by Liz Clark
“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.