For as long as I can remember, I've thought I had the potential to be excellent at everything.For as long as I can remember, I've wanted to surf.
When I started at a new school in Grade 10 - senior school - the thing I was most excited about was that they ran a surf camp, so I quickly set to work convincing my parents to let me go. I told them my knees (which have since earned me the name Dislocato Girl) hadn't been too sore lately, and that my shoulders were all good. That surfing would be good for me, it would build up my muscles and keep me active. They said yes, and for the few months leading up to it, all I could think about was getting into that water and riding a wave; being one of those people I'd admired since I was a little kid.
On the day of the camp, I could't sit still in class. My feet were twitching, my hands were fidgeting, my brain would wander and I'd end up smiling a cheeky smile in classes that, on that day, could not have been any more dull.
We got onto the bus and I was still full of nervous anticipation. We drove for what seemed to be forever, and when we finally got there, all we got to do was look out at the tumbling, swirling ocean. The surfing would have to wait until tomorrow.
6am on Saturday, and I was up and raring to go. No matter about the dark grey clouds or the other girls who weren't nearly as irrationally excited as I was, I was gonna get out into that water, and it was going to be amazing. I'd stand up on my first try, and somebody would tell me I'm a natural. All my dreams would have come true.
I pulled the wetsuit over my body with all my might, sighed like the other girls about having to wear a helmet, but secretly didn't care. I listened eagerly to what the instructor was telling me. I was paddling through the sand, jumping up and singing 'surfing in the USA, woohoo!!' even though everyone thought I was ridiculous. And then, my time came.
"So, who wants to go first?"
I looked around nervously, hoping no one would put their hand up, and then, with fake reluctance and another cheeky grin, "I'll go."
"Aye! We have an adventurous one! I'll be nice to you for not being scared to make a fool of yourself."
I waded out into the freezing water, glaring yellow foam board alongside me, and the instructor teasing me gently. I was determined. I was preparing myself. I wasn't going to fall off the board and be laughed at, I was going to stand tall. The other girls would be in awe, the instructors would be excited to find a great talent, and I'd be riding on the top of the world.
I jumped onto the board, and had a couple false starts. "Ooooh here comes a good one! Oh wait, no, we'll just have to wait for the next set to come through."
And then it came, looming on the horizon. A wave that was positively tiny but perfect for my aim came rolling towards me.
"Ready?! GO!" The instructor pushed me deftly into the white wash, I mistook the adrenalin in my veins for the push of the wave they'd told us to wait for, leapt off of my chest and onto my feet, ready for my moment of glory, and slid straight off the back of the yellow beacon into ice cold water. I forgot everything they told me about protecting my head and just kept on getting pummelled until the wave couldn't go any further. I came up spluttering, looked around and wondered what had gone wrong. I turned back to the instructor and she grinned, "woohoo! You jumped way too early! Bit too excited, hey? Oh well, come back and try again, yeah?"
There's still hope yet, I told myself, and pushed stoically against the waves as I trekked back to the instructor and my friends cheered me on.
As I lay on the board, looking back and waiting for the instructor to pick me the perfect wave, I prepared myself again. This time, I'd do it. This time, I'd wait for that rush. But as it turned out, that time, I'd wait too long for the rush. That time, the white water would come and I'd lay waiting on the board, before it tumbled us over, and I was in the drink once again. I relaxed a little into the pummelling waves, and waited for it to spit me out. I came up spluttering, shook my head and shrugged back at the instructor. My friends giggled gleefully and I became all the more determined. It would happen.
I turned back, body encased by swirling currents, and fought my way through the ocean back to the instructor.
"Okay, one last try and then you can start pushing yourself into them. I need to help the others."
Rhianna, this is your chance. You're going to do it. You can pull it off. Ready? The voice in my head encouraged hesitantly.
I looked back to the horizon, waiting for the sweeping wall of water, no longer sure of my own dexterity. My instructor got excited, "woah-oh this is a good one! In three, two, ONE!!!"
I was off and I was up. I felt that white water hit the back of my foam board, moved my hands to hold onto its rim, jumped onto my feet, keeping low and crouched down. I wobbled a little, and slowly rose up, my face set in determination. It was like learning to stand up all over again. Slowly, slowly, I pulled myself upward, straightening out my legs until I was up, I was standing, and I was grinning and whooping like never before. My arms went out triumphantly and I laughed. The adrenalin was pumping though my nervous veins, my friends were clapping and cheering me on, and I was finally on top of the world. I rode it out for as long as I could, and that still felt too short, jumped back into the water and looked at my friends.
They all laughed at me and I wasted no more time going back for more. I spun the victorious piece of yellow foam around, adjusted my ankle strap and ran back out to do it all over again.
It's been a tad over six years since this day, and I still remember it so vividly. I haven't surfed in such a long time (stupid dislocato girl), but it's coming, I swear. By the end of this winter I'm going to be out there. I'll be falling off my board and spluttering and being absolutely battered by the immense ocean, but just being out there with my hunk of beat-up fibreglass will put me on a high. Except this time, I'll know not to care about being the best. Because now I know, and it is probably one of the greatest lessons surfing ever taught me, that quite often, it's ok to just be average at something, but it doesn't mean you can't love it and keep doing it all the same.
I hope you're all having a radtastic weekend! I'm trying not to fall asleep while attempting to complete my cacophony of assignments, and dreaming of a surf, a good book and hot chocolate. Rhi xx