I took my eldest daughter surfing on her own board for the first time. I was no longer pushing her onto the waves like over the previous two summers when she was learning but still not ready to do it on her own.
I jumped on my board and started paddling, and the 10-year-old followed me.
I turned around and she smiled and we paddled through the high tide-filled trench on a hot summer morning with the wind blowing offshore under deep blue skies at a beach break in Pinamar on the coast of Argentina. We paddled through the trench separating the shore break from the surf and we came to a sandbar where we could stand and wade, and we pushed on, wading and jumping over the waves, and then we paddled through the section where the waves break.
It was a mid-sized day with a few larger waves every so often, and we made it outside easily.
“This is fun!” she said.
I smiled and scanned the horizon for any sets that could break on top of us and fluster my daughter’s courage, a girl who so wants to surf on her own. I’ve not pushed her to surf nor cajoled her or even pressed on her that surfing is not just a sport but a passion that, if you let it, will shape your life. It has mine. I’ve spent most of my youth and most of my holidays since then in the pursuit of waves, from Punta de Lobos in Chile to Supertubos in Portugal and Thurso in Scotland.
We waited and my daughter sat up on her board.
A set came and I took the first wave, a fast left hander, and my daughter was left her on her own without quite knowing what to do.
I raced back and she looked at me and smiled. I said, “Let’s get one together,” and so we paddled and caught a smaller wave. I rode on my belly and she stood and rode to the deeper waters of the trench, and she beamed.
“That was fun!” she said.
We paddled back out and a big set came and we got caught. I dove off my longboard and she got thumped by the wave and came up spluttering and nervous. A second wave crashed on her head and down she went again, and I looked on nervously. I swam to her and her face was panicky and tears were almost forming, and my face sank.
“I got all wrapped up in the leash,” she said. “I thought I was going to die.”
I helped her back onto her board and we started paddling out again, and as we went her panic subsided and her smile returned and her concerns melted away.
“Shall we catch another?”
So out we paddled, a father who wants so much to share with his daughter and his other two children what brought him so much joy in his youth – and still does, a sport, a lifestyle, a passion that never seems to dull but continues to race through my mind and shapes my planning, that sends me driving on the search for waves, and makes me giddy in the anticipation of cresting a hill or a sand dune or a ridge before looking down to the ocean to see what waves lie in store that morning, waves that may very well keep me chatting about them for the rest of the day, when after the fix my life and its events, its chores and its necessities and troubles seem to all fall into line and I can breathlessly and happily take them on because my body after the strain of paddling and surfing now feels calm and whole from the adrenaline and satisfaction. I know that I have done something special.
As we approached the outside, a wave came and my daughter, her confidence back, turned to me and said, “I’ll take this one.”
Off she paddled and she stood and rode, and I beamed with visions of family trips to Fiji, Hawaii, Peru and the north shore of Scotland on the hunt for a few good waves and these special times on our own in the surf and with each other on our boards.