When I was sixteen, there was a cyclone warning for our region over a weekend - naturally the girly friends and I wanted to go to the beach. The beach is awesome during a storm.
We got there in plenty of time before the cyclone - it was hours away - and the ocean was having a wonderful time, pulling back hard from the shore and crashing like a punk rocker on a Barry Manilow birthday party in the breakers. Awesome.
My friends were a bit shy of the waves, so they stayed in the shallows, but I wanted to go body surfing - the action was kicking and I wanted a piece of it. So I left them there, made my way past the breakers and got into open waters.
Small swells by any global measure - I was not in Hawaii after all, but I had never felt anything like it. The sheer force under the water, the ebb and tow - it was like being lifted in the hand of a giant. The sky was raging above, dark, ominous clouds rushing past, sprays of heavy rain, and here’s little teen me, sitting like a raisin in a cement mixer, howling at the wind.
The waves were too chaotic for a good ride - I switched tactics and played under the water instead, riding the currents just below the surface, like a seal. It was so cool - turning over on my back, I could see the storm in the sky, through the racing water above me.
I went to the surface for air, turned to the horizon to watch, and immediately got pummelled by an oncoming wave. The force pulled me right down again, and I hit the deck on my back. I was dragged along the sand for a few seconds, and as I turned over, I was hit by another force that flipped me over - I was somersaulting along the bottom, unable to get control back - and I was running out of air.
I pushed out with my feet, causing enough drag to slow me down, and I couldn’t work out which way was up. I kicked out, and ended up hitting the deck again. Wrong way dummy.
I flipped, pushed off from the ocean floor, and made it to the surface. To get smacked in the face by another wave. But after choking and spluttering for a bit, I got my air back, and kicked off towards shore.
By the time I was in the shallows, my friends and a life saver were running out to get me; I had bleeding abrasions all along my back from getting dragged, and my swimsuit was half torn off from the force of the water.
They got me up to the guard point, checked me over, checked my breathing, made me sit for a few minutes, and then pronounced me good to go.
And I went back out there, into the storm, and had a ball.
There is ALWAYS going to be something out there bigger and meaner and tougher than you. It’s going to kick your ass, and show you that your life can be ripped away from you in seconds, take everything from you, and leave you lying on a shore, gasping like a guppy.
And if you want something so bad that you don’t even care about that, you’ll go back and try again. And again. And again.