the north. He was perfectly in position. He turned and leaned into his strokes like he really wanted it. Then away he went, disappearing behind the wall of neon blue! He came back out glowing. We high-fived and cheered in celebration of his first wave in French Polynesia.

I, on the other hand, didn’t take my own advice and paddled for a lumpy west one, tried to pull in at the end section, and came up sputtering between fingers of dry reef, but miraculously unscathed.

“Better me than him,” I thought.

He caught three more beautiful waves. The third was a gorgeous set–well overhead. He rode it well into the inside and I began to worry…then just before it closed out on the reef, he and the yellow board came flying over the back of the wave. I was so thrilled for him that I didn’t even care whether I caught another wave or not. This spot was NOT easy, and he was charging and pulling it off! Afterward we celebrated with coconuts and pamplemousse.

That night I sat at the table in ‘Bloody Mary’s’ with Richard and Jess and the rest of the gang for the Saturday show. Jimmy came onstage rosy-cheeked and full of stoke. The show was magic. He played with heart and with an unmistakable twinkle in his eye. None of what had happened seemed real yet…all I knew was that it sure felt good to have a hero meet and then exceed your idea and hopes for who they are.

Eternal thanks, Jimmy!!

Ketchup on the Presqu'isle

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Here is a bit of everything from the last two months on the Presqu’isle… between my engine woes, the WCT circus, my recent submersion in a writing assignment (check out the upcoming October issue of Surfer’s Journal), a bout with Dengue fever (or Beamish flu?), a last minute haul-out, and the Ahuna-Marotta wedding in Hawai’i… well, blogs have gone by the wayside… so here goes a brief recap:

Swell ‘stuck’ at George and Marika Riou’s waiting for broken motor mounts: nightly dining French style, permanent dish and lawn-mowing duty, views from the tree house, life as Georges’ favorite conversation piece. Yoga with Nina! Treat of all treats! Tahitian, Haere Williams, wins the trials for the one and only WCT wildcard… the local spirit is rich as lait coco: Marara Boys tailgate concerts, full moon and full voices to celebrate with traditional Tahitian songs and Hinanos. I shimmied with The Shimmies!! Chonny, Gideon, Andy, Josh and Indy, thanks for being the coolest ‘yachties’ ever , ha! Miss you guys!

Meet Prisca Aramu: The lovely 27 year old Moorean charger who conquered the reef and became the only girl of an 8 child family to love surfing, now she’s best Tahitian surfer girl around, stylish and poised, smart, environmentally-concerned… I found a girl to surf with! Thanks for our adventures around the Presqu’isle and to the east side! Birthday dinner with Mick and Jon and Mark and Marika and Georges: thank you for being my family abroad!! Between the Riou’s and the ‘Quik Euro’ dinners I forgot how to cook, Jasper’s Quik Euro crew teaching baby pigs to swim for their next ad campaign? Jasper, Jerome reported you all for animal cruelty. Julien Wilson is as talented and humble as a radical young surfer could be. Good waves for 4 weeks straight, but the Billabong Teahupoo Pro waiting period begins, and it goes FLAT… Kelly certainly knew where to be… Me, ‘dead in the water’, still disabled at the Riou mooring waiting for my new motor mounts… Happy birthday, Mr. Knox! What a legend you are… Marika makes the best chocolate cake in the world, just ask Mick Fanning, go for the middle piece… Dinner at Josh and Celeste’s with the Transworld brothers and deep-diving, bomb-charging Healy, Prisca and I in the Ripple spectating and rubbin’ elbows in the Teahupoo sunshine, Parko such a treat to watch.

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Big Waves Heroes Save the Sea Nymphs

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Just then, Greg Long and Twiggy “Grant Baker”, two of surfing’s big-wave heroes, paddled out for the sunset session. Twiggy, the cheerfully fearless South African, quickly caught a wave. Andy and his ‘sea nymphs’ still frolicked in the impact zone. I felt a pang of anxiousness.

“You should take those girls in,” another guy called to Andy. “They’re getting tired and if a set comes they could drown.” His words seemed to materialize as he spoke them. All of a sudden the horizon leapt. A massive black face rose demonically in front of us. It was twice the size of any set that had come through all afternoon. It grew mountainous, shifted and then pitched a neck-breaking lip across the line-up, catching nearly all of us inside. I scraped for the horizon, knowing I wouldn’t make it. I looked back to see where the girls were just before I ditched my board and dove as deep as I could. They were in the worst place possible. I swam down into the darkness. I was far enough out that I didn’t take a terrible beating on the first, and surfaced in time for a breath before the next wave rolled over me. As I forced my body to relax through the series of underwater acrobatics, all I could think about was the girls. The board yanked on my ankle but then suddenly went limp. My leash had broken. The foamy water surged and spat and it was tough to get traction in the foam as I came up, boardless. Everyone was in a panic. Miraculously, my board popped up not too far away. I swam frantically for it and someone gave it a shove my way before the next wave grabbed us again. I held on.

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Teahupo'o Fog

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Session after session I gained confidence at this beastly wave. In the afternoons the crowd would thin and the circus of photographers and spectators would run off to find food and shade. With just a few locals out I began to sit deeper and understand which waves I wanted and which I DEFINITELY didn’t. One afternoon when the swell was coming up, I didn’t catch a single wave. After scurrying over the top of a few frightening sets, I respected my limits and paddled back to the dinghy. Just to paddle and feel the sea’s energy was enough on that day.

A week passed in a blur of adrenaline. As much as I tried to do other things I could focus on nothing else. I was behind on blogging, coming down to the wire on my visa/customs time in French Polynesia, it sure seemed like there was a lot of water in the bilge again, and I hadn’t really made any sort of ‘plan’ about what the next few months held. But the wave and the challenge had hypnotized me; I was lost in a Teahupo’o fog.

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