Blue, green, white, grey, more blue. These are the colors of Bali, with some splashes of mango orange and passion fruit red. This color pallet brings tranquility to my spirit.
The sky was clear and I was cruising. The bright blue surfboard I’d borrowed was strapped to my motor bike. I climbed over the paved hills through tropical forest, south of Kuta. I just left Padang Padang, where there were crowds and low surf. The tide was getting better at another break just a 15 minute ride away, someone told me. I knew that beach. It wasn’t a secret spot by any means, but it was much less overrun than Padang Padang.
It was a trip of seconds for me. The second time I rode a motorbike in a foreign country. Flying through that beautiful lush green country, with wind in my hair and on my skin, was a sensation that had no comparison. I had the freedom of being my own driver and a schedule with one agenda: the sea.
It was also the second trip I devoted to surfing. I’d just finished a week long surf camp with Rapture, and my body was toned and craving the water. My paddling was better than ever and I had several days to practice catching waves on my own. I was beginning to understand the rhythm of the ocean. Shame it was my last day at the beach.
I parked next to other bikes at a cliff edge that overlooked the break. The view of the ocean seemed to go on forever and disappear into the sky. I could see small specks of surfers bobbing among growing waves. I would hang around the side, I thought, like my friend instructed me, so I could watch the experienced surfers and catch the smaller waves (and hopefully not get in anyone’s way).
It was a pretty long climb down the cliff with a board, but I managed the whole thing in about 5 minutes. I dropped off my stuff at a warung tended by woman with black and silver hair down to her waist. She didn’t look like she surfed, but I could tell she spent a lot of time with surfers. She had a little shack at a beautiful surf spot, serving snacks, coffee and noodles. I planned to buy a chocolate bar from her when I came back.
As I pushed onto my board in the water my whole body felt instantly refreshed. I paddled out and felt the presence of the endless white sand and rocky cliffs surrounding me.
To be in the sea, under the sun. A meeting place of two sources of life. What more do you need from the world?
As I was getting further out, the waves were beginning to crash on me. The instructors at the camp taught me two ways to get through quickly: move to the front of the board and push down–hard, or if its a stronger wave, pull forward toward the nose and flip the board over your body just as the wave is passing over. Before I learned these essentials, paddling against breaking waves was like fighting the ocean and taking a beating.
I spent about 2 hours out there, a complete novice among surfers significantly more experienced than me. To my surprise (considering the alleged pride and exclusivity of surf communities), a lot of them were really kind and helpful. I waited in the line-up studying them, when to start paddling, where they kept their focus, which waves they took.
They observed me too, and after a few meagerly successful rides, a few approached me with some important advice. You’re too stiff, you’re leaning too far back, you should keep your head up. I logged these things into my muscles and practiced in my mind as I waited and watched. I wanted my body to work in sync with the rhythm of the water, just like them. I imagined it as I watched the others. I also kept my gaze on the waves behind me.
A silver lining. Take this one, B, they said. I paddled, smoothly, then hard, speeding. The wave caught me, one hard stroke, pop-up, sweep feet under, ride. Ride.
I can’t fully explain the feeling. I was flying on water. I was alone, and together with everything all at once. I prayed to the heavens and I got a reply. I was in the home I grew up in, and just getting to know the place. That’s the connection I have with the sea.
I came back to the beach to have my chocolate bar and beer. I sat on the beach with some gnarly looking beach bums with sandy dreadlocks. They played reggae on their acoustic guitar, I played whatever I could remember. They asked me how many boyfriends I had, then told me about their girlfriends. They asked if I was coming back, and I told them it was my last day. That’s a shame, B.
It really was.
I count the days until I can return to the beach. I’m in a long-distance relationship with the Sea, and I’m going to hang on until I’m re-united. I’m in love. Crazy love. And she’ll never leave me. She’s in my name.