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Surfin’ USA

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This is the day that the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it. —Psalm 118:24 (ESV)

Fred and I sat contented on the beach listening to the surf, gazing at the ships on the horizon, watching kids and dogs – and surfers riding the waves.

“Doesn’t that make you want to get a board and go surfing?” he asked.

Neither of us had surfed before. When we were first married more than 30 years ago, we used to scuba dive, so I know how much work it is to get into and out of a wetsuit. I considered the energy it would take to paddle through the surf, energy I wanted to save for the 350-kilometres of cycling we had come to the Oregon coast to do. I was concerned whether we had the stamina for it.

All this whooshed through my mind in less than 10 seconds before I spit out a solitary “No” to his question. And Fred said no more about it.

Take the plunge

Surfin_sidebarA few days later, bundled up and leaning against driftwood on a beach in Manzanita, Fred said, “You know, you can rent a wetsuit and surf board for 24 hours for only $40.” Then it hit me. Whenever Fred asks me if I’d like to do something, as he did a few days earlier, he really means he’d like to do it.

We checked out the surf shop with the advertised deal. They had plenty of boards and a suit in his size. On our bike ride back to the campground, I made one final appeal. “At least talk to somebody who knows what they’re doing and find out what you’re in for.” Once again Fred was silent.

The next day was sunny and hot. I biked to Oswald West State Park while Fred drove to the surf shop. We agreed to meet at the parking lot that led to Falcon Beach, a mecca for surfers.

Halfway up a long hill, when my calves were begging me to get off and walk, a black Mazda passed by with a surfboard lashed to the roof. Fred waved through the open sunroof window.

From the parking lot, we carried the surfboard down the kilometre-long trail to the beach. “It’s heavier than I thought it would be,” he said and we put it down periodically to catch our breath.

On the beach, I huddled in the shade while Fred put on the wetsuit, complete with mitts and a hood. He posed for some photos, then off he went. He was back again 10 minutes later. “The current’s taking me too far south,” he said, “I’m going farther up the beach.”

I watched him paddle out, duck the waves, and paddle some more. At one point, I lost track of him. When I caught sight of him again, he was standing up. I threw my arms in the air and as soon as I let out a “Woohoo!” I realized it wasn’t Fred at all, but another man with the same colour surfboard.

Precisely one hour after he started, Fred announced, “I’m done,” and plopped down on the sand.


The next morning at breakfast Fred said, “I still can’t believe I went surfing.” I wondered if lying on and falling off a surfboard a number of times qualified as surfing, but I kept that to myself. “I’m just glad you didn’t injure yourself,” I said.

“Oh, I forgot to tell you. Some guy saw the surfboard on our car and asked how the surfing was. I told him, ‘I don’t know. It was the first time I ever tried it.’ ‘Oh, then,’ he says. ‘The correct answer is:

It was the best surfing I ever had in my life!’”

And I could see by the smile on Fred’s face that it was.

—Esther Hizsa is a writer and spiritual director from Burnaby, B.C.

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