“Don’t fear failure so much that you refuse to try new things. The saddest summary of a life contains three descriptions: could have, might have, and should have.” - Louis E. Boone
For me, sport always existed in two exclusive worlds: football and rugby. Everything else felt like a distraction. It wasn’t until I was 18-years-old that I discovered how wrong I had been. I moved from the landlocked South Wales Valleys to the coastal town of Scarborough. And within hours I found myself growing obsessed with the North Sea. My entire life had been shadowed by the megalith Brecon Beacons and the sharp edges silhouetting the Heads of the Valley Road. This brand new watery landscape fascinated me. From my flat I could see right out to the horizon, drawing a fine line across the waves.
I’ll always remember the moment my fascination became an obsession. It was September, and the summer had albeit disappeared. I strolled across North Bay and saw, in the distant waters, one man. He was surfing. At first I thought he’d lost his mind and gone in for a random dip. But soon I realised he had a full wetsuit, leash and longboard. And goodness me could that man surf. It was incredible. He was reading the waves better than I could read the sports section of the Guardian.
24 hours later, I was sitting next to him, on my own longboard; kitted out in a full wetsuit. I’ll be honest, compared to him I looked like an antelope doing origami. I knew it would take me years to appear remotely competent on a surfboard. But what a pleasure it was to learn. I was in the water for five hours that day. And during that time, I came face to face with something I’d only ever seen on nature documentaries; an actual seal. It popped it’s head up next to my surfboard, had a good look at me, and went on it’s way. I felt like I’d been officially welcomed to the water.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m still obsessed with all things football and rugby. However, I can quite safely say, I enjoy watching the wave-riders as much as the ball-kickers. I believe it’s the closest thing to poetry without words you’ll ever see. If you’ve not ventured out to watch surfing up close and personal, I encourage you to add it to your 2014 bucket list.
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