an ode to surfing

zach_montauk_1A particularly popular and trendy activity these days, it feels a little trite to wax on about surfing, but as a now observer of the sport, I’m enjoying a new perspective. Once a barely mediocre surfer, at best, I would take the LA city bus from my apartment in Marina del Rey to Manhattan Beach early in the morning to pick up a board and practice my skills. I was there for only a summer and while I was fiercely addicted, it ended with a crash that left me fractured – collarbone and confidence. Every summer since I’ve tried to get back out there to overcome the fear, but usually I just end up standing on the shore, zipped into a wetsuit, feeling foolish. To alleviate some of the pressure, I decided to change my role and took to photographing those who can do. Luckily I know some pretty handsome (and skilled) subjects.

I would normally relish in the summer Saturday/Sunday sleep-in, but with a boyfriend whose day revolves around the surf forecast, it was more likely I would be up with the sun – and sometimes even before it. I wouldn’t call myself a morning person, but there is something about those early hours on the beach that make it hard to stay in bed snoozing. The younger house guests asleep where they’d landed on couches the night before, we’d quietly make coffee before slipping out for the morning surf check. Sometimes a barefoot stroll to Ditch Plains and sometimes a pick-up truck drive to scope the surrounding spots. Sometimes cocooned by foggy surroundings, sometimes warmed by the blazing, rising sun. To a surfer, as long as there are waves – sometimes big, sometimes small – there’s never a bad time to be out there.

And so the inquiries would continue throughout the day. No sooner would we return, boards pulled from the truck, wetsuits hung to dry, outdoor showers complete, and the itch to get back out there would start creeping in. The flag in the crow’s nest flapped signals like an air traffic controller relaying the wind forecast that hinted at current surf conditions. I can recognize clean sets and favorable conditions, but for these surf scientists I spent my days with, there was so much more to consider. There were the individual breaks that they knew by heart, the tides, the wind direction and the proper board selection. Days dictated by surf, this was my first summer that I wasn’t committed to being a die-hard beach bum, and happily so. I delighted in their knowledge, excitement, and love of the sport. I loved capturing moments in rapid succession for them to replay later, congratulating or critiquing themselves on form and wave.

kelly_zach_ditch plains

photo by jeff friedlander

Zach and Jeff MontaukSometimes I really miss being in the water, feeling so completely in the (oft rough) hands of Mother Nature. Maybe one of these days I’ll get back out there, but for now, taking early-morning photos from a spot like this is a ritual I’m on board with.

an exhaustive essay on execution. or the opposite of it.

Lately I’ve been wanting to reach out to some people who I feel inspired by. Whether they spoke at a workshop I attended or wrote a post that really resonated with me, just a note to tell them what an impact I think they’re making. Acknowledging something that someone is doing well is very easy to not do, but I have to think that doing it goes a long way. It’s such a simple gesture, yet I totally over think it and thereby suck the life right out of it.


I realize that I stop myself because I worry about how I’ll coming across in the interaction. (Admittedly this has nothing to do with the motivation of getting in touch in the first place.) If I’m going to put myself out there, I want to feel like I’m representing my best self when doing so. The recipient will see my name and maybe it would be relevant to tell them about what I do or maybe they’ll click on a link in my signature and maybe they’ll be impressed or maybe they won’t and I lean toward won’t because that’s how I personally feel about where I’m at right now. I’m not impressed with me. So of course then I think ok, isn’t this the perfect driver to execute whatever it is that I want to do; Actually take those steps toward building something I feel proud of. And really, that’s sort of what this whole battle reveals to me; that what I’m doing, even if it’s something, isn’t what I feel most proud of, isn’t what I most want to be associated with, isn’t what I feel I want to connect over. And so until I start to put that together, I’m not going to feel satisfied. I can’t keep trying to dress up that same old thing and make it feel fresh. Or as Socrates supposedly said much more eloquently, “The secret of change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new.” Ancient words of wisdom and how true!


Focus on the new, I do, but it’s become this sort of cyclical thing where I say to myself, “SO JUST DO IT THEN. Stop talking about it endlessly in your head and get it out there.” And I do get psyched up, really psyched up. In my head. It just… never leaves my head. And so here I am having thought all of these big ideas and genius plans and it’s so constant, so consuming that it actually feels tiring! So much that it even makes me feel like I’m getting somewhere. For all that thinking, shouldn’t I have really gotten somewhere? But I look around and there’s no proof and it almost feels confusing that there’s no evidence. How could I have not conjured something tangible by now? I don’t know if you’ve ever had one of these, but to me it’s like waking up from that dream where you find a big bag that’s just filled to the brim with money and you’re grabbing the bills like you can take them with you, out of your dream. It all feels so real and when you wake up you’re so certain you took the money with you, but you look around and it’s nowhere to be seen. In my head these ideas all feel so real and I think about them so much, explore them at length, mentally go through the motions, write my business plan, draft essays pages long, but when I snap back to my present reality, they’re only as good as a dream.


As if right on cue, my daily quote from the Headspace app just popped up and read: “It is not enough to merely think about our potential. We need to discover it, to live it, to make it a reality.” OK! OK! I get it, I’m going.


I’ve boiled this exploration down to three big questions for me to contemplate.


– What is “good enough”? How do we define it for ourselves.


– Who is my best self? Will I recognize her? This year in particular I’ve been searching hard. I was always a pretty self-assured person. It wasn’t really til my 33rd year that I started to question everything and wonder who the heck I am and what I’m supposed to be doing.


 – What am I so afraid of? I’ve done it once before, built a sustainable business with undying will power in a solid three months, never thinking twice. This time, I reason, there must be some sort of gale force fear that’s blowing me back, keeping me leaning head first, bracing myself against it, not quite able to move forward. Or am I just not chasing the right idea? This is a big one to consider.


If you’re out there, lone reader, I wonder if any of this resonates, what your own process has been, what has propelled you forward. Do share!


For me, I think just putting my concerns to paper (and that aptly timed pop-up quote) has been enough to get me to start working on what I feel good about. I mean, I say that… Let’s see what makes it out of my head this time…