Riding the Waves

By Kara Richardson Whitely

My friend Suzanne invited us down for a day to Ocean Grove, where she was renting a shore house.

I loved the idea of a beach day, except that even after dropping pounds, heading to the beach still kind of freaked me out. While I’ve been up Kilimanjaro three times, putting on a swimsuit requires more bravery than taking on Mount Everest, the world’s highest peak.

Still, I do it. I do it because it’s important to get out and about with my kids. I bolster up bravery and courage, thanks to Jennifer Weiner, one of my literary heroes, who encouraged people to just wear the swimsuit. [Link here].

But putting on a swimsuit and going in the water are two very different things. This was our first ocean visit of the season. I had been a journalist for a decade and found myself paranoid about all the bad things that could happen.

I reminded myself that I had done everything right. We picked a spot on the beach deemed safe for swimming. It was a safe distance from the rocks along the coast. Lifeguards patrolled it. We went during low tide and we could be waist-high. We had enough adults to supervise the kids.

With Anna and her friend out on the ocean riding the waves, and my husband jumping with Emily and her friend, I found myself with Elliott on the sand.

Maybe I would go calf-deep, with my little guy on my hip. When my friend’s mother offered to take the kids to see the crabs on nearby rocks, and Chris took Elliott out in the waves, I was free to join Anna deep in the water.

She begged me to go in with her.

At first, I was terrified. While I love to watch the rhythm of the waves coming to the shore, I don’t like the push and pull of the ocean. Plus, the water was shockingly cold but Anna really wanted to go in with me. So I took a deep breath and trudged in against the waves.

We found a spot along the tide line where we could just enjoy the ride of the ocean, bouncing up and down like buoys. From there, I could see the beautiful beach. Anna and I felt the fear of an impending wave. As it enveloped us and pushed us off along the tide, I tried to let go and just experience it. I enjoyed feeling out of control.

In those moments, I could remember the joy of when my mother took me to Maine and I felt the ocean for the first time. Back then, I spent the whole day in the water and went home with a blistering sunburn. But the experience was magical and amazing. The ocean, while powerful, was mysterious and wonderful, not complicated by any issues I’d accumulate later while I grew up and distanced myself from the beach.

Now, as an adult, though I’m much more adamant about reapplying sunscreen, I don’t want to put my weight, fear, or body image issues in the way of Anna or any of my kids having that same amazing experience.

From now on, I’ll ride the waves.

Follow Kara on Connect @gorgegirl15

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