Surfing may be a solo sport, but surf culture is a decidedly shared experience. From the respect that surfers must possess towards the ocean, to the etiquette of when and where a wave can be shared, to the sweet sound of cheers coming from the lineup as a friend catches the biggest wave of the day—there is an undeniable togetherness inherent in surfing. It’s why we tell surf stories, take surf photos, and loan each other gear. There’s a secret kind of magic that all surfers have experienced—the connection to nature, the fear, the thrill, the addiction—and to see that secret in another’s eyes is to know that you’re in the same club, together.
I had the chance to hear a surf story recently that I haven’t been able to stop thinking about. It was a story not about the magic of being in the right place at the right time, nor about an epic travel adventure or perfect day. It was a story about commitment.
I was first introduced to Carve Ambassador Britt Harris when I started writing for the Carve blog and I reached out to interview her via email for a post about big wave surfing http://www.carvedesigns.com/blogs/news/113964355-how-to-surf-big-waves-with-no-bikini-triage-lessons-from-the-north-shore-from-britt-harris. I knew only a little about her — that she lived on the North Shore of Oahu, worked as an ER nurse, and surfed some of the world’s most famous big waves in her downtime. We emailed back and forth a bit for the blog post and later connected on social media as well. On a recent trip to Hawaii, the stars aligned and we finally had the chance to meet in person for the first time. She took me on a hike along Ka’ena Point, the western most tip of Oahu where the road around the island doesn’t connect. Like most places that truly take your breath away, it can only be accessed on foot.
It was on this hike, as we watched perfect, empty wave after perfect, empty wave roll into the unoccupied shore that I asked her how she actually learned to surf. Her answer was the story that I haven’t been able to shake since hearing it.
Britt moved to Hawaii when she was 18 with a surf resumé that consisted of a summer spent trying to impress a boy. Eleven years later, she is routinely one of the only women to paddle out to spots like Waimea Bay when the waves are 30 feet high. She's the real deal. When I asked her how she progressed from a wobbly beginner to a competent waterwoman, her answer was quick and simple: "I wanted to learn, so I decided I would go every day." Every day she'd pick up her friend in the predawn hours before class at University of Hawaii and paddle out. In the beginning, she wasn't hooked, she was committed. "I was frustrated for an entire year," she said. But still she paddled out. Every damn day. No magic tricks or serendipitous encounters or ‘aha moments’ after which it all clicked into place. Just showing up, frustrated, every day. And eventually, one wave at a time, she grew less frustrated. Eventually, she shifted the tide.
Here’s to new friends, scenic hikes, perfect waves, and showing up. Every damn day.