Surf

I didn’t capture the best shot of the day. It’s always so hard to know when to bring the camera and when to leave it behind., when to pick it up and when to just look. This is an on-going struggle/question, and it should be: how much are we missing when we are behind a camera or a phone, determined to capture a moment we’re not actually participating in? I have struggled with this for as long as I’ve loved photography.

We went to the beach early in the morning and I stood on the shore and watched her ride wave after wave, getting churned by the ocean, falling down off the board and getting back up again. She never got tired, never gave in. I had to suggest, after a few hours, that we get some breakfast and even then she feigned patience and gobbled some yogurt so she could get back to her sea.

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There was a slow lead-up to the best shot of the day. I saw, from my blanket on the beach, the cop with the fancy cop boots on — equestrian boots, it looked like — walking down the beach with a man who looked pissed-off. He looked like the kind of guy who hates it when people don’t follow the rules.

I watched the two of them stop and gesture to my daughter to come out of the water. I wondered if she had offended someone in her unrelenting quest to carve out her ocean space. Had she hit someone with her board? Was she not following some kind of unspoken surfer rule or regulation? Secretly I kind of loved that she might be getting in trouble, that she was just enough surfer renegade already to warrant a visit from the police.

She emerged from the water and walked over to them; talking ensued. Half of Mom me wanted to go over and find out what was happening; the other half knew it best to let my teenager handle it herself. Board in hand, she came toward me. “You’re not allowed to surf between 11 and 5,” she said, with her brand new surfer girl petulance.

I got it; we both did, the beach was getting crowded, though there seemed to be more than enough ocean to accommodate swimmers and surfers. There’s enough room on the mountain for skiers and snowboarders, right? I watched as the angry man walked away, seemingly pleased with the outcome. And I got my kid back on the blanket, but it wasn’t the same.

Helen Cooper Hood Eyre has been gong to the sea since she was born. Maybe even way before that. She came here with salt water in her veins, so happy is she in the waves, so content to be part of the tides. She would have surfed from sun-up until sundown if not for the rules.

”Being out there, even when I was just sitting waiting for a wave, that was the most peaceful I’ve been in a long time,” she told me later. We knew she had found her way right to the very thing she’s supposed to be doing, surfing the waves of the oceans of this world.

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Me, fraidycat lady, swallowed up once by a powerful undertow, slashed by a man-o-war, won’t swim unless all is calm, prefers to watch from the shore … apparently I gave birth to a mermaid.