The water catches me. The roar sounding in my ears as the board lifts. That moment of weightlessness – before my feet touch down, before the water thrusts me towards the rocks – that is what I love most. In that instant, I am flying. This is when I believe I could go anywhere, be anybody, live a life without crying babies and daddies that never come home. What follows is the rush. Knees bent, crouched low, toes gripping the board, I glide, zip-zip, owning that wave. I am fierce. Powerful.
Then I plunge into the swirl, water rushing over my head, pressing against my nostrils, trying to work its way in. Leash on my ankle is tugging, as if my borrowed board is trying to join the schools of fishes and swim alongside the seals. As my head breaks into the open air there is Sir, on the shore, waving at me to come in.
I emerge from the sea and plod across the rocks, holding the board against my thigh. With each step I shrink, turning back into plain old me. Nobody special. Just another teenage girl, and not even a popular one at that, with frizzy plaits made coarse and dry by the sea. “No boy going to look at you like that,” my ma keeps saying. But since Gabriel arrived, that comment has turned from a bad thing to a good thing.
“Not too bad,” Sir says when I get closer. “But you’re bending your a back a bit. Need to stay straight.”
I nod, showing him I’m listening. Sir needs to know you are listening. Everybody thinks surfers are a bunch of laid-back dudes with hardly any cares in the world. Maybe that’s true for most, I’m not saying it isn’t. Might even be true for Sir when he’s not in his coaching mode. But give the man a whistle and he loses any cool he has ever possessed. He’s just blah, blah, blah about my form, from how I hold my chin, to the extension of my fingers. And I nod and nod because any wrong word out of me and I’ll get the angry-Sir. The one that reminds me I’m here fee-free, borrowing his boards and wearing his ripped up and baggy wetsuit that stinks like old men’s socks. At least I hope that’s what that smell is, because otherwise I do not want to know.
I never remind Sir that I’m here to make him look good. Make his team appear open-minded and inclusive. But we know the score, Sir and I. So I keep nodding until he says, “Am I going to get a better commitment out of you this term than I did last? Because the waves don’t run to our schedule, can’t be two-thirty to four o’clock every day. They come mornings, late afternoon, weekends and I need to know you can be there.”
Tell us: Why do you think Tamzin surfs?