Yes, that’s me out there. I’m the fifty-year-old round woman with bleached-blonde hair, wearing shorts and a tank top. The boogie board strap is around my wrist, I’m carrying the board, and I’m stepping out into the cold, cold waters of the Shining Sea.

The other 50-something fat moms are on the beach under their umbrellas, reading. I see them (thank you, inventor of Lasik) and I feel, momentarily, foolish for being the fat lady in the water, moving farther out, aching for the ride.

Smack! A wave tags me, and I move through it. It wasn’t the right wave. I know this, because from generations past, I am a California girl, and when I am in the water, the 50, the fat, the mom-of-five, the lady living with an emotional disaster, the law student who crashed and burned on a Constitutional Law practice exam, the ordinary person that is me simply disappears, and I am, not to be melodramatic, but really, one woman against the ocean.

But wait, I’m not against the ocean. You can’t be “against” the ocean. The ocean is not something you can tame, not something you can have dominion over, not something God gives you dominion over. The ocean is The Ocean, and this particular ocean is the biggest one we’ve got. I’m not against it: I’m in love with it.

(Sure, I’ll take you on over “subdue the earth,” which can be partially done, while subduing the ocean is simply not possible. We can travel over it or explore under it or play at the edges, but subdue? Hardly.)

Here it is—this is the wave I want. I bend my knees and launch at the right instant and ride, laughing, all the way up onto the sand, where I roll off the boogie board, clamber up onto my feet and run—literally run—back out into the water.

At this moment I wonder if the Umbrella Ladies have a tiny bit of longing to have what I have. If they think, “For crying out loud, if that lady can do it, why am I here doing the Will Shortz crossword puzzle?” Or are they rolling their eyes and thinking, “What is the matter with that lady?”

Do I care what they think? Yes, a little tiny part of me (okay, a pretty big part) feels conspicuous, over-aged, wrong gendered, and so forth, for this activity.

Still, the desire to participate is overwhelming. I long for this. I’m going to have it. I’m going to ride waves until I physically can’t get up anymore. I’m going to get scraped up on the sand, submerged by the water, tossed, and trashed, and I’m going to love every moment.

I look around. My boys are not doing so well. Here’s why:

First, they don’t know the waves like I do. I know what a ride-able wave looks like. Been doing this for a while now, people, and even though I haven’t been to this particular beach in decades, a wave is a wave is a wave, and the ones you can ride up onto the sand look a certain way.

Second, the boys are not pointing their boards the right direction. To access the power of the wave, you have to be going in the same direction. Did you hear what I just said: To access the power of the wave, you have to be going in the same direction. Sit there. Ponder.

Third, they don’t know where to stand. You have to be at the right elevation in relation to the wave. You have to be standing on the sand with a certain amount of your body out of the water, or the wave will power over you. You need a good foundation.

Fourth, you have to know the right moment to launch.

Fifth, you have to push off. There is that infinitesimal moment when you are out there before the wave picks you up and carries you along. This is the faith-moment. The commitment moment when you step off the ledge, into the air, onto the limb, into the breach.

If you read my work with any regularity, you know that while all this was going on this week at Huntington Beach, I was actively thinking about the work of the Holy Spirit. As I pointed my boogie board, I thought, “I have to be going His way.” As I observed waves forming just beyond me, the ones that I wouldn’t be able to ride, because I wasn’t far enough “out there,” I realized there were things I could not yet access, places I could not yet go. And I wanted to access; I wanted to go.

(I can hear some people wondering: Does she really think like this all the time? FYI, yes.)

A few more thoughts:

You have to get in the water. It’s cold at first. It’s really cold at first, and you have to get used to it, bit by excruciating bit. Then you’re in. That’s when you’re ready to look for waves, and not until then. If you get slapped by a wave before you’re properly in, it just knocks you over. You can wonder at the power, but it isn’t doing anything for you. You’re not moving in concert with it; you’re actually in the way.

Or you could say at this point that you are being enticed by the water, lured. Come here, person who aches for the ride. Come here, desirer of joy. Come here, you who long to be one with the water. Come: the ride is exhilarating, the ride is life-giving.

Sometimes when you are riding a gigantic, powerful wave, and you are speeding toward the dry sand, you realize that you are going to collide with people who are right in your way. You have to make a decision, but the answer cannot be that you allow the collision. You have to get off the board. You have to drag your hands, you feet, your legs in the sand or do whatever you have to do to avoid crashing into little children who are unaware of your speedy approach.

This can hurt, because you get scraped on the sand trying to stop yourself in time, and in the end, you have to just stop cold and fall over onto your face. No one thanks you for this. They just look at you funny, or maybe it’s just me. Someone help me with the spiritual connection on this point. I’m still thinking.

One other thing: when the day is done, there is evidence of what happened. I’m wet, for one. I’m joyful. My whole body aches for rest. I’m browner, even with 45 SPF. And I want to go back tomorrow. I want to live there.


  1. Lived it with you. We used to ride together on the same “raft” – large, inflated, rented by the hour – we would ride tandem or singly from before the clouds burned off until Jack’s (beach rental business) was closing. Fun in the sun. Like you part of me will always be a California boy living on the beach.

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