South winds. South winds! Southwindssouthwindssouthwinds!!!

If only I wasn’t completely and totally without any skill to speak of whatsoever.

Yeah, it was that kind of morning. What looked like a promising session of consistent overhead lefts started out with me pulled out past the red dolo, a good 30-yards further outside than anyone else. And when I say “good,” what I mean is, I stayed in the channel too long, then couldn’t paddle back toward the beach because I was fighting the outgoing current, so I had to paddle at an angle until I eventually rejoined the rest of the pack. Not fun. I understand how people might panic easily, suddenly alone, so small and distant from shore, paddling and paddling and going nowhere.

I did not panic however.

I did not have good luck with waves unfortunately either. Despite my efforts, I was not in the right spot at the right moment. This escalated when both R and I were caught inside a set wave. “Damn, still not out far enough!” I heard him holler as I stroked hard toward the building wave face. I almost made it over, but the top of the wave caught me, tossed me. Something pulled my leash tight. As I popped up for breath, I saw R’s board, but not him, and realized he was tangled in my leash. I heard yelling, but before I could do anything, another wave broke on us. This time, R came up, too. “I’m sorry!” I cried. “Are you all right?” He assured me he was, asked if I was. I said yes, but really I thought I’d done something horribly wrong. The smart thing would’ve been to keep my chin up, find out what happened. Instead I paddled in, getting thrown over the falls on the way in a classic case of insult-to-injury, and slunk away.

Four years ago, I surfed a lot. I paddled out into bigger swells. I challenged myself. Some days, I got worked – but sometimes I caught waves that made everything else fall away. My confidence soared. And then, a series of morale-killers: witnessing the shark attack, breaking my leash in double-overhead surf, hurting my back. My back has never stopped hurting. My confidence has yet to return. Days like this do nothing to help. What if I’ve already had the best surf days I’ll ever have? What if I’m never again going to surf as much or as well? I can’t stand it.