I’m Bad at Surfing, and I’m totally Stoked
– Written by Callie Lindemann
I was pushed into my first wave last year. That wave taught me that stoke was a real feeling. And a dangerous one. What was once bearable in my life became intolerable. So in typical millennial fashion, I burned down my life to chase the stoke.
I’ve learned a little bit about surfing since then. I know a little bit about swells- like what a swell is. I learned what a drop feels like because I made one once. I learned that surfboard rash hurts and that wax matters. I learned that you need to properly treat reef cuts with Neosporin and not hydrogen peroxide. I saw Kelly Slater surf and watched Pipeline fire.
I’ve learned a little bit more about myself. I still can’t catch waves on my own. I get scared every time I go out. I suck at paddling and turning my surfboard feels like it takes an eternity. I forget to “use the channel”. I get too close to the rocks. I dropped a friend’s board and dinged it. I was yelled at by an Uncle in the water. I almost ran a dude over. I’m bad at surfing.
Admitting the truth terrorizes the ego and sets the soul free. In America, to be good is to have your existence tolerated. Our collective narrative is: Maybe you’d have health insurance if you just studied a bit more for those SATs, yeah? I spent the last decade of my life avoiding my badness. I tried to contain, pressurize, earn, study, perfect, sculpt, drink, fuck, and glamorize my way into goodness. I believed I could earn my way into existence if I worked hard enough for it.
The ocean is the sphinx that forced my surrender. In the water, I paddle between the gap of my desires and the reality of who I am. I see the truth of my own mediocrity and the truth of my potential. I see the limitations and infiniteness of nature and the limitations and infiniteness of myself.
It is a radical act to let yourself be bad. It is a radical act to be seen as being bad. It is the most radical of all acts to find stoke in the badness.
My ego isn’t big enough to believe that I am the worst surfer on Oahu but maybe? And I may or may not stay that way. It doesn’t matter, really. The stoke is mine. It is not owned by anyone. No one can give it to me. I cannot buy it or barter for it or sell it. I can’t drink or diet my way into it. I can’t get it from Instagram likes, or from boys. It doesn’t care about college degrees or the balance of my bank account. It doesn’t care if my family approves of my choices. It doesn’t even care whether I have a family at all.
I paddle for it. Left-arm. Right-arm. Left-arm. Right-arm. Maybe it will come today. Maybe it won’t. I paddle out anyway.
I am bad at surfing. And it is my birthright. I paddle out and I say: My life matters. I matter. I have a right to be here. The stoke is mine. It is yours. It is no ones.
Callie Lindemann is a writer, lawyer, reader, and surfer on Oahu. You can read more thought-provoking essays from Callie on her Patreon.
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begimiddleCover Photo: Learn It, Then Live it