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Reaching Land
Patagonia ambassador Liz Clark pulling in backside. Photo: Liz Clark Collection

Reaching Land

by Liz Clark
Summer 2008

“Perfect,” I scoffed bitterly after bubbling up through the whitewash with another bleeding gash. “What am I doing wrong?” I muttered while navigating the surge among partly exposed fingers of reef.

I refused to get out, determined to practice my backside tuberiding. I would make the drop, angle, stall, and the next thing I knew I’d be bracing myself for an inevitable coral collision. Despite the warmth of this remote Polynesian paradise, this was no place for a bikini. I’d ripped the back out of my favorite surf shorts on impact the previous day.

Another clean line rose and shifted. “It’s yours, Lizzy. You’ve got this one,” Tyler encouraged. I judged the approaching wall, put my head down, and stroked hard to get under the lip.

The wave and I stood up in sync. My arm dug into the face to slow my speed as a clear sheet of water cascaded into my right peripherals. The foamball roared, and the rainbow of reef warped into a coral kaleidoscope around me. But when the wave bent in on itself, I couldn’t timely match its move. The face sucked me from the tube’s safe “eye.” We went up, out, and down together. Coral snagged my bare back while the water pushed shoreward. I sputtered to the surface to see that my hands and feet and knee were bleeding, too. Tears welled up in my eyes – not from the pain, but because I was trying so hard and couldn’t get it right. “I sailed 8,000 miles to get here and I can’t even surf these waves!?” I whimpered into the offshore wind.

About the Author
Liz Clark is a surfer, writer and adventurer traveling the world as the captain of her 40-foot sailboat, seeking remote waves, experiencing different cultures, and spreading goodwill and environmental awareness wherever she goes. She is currently exploring the Central Pacific.