Rhythmic Paddling: Surfing in Lima, Peru
February 22, 2017
Strolling Along the Beach
I meander along the rocky shore and smell the damp sea air as it caresses my cheek with a cool, salty kiss. I look out over the vast, Pacific Ocean and watch as the waves rhythmically lap up against the shore.
The view isn’t the best, because the clouds of salty mist block out the rays of the sun that are struggling to be seen. But I just shrug my shoulders and think, “It’ll do.” Kind of like how I approach the entirety of my life.
I take in a deep breath of salty air as I walk along the shore. Solitude is my sole companion and I like it that way. Sometimes I need to be alone, among the waves, as they peacefully wash up upon the shore.
I wistfully yearn to have the peace and serenity that the waves create for me. But my mind is going in so many different directions, that I just can’t seem to settle on any particular path. And so, my mind remains a place of total chaos.
And chaos is the story of my life: I just wander aimlessly, in a multitude of directions, nev
er knowing where to turn next.
At every turn, teachers, family members, and friends all offer their advice as to the life I should lead. They tell me the path I should take and how I should be rich and financially successful.
But I do not listen. I know money is not my path to happiness. But I am not sure where my path to happiness lies. Is it in in the life of an independent, female traveler? I don’t know and contemplate if I will regret this way of life if I choose it for my own.
This thought frightens me because travel is the only way that I am capable of feeling joy. So I panic. And feeling these feelings while being in my body, makes nothing feel right. I wish with all my being that I didn’t always feel like this, but I do.
My skin just always feels way too tight and uncomfortable. And I feel like I’m the only one who feels like this, so a constant state of loneliness descends upon my soul.
I sigh deeply at my own indecision about life and the feeling of eternal loneliness that follows me around like a black cloud. I wonder if I will ever find the path that is right for me. Or am I just avoiding life and responsibility by traveling the world? I may never have the answer to this question. Or maybe it’s just all a jumble of everything. My path may be one of avoidance, but maybe that’s okay for me…
I need to get out of my head. I glance out along the beach and see a crowd in the distance. I briefly contemplate the comfort of human companionship and head over to the crowd.
Surfing in Lima, Peru
As I descend upon the crowd of beach bums, lounging around in skin tight, black wet suits with holes in them, the stench of uncleaned porta-potties hits me. In that moment, I know what that the answer to my momentary, quarter-life crisis is, surfing.
I find the most grizzled, saltiest looking of gentlemen. He smiles at me with the most delighted of toothless grins, and hands me a wet suit, while pointing to the porta-potty of fecal doom in the corner. A wicked stench invades my nostrils as I enter the portable toilet. I fight the urge to vomit, while rapidly changing into a wet suit that is clearly made for someone much taller than me.
I hold my breath, shimmy into the wet suit, and hop on one foot, all in an effort to avoid getting fecal matter all over my, now not so clean, clothes. I exit the porta potty quickly, with an immense
sense of pride that I have survived this most epic of changing room debacles.
I proceed over to a bench where my 15 minute surfing lesson ensues. And this lesson is in Spanish, which my instructor learns is not a language I understand. The lesson quickly turns into a charades game that I am not fully convinced actually teaches me anything about surfing. Looks more like the hokie pokie to me than actual surfing, but I am a woman of eternal faith and hope; a faith that means I will try anything to escape the corners of my mind that perpetually plague me.
I enter into the water and focus all my energy on walking among the shards of jagged, slippery rocks that poke out from the water beneath me. My only goal is to make it past the shallows without breaking my foot, or my neck for that matter. If I can achieve such a goal, this will be a modern miracle unlike any other.
And I actually make it through. Once in deeper waters, I lay upon my board, and unevenly shift my weight around, like any uncomfortable, surfing novice might do. As I do this, the surfboard smacks in protest against the water and I struggle to stay afloat. But as my hands rhythmically dip into the water and pull me forward, my body aligns itself with the board and I feel a sense of relief that I have not felt in a long time.
Back to Shore After Surfing in Lima, Peru
Out here, I feel minuscule in comparison to the expansive nature of the ocean and waves that are laid out before me. And the tinier I feel, the tinier my problems seem to feel.
My problems actually completely dissipate when I realize that my instructor, who led me out here, is no where to be found. All I see are an endless number of unidentifiable, Spanish men, in black wetsuits, none of whom seem to be the man I am looking for; the man who can help me get back to shore.
My eyes frantically scan the water but to no avail. Panic slowly sets in and I silently beg for my eternally futile contemplation of life to take me away from my current predicament.
But my worries about the future will not change the now. Therefore, when the next wave rises up and out of the water, I paddle for it, with all my might. My mind prays that this wave takes me to the safety of the shore, but my soul hopes that it will lead me to a new path, to a future that is truly meant for me.