There was a time when I would race across the broad stretch of sand and charge into the surf –fearless in the foaming waves; prepared for the impending plunge. I would dive into the on coming wave, embracing the sudden cold rush without hesitation. I was the embodiment of the Cowabunga spirit! The embodiment of joy, happiness and surprise. I dashed, splashed and crashed with the best of them. Well, that spirit evaporated fairly quickly. I’m not sure what happened to it actually. Maybe it was the natural progression from the bravado of youth to the measured machinations of adulthood? Maybe the spirit of Cowabunga just drifted out with the tide?
I do know it’s gone. These days I take a more leisurely approach to entering the surf. I sit on the beach under my umbrella observing the state of the waves. I lather on sunscreen and conduct a quick poll of the numbers already swimming. I consider the sky, the strength and direction of the breeze, and the temperature of the day.
In time I walk slowly to the shoreline to dip a tentative toe in the water to gauge the temperature. If my test proves positive, I accept the invitation to undertake a full body immersion.
I walk slowly into the water –ankles, knees waist deep. I immerse my wrists in the water and allow my body to adjust to its watery environment. The wind whips up the waves and I stand taller and involuntarily shudder as the plimsoll line is broached. The operation is complete when I take the final plunge into the approaching waves. Sudden, dramatic, cooling bracing- I’m in and under –at one with the wetness.
The ceremony is complete. The freshness of the water revives and refreshes. It amuses my grandchildren. They never got to see me in my Cowabunga days. My expressions of joy and happiness are still apparent, just a little less physical these days.