You know that feeling you have when your heart set on something, I mean really set on something, not just casually, but like a three year old with the fierce determination and unwavering heart set on piece of candy from the store? That was me with surfing, minus the toddler tantrum in the grocery store, but it did come close to an adult tantrum one day, but I’ll get to that in a second.
There was something about surfing that just drew me in and I wanted to experience it for myself. Not just attempt it, but to actually surf. By the time I was in my late 30’s I decided I needed to do something about this dream of mine if it was ever going to happen.
A trip was planned. My friend Athena and I were flying out to Long Beach, California to spend the weekend with our mutual friend Beth who we hadn’t seen in years. Beth had invited us to come and stay with her and her family on their sailboat and surf. Not only was I about to get a chance to fulfill a dream, but the situation was beyond perfect. Good friends, a sail boat, locals to show us the best beaches, friends for surf instructors. I couldn’t wait.
The morning Athena and I were to fly out I received a phone call from Beth. Her father in law has just suffered from a serious stroke and they were, at that very moment, in the car making an unexpected trip miles away to go be with their family during the critical time.
I called Athena and we debated whether or not we should call off the trip. We had no plans. Beth was picking us up from the airport, she was providing our lodging, she was our guide, and she was our surf instructor. We debated back and froth all day. Two hours before our plane was to leave we made the decision to go but I was unsettled and in tears by this point. I felt like my dream was slipping away and there was nothing I could do about it. We went from having a well thought out plan to nothing. No plan, no ideas, no leads, no clues.
Literally minutes before Athena and I boarded the plane we were searching for a hotel to stay in for that night while we still had WiFi access. A few hours later we landed at the small and deserted Long Beach airport. Did I mention this trip was in the middle of January? January means off season and many shops and other services that were abundant during the busy season had seemingly dried up and disappeared.
We made our way to the hotel and started making plans for the next day. Having completely turned our trust to our local friend/tour guide, before this evening we hadn’t even done so much as a simple google search for recommend places to go and beaches to see and places that offered surf lessons. We knew nothing.
By the time morning rolled around, our plan consisted of renting a car and heading to the ocean. We picked out a few beaches that looked interesting and decided that we’d try to call a few surf shops to see if anyone was open and offering lessons in the middle of January.
Armed with a map from the hotel and google maps, we headed to our first predetermined beach destination. I still clung onto my hope of surfing, but the reality of the situation made it look nearly impossible. It broke my heard to have been so close to actually reaching a dream of mine and then to have it vanish just moments before. I felt like I was dehydrated chasing a mirage in the desert just hoping for water but never getting close.
What happened next was what some might call a coincidence, some might call the universe. I call it “tender mercies”, “divine design”, and “the Lord’s hand.”
We took the wrong turn and ended up heading down a different road than we had planned. Once we realized our mistake we figured out a new way to get to a beach from where we were. It wasn’t a big deal, we’d just end up hitting a different beach than we had planned.
As soon as the ocean was in view we pulled over and got out and walked along the sand. I felt happy just to be near the ocean and to hear the waves and to feel the breeze. The beach was deserted, there wasn’t another sole in sight. As we walked further down the beach we saw a group of people on the sand, and of all things, having surfing lessons. I don’t think it would be to far from the truth to suggest that this was perhaps the only surfing class that was happening along the Californian coast at that very moment. The chances of running into a surfing class on that day at that time on a beach that we had not even planned on going to…it was much more than a simple coincidence. I mean, what were the chances? Of all the beaches we could have picked to go to, we ended up at this one. It was the middle of January, might I remind you, and most tourist things were closed or had limited hours.
Turns out they were part of a college surfing class (oh, to go to college in California near the ocean). Within an hour of our arrival at this beach, which we had not planned on going to, we found ourselves in the water surfing. I actually stood up on the surf board and rode some waves. It was even more amazing and wonderful than I had imagined. My face hurt from smiling so much. I felt like yelling out, “I’m surfing! I’m surfing! I’m a surfer!”
It’s risky to dream. You might experience heart ache, sorrow, disappointment, fear, doubt, confusion. You have to learn to tolerate the struggle. There is a possibility that in striving to reach your dreams, you might get close enough to taste it and then it might slip away. At times you will do everything within your power to make it happen, which you should, and even then it is possible that events will happen that are beyond your power to control that might seem to rob you of your dream. And then what will you do? What will you do when you are reaching for a dream and you fall down hard? Those are the risks with having dreams. But I believe having dreams is a risk worth taking.
By the way, I’d like you to met Skyler, our surf instructor. He was the perfect surf instructor for this whole experience. Not only did he truly have a gift for teaching others how to surf (my friend Athena had taken surf lessons before and had never gotten up on, but this day she did!) But he was also the most perfect stereotype of a surfer. It kind makes the dream that much more exciting. It’s like going to Scotland and being greeted by a group of men in kilts playing the bagpipes. It just adds flavor to the whole experience. Skyler greeted us with a big smile and a long sentence that was filled with words like “dude” and “stoked”. He had long blonde hair, a tan in January, the surfer accent, even his name was a surfer name. He even gave us our own surfer nickname: “barnacles”. I’m not sure if that is surfer slang for babe or if was reference to our age and the fact that we old enough to be his mother.