There were a lot of reasons why I didn’t surf much growing up on O‘ahu. One, you needed a board, and I didn’t have one. Second, you needed a way to transport the board (that I didn’t have) to the beach.
My cousins all surfed, mostly on the West Side. In fact, one surfed competitively; another — her sister — is a master paddler. But I was so much younger — 10 years at least — that by the time I was interested, they weren’t surfing anymore. Or they moved away. Or they had kids. It was just me — and no board.
So, after I had moved back home from Chicago, after I had gotten a job that would afford me a car (with racks) and a board (used), I decided, OK, I’m doing it. I was single, I had a lot of free time, I was going to surf as much as humanly possible.
And I did.
I bought a used 9-foot Tanaka board for $300 — which I still have — outfitted my silver Honda Civic with hard racks and went down to Waikīkī every single morning.
Up until I got pregnant last year — I stopped surfing at five months — I went down to the beach just about every morning. Always at Queen’s, always before sun up, and always eager to start my day in the surf.
Over the years, I surfed at different breaks — Diamond Head, Tongg’s, Chun’s, Rest Camp, Rockpiles, a few spots in Maunalua Bay, on Maui and Kaua‘i, in New Zealand and Ireland, in Fiji and Costa Rica — but I always came back to my home break. To Waikīkī.
The dawn-patrol group at Queen’s has become a family of sorts. (I used to see them more than my actual family, to be honest.) What started off as friendly banter in the lineup had turned into such a close relationship we’ve traveled to Vegas and Japan together, we have breakfast just about every morning together, we celebrate birthdays and weddings and retirements together. Strong arms and a mental break aside, surfing had given me this rare gift — of true friendship — that was completely unexpected.
Surfing has become such a cool thing to do — and to say you do. And I almost hesitate to tell people it’s my hobby. I still refuse to call myself a “surfer.” I surf, it’s a verb, it’s not my occupation. And it aggravates me when people pick up the sport to subscribe to a lifestyle that’s purely born out of a marketing campaign. I don’t do it because it’s cool or because my friends are doing it or because it gets likes on Instagram. I do it because it’s fun, it fuels my soul, it’s a great workout, I love being in the water, it’s how I hang out with my friends and I can’t bring my phone with me to the lineup.
And surfing has never defined me. I surf, yes. (And I do own more boards than I’d like to admit.) But I also hike, play tennis, shoot hoops, hit taiko drums, bake, swim, garden, look for native birds, dance, travel, write and read. I even twirl a baton. I don’t sit around and talk about surfing all day long (like a lot of my classmates in high school did) or chase waves or plan trips around swells or call in sick because surf’s up. There’s so much more to do. Surfing is just part of my life. It’s not my whole life.
Now, though, life has changed. The Old Guys have all told me that when they had kids, they stopped surfing, some for 20 years. I really didn’t think that would happen to me. Why would I stop surfing? Just because I had a baby? Actually, yes. Having a baby changes a lot.
While I do get in the water at least once a week — thanks to a very generous mother-in-law and a husband who lets me run away on Saturday mornings — I don’t surf nearly as much or as often as I used to. (It’s not the safest to surf wearing your baby in an Ergo. Plus, it’s hard to paddle out with that thing on.) But you know what? It’s OK. I miss it — but not enough to hate my life and regret having this baby. Not even close. I love spending this time with the little guy. And I know, soon enough, we’ll both be paddling out to the lineup together. And that will make surfing even better.