I went surfing for the first time last weekend. A synagogue I’ve gotten involved with offered a lesson as a group activity — one of the rabbis even helped teach it! My grandfather had taught me how to bodysurf, but I’d never tried it with a board before. Seeing, though, how I live so close to perfectly good beaches, it seemed like something to finally try.
It went… it went… well, it wasn’t disastrous, but it was fairly frustrating. From the very beginning, when a miscommunication led me to lug my board all the way down to the wrong end of the wrong beach it became evident that the day wasn’t breaking perfectly. Then, once in the water, the waves started breaking over me… I did catch the first wave, but on my second ride the nose of the board sank into the water, I flipped over, and then my nose got pounded into the sand. It wasn’t broken, nor was it bleeding, but by the following day, and for the rest of the week, I had an enormous dark red milky way of a scab slicing through the constellation of freckles that normally adorn my face.
In the remaining time there I managed to catch a few more waves, but so difficult was it to manipulate the board that I never got the courage to try standing up. Even just trying to get far enough out into the water felt like a huge battle against the elements, as the ocean continually fought me for control.
It wasn’t an entirely horrible experience, of course. Indeed it was a very nice day to be at the beach, not too hot and not too cold, not too sunny and not too foggy, but the sense of futility I had in trying to rise above the tide haunted me. It kept feeling like such a metaphor for life…