Well over the course of my 6 day holiday over in sunny Spain I chomped my way through two new books, and as well as picking up lots of interesting quotes and ideas for my essay question, I also fell absolutely head over heels in love with the idea of .. that’s right…Surfing.
The book to blame for this is the autobiographical adventures of Wilma Johnson in her book Surf Mama. Whilst suffering the mid-life crisis that never was in her 40’s, one day she decided to up sticks from her home in Dingle, Ireland with her surf dude husband and 3 young kids to Biarritz, France. She soon splits up with the husband and embarks on her quest to become a Surfer, Hot Chick, Beach Bunny, Surf Mama.
I genuinely think this book might have changed my life. My mind immediately flew to my friends over in Jersey (sixth best surf spot in the world) and wondering how I could wangle a trip to see them and learning to surf at the same time. I then got caught up my dream about travelling the world, imagining how I would simultaneously juggle running my House of Bean business and at the end of the day going out in the bay with the big guys and catching some waves.
Stop. Let’s be realistic.
But actually… what is stopping me? Yeah I’m 16 now but I won’t be forever.
If this book taught me anything it’s that no dream is impossible, despite geographical placing in the world, love life or age.
After finishing it, I was just ravaging to get out in the sea feel the waves breaking under me.. . I did, but not quite the extent of surfing, intstead I hiked 8 miles to the beach, spent 15€ on a bodyboard and went out to feel the exhilaration of being carried back to shore on a fast paced body of water. I accept that this isn’t exactly surfing and it doesn’t even scrape standing up on an 8ft length of fibreglass concealed in a 6 metre tube of water, but still, 60cm waves off the coast of Alicante will have to do for me.
Being based in Ireland for the beginning, the vibe is very countrified and friendly, you can almost smell the Guinness and fresh morning dew when you open the book. Very early on, I hit a quote that really inspired me.”But it’s so hard to leave, just as it’s hard to leave the bar on a Sunday night when the accordion music playing and the old farmers are waltzing in their best suits. It’s too easy to think you’ll stay for one more pint and suddenly it’s three in the morning. Or to think you’ll stay for one more summer and suddenly you’re 40. You have three children, a vegetable garden and some ducks. You also have a fine collection of nursing bras, but your paintings are gathering dust in the attic.”
There is just something so poignant about that little paragraph that not only makes me think about leaving, but also makes me also worried that time can sneak up on anyone, it’s just so true that you think you’ll stay a short time and suddenly half your life has slipped through your fingers. Maybe to a certain degree that’s why I want to travel so much, because I am so startlingly aware even at the age of 16, that when I feel I have wasted a day, I feel like i’ve wasted a proportion of my life. It might sound melodramatic and it probably is, but hey ho.
“It can be hard to continue believing your side of the story when everyone else believes something different. The adventure has become reality. I’m not longer pretending to be a housewife in an Irish fishing village- I really am one. Or, if there’s a difference, I’m the only one that can see it. I’m not an international art star or an international traveller after all.”
Oh Wilma, oh how you hit the nails on the head! She’s so right, painfully right, you can dream all you want about the life you want to have but it gets harder and harder to believe that when everyone else just sees you as a boring every day person. In Wilma’s case, everyone saw her as just the doting housewife with the loving family, but once she got the idea of being a surfer, she believed herself to be a surfer. Maybe that’s all you need, a dream that you can work on, a dream that if you believe hard enough, will happen. I mean, look at Wilma, she turned herself from an everyday country girl to hot surfer chick at the age of 42! I mean come on, if that’s not inspiring then I don’t know what is.
“The invitation asks me to describe the past 20 years in fewer than 100 words. It’s a classic mid-life crisis moment. What have I achieved? Have I let my dreams be dreams? Looking around me, I have to acknowledge I have an idyllic lifestyle: a whitewashed farmhouse with blue wooden shutters and honeysuckle growing over the porch, a garden full of roses, wild lilies and pampa grass. I’ve got three beautiful children; I’ve got poultry and a vegetable patch. But suddenly I find myself wondering if this is what I wanted. I can’t remember when I accepted the role of earth mother that I’ve spent so long playing – it was never on my list of life ambitions”
Wow. Wilma. That’s all I can say. Often I find people mistake wanting something different in your life as being offensive and rude to the life you already live. I find this completely baffling and untrue. People assume that because you want to up sticks and move to do something more exciting then you must be running away from something, and that something must be the awful life you are living. Wrong. Wishing for something more doesn’t mean you are unhappy with your life, far from it, I like to think of it more as just to experience the rest of the world and enhance yourself. I believe that life was not meant to be kept and contained in one place, that’s why so much of the world is beautiful, because we were meant to go out there and get lost in it and be absorbed within it. Be present as it were.
A little appearance from Marlon Brando pops up in Surf Mama, Wilma writes about Brando’s starring in The Wild One, when someone asks Brando’s character, ‘What are you rebelling against?’ and he answered: ‘What’ve you got?’. Oh how I can imagine Brando’s black and white filmed face looking to the camera, eyes emotionless and answering with that line. I think it’s brilliant. It’s a serious question though, Why not rebel if it’ll add a bit more excitement to your life? What’s the point in being boring and conforming to all those horrible ideas from society about being ‘normal’. What’s the point in sitting with your own grandkids in a few years time telling them to follow their dreams if they only do the same as you? Wish they’d done it but never really had the guts to because they didn’t dare rebel?
On the final page of the book, Wilma reflects back on the journey that has led her on her whirlwind surf adventure, as she returns to her old hometown of Dingle to begin her surf tour of the world, she thinks back to how she started and how far she’s gone. “On the sand, visible only to me, is the faintest imprint of the beach blanket where I once sat eating home-made banana loaf with my children and wondered if I was too old and too scared to ever learn to surf. I think about the journey that has brought me full cirlce, back to this place where I had the revelation that I wanted to be a surfer all those years ago… It’s funny to think of everything I’ve been through to get on this wave – all the wipeouts and bruises and feelings of inadequacy, but also all those terrifying and hilarious Saturday afternoons with the Mamas Surf Club. But it wasn’t really about doing a press-up or even standing up on a surfboard, it was about proving that I wasnn’t too old or too scared to do this, that I could transform myself from Surf Widow to Surf Mama’.
Even though I’m only 16 and not for a second do I suggest I do not have long left on this earth, but it is still a feeling that can be applicable to anyone. All the things that we do aren’t always to prove things to the world, sometimes it’s about proving it to yourself and proving that you can live your dreams because, let’s be honest, the only one stopping you is yourself. There will always be ups and downs, in whatever you do, but you can’t have the glory if you don’t accept a little failure at some point.
The Psychologies Magazine also agrees with me on how epic this book is, you only have to read the article that they published above to see that. So, if you’re going away and want some light hearted yet inspiring literature to accompany you, or maybe your an aspiring surfer yourself, or perhaps you just like reading about adventure, this book is absolsutely excellent and I could not recommend it highly enough!
“Let’s go Surfin’!”