This morning I took a giant step out of my comfort zone in the name of adventure. I went surfing with my brother in Long Beach Island, NJ.
To properly set the stage:
- As I walked up to the beach, I was walking through snow on the sand still hanging on from the last snow storm
- The air temperature was 45 degrees
- The water temperature was 36 degrees
- The waves were 4-6 feet (which is very large for this area)
- On top of all of that, I am not a good surfer. Yes, I’ve been surfing for over 15 years. But, no, I am not all that great. I only end going a couple times a year.
Add on top of that, the fact that I’ve never been surfing when the water temperature has been below the mid 50s, so I didn’t know what to expect from an ocean in the mid 30s. I let my imagination get the best of me, but I had to set my fears aside. If other people were doing this and not instantly becoming an iceberg, then so could I. Besides, what else could be more exciting on a Saturday morning in March.
Let's do this
All bundled up in my brother’s old wetsuit, gloves, booties and hoodie, I walked right into the ocean. Surprisingly, I could barely feel the coldness of the water on my legs as I walked out into the waves. I was expecting the worst, but this wasn’t that bad. So far.
The first time my head went under water was a different story. Your face is the only part of your body that isn’t fully covered in thick rubber. When that ice water hit my face it was a reality check. That was nothing though compared to what came next.
Time to panic
I monster wave broke right in front of me as I was paddling out and launched me off my board. Pulling me underwater, I tumbled through the aftermath of this disasterous wave. The water was so cold that I felt every ounce of energy sucked out of my body. Not knowing which way was up or where my board was, I started to panic.
That panic lasted only a split second before I somehow convinced myself that panicking wasn't helping. My feet found the bottom and that was all I needed. I used the last of my energy to srping myself to the surface, hop back on my board and effortlessly float back to the shore.
Freezing Ocean 1. John 0.
That whole experience in the water lasted about 15 minutes. I then took about 20 minutes on the beach to regather myself and regain my energy.
I was more prepared for attempt #2. I had a plan. I was determined to get out past the breakers.
I paddled my arms off for 10 minutes and was so close to being able to rest I could taste it. My arms were totally useless at this point as the cold had sucked all of the energy out of them, but I kept paddling. Then I saw it and knew my journey was over.
A huge set of waves appeared out of no where. At first, I paddled with all the energy I had left thinking I might make it over the first wave before it broke. This monster wave would have none of it. When it became apparent that I wouldn’t make it over the wave and with virtually no energy left in my arms, I turned the board to the shore and admitted defeat.
The size of the wave was big enough to launch me like a shot out of a cannon. I stood up and rode the white water all the way into the beach. Certainly not the greatest ride of my life, but given the circumstances, I was happy with my effort.
One last attempt
Attempt #3 went my like attempt #1. Paddled out for a while. Giant wave came and rocked me. Somehow the wave managed to go right down the front of my wetsuit, and now I had ice water on my neck and chest. Breathing wasn’t really very fun. I tried to paddle some more, but the cold water made paddling almost impossible. Back to the beach.
A man on fire
I set my board down in the sand and took a seat. With the sun in my face, I closed my eyes to take it all in. The familiar smell of the salt water. The constant roaring of the waves. The radient heat of the sun being absorbed by the black wetsuit. The sad state of every muscle in my entire body.
It was a truly transcendental moment.
When I opened my eyes, I was astonished. My entire wetsuit was producing a massive amount of steam. I was on fire! A combination of my body heat and then sun was turning that icy cold ocean water into steam. I felt unlimited energy in that moment.
Things my brother failed to tell me at the time:
- The ocean was the coldest it has been all winter
- The waves were the biggest they had been pretty much all winter
- The board I was using was about 1.5 feet too long for the size of the waves
While I failed to get in any quality surfing, it was an incredible experience. It gave me an even greater appreciation for the ocean. More importantly though, it was another adventure that allowed me to step way outside of my comfort zone challenging what I previously thought possible for myself.