When your body tells you no and you listen to it. It takes a few mistakes of ignoring your bodies wisdom before you shut up and take it seriously. This week I went to Skookumchuck. One of the most beautiful standing waves in the world and one that can have great consequence if you’re not prepared.
I sat on the sidelines all week. Watched the edges of boards move through a face so green it would make any surfer weak in the knees just at the sight of it. Drank beers and listened to recollections of some of the best surfs of that day. It was hard and I did my best to hide my disappointment.
Some of you may not know I have compartment syndrome in both of my forearms. When I paddle hard, non-stop, for extended periods of time my forearms swell up, I rapidly lose strength to the point that I can’t take another stroke. Even on a SUP, if you fall off the back side of the wave you’re only chance of staying on your board is getting down on your stomach and paddling with your hands (the swim out consists of violent crashing waves and whirlpools that’ll grab you by the ankles taking you down as deep as they can before they lose energy). It’s this type of paddling that rapidly cause my arms to swell.
The swims are only gnarly if you can’t manage to hold onto your board. The moment you’re off your board you’re going down. So, what happens if my arms shut down, if my hands are two weak that I can’t hold onto my board?
On day 2 I grabbed my SUP and paddled into Skook. My timing was off and the wave went completely green and flat flushing me off the back side. By the time I paddled myself back to the eddy my arms were toast, I had to rest before paddling the rest of the way to shore. Not a good sign. I decided to call it a day.
Day 4 rolled around. After laying awake in the van for a good portion of the night I thought “Ok, I think I’m ready to give it another shot.”
This time I’d take out the shortboard, it’s smaller and easier for me to hold on to were I to get tossed in a wave or spun around in a whirl pool. I stood above the wave, fear was churning my stomach…it didn’t feel right. I turned around, walked myself and my board to the eddy to paddle around and see how my arms felt. After 30 seconds of paddling my wetsuit got tighter around my arms and the pressure was too much to bare. I put up the board and pulled off the wetsuit. My forehead furled and my stomach had that fluttery feeling it gets right before a good cry.
Looking out at the tour I wrestled with the realization that I wouldn’t be surfing Skook at all this trip.
So, I did what I never do, I sat on the side lines the whole trip and took video.
Our bodies are full of wisdom. It can take years of us ignoring our bodies before we choose to stop and listen to what it has to say. Two years ago I would not have stopped and could have easily gotten hurt or endangered my life because of it.
I'm so grateful to have been there with such an amazing crew. Not once did I feel pressured or made to feel like a pussy. Of course the insecurities were there that people were thinking these things (only because I was) and I felt like I had to continuously justify my decision--not by anyones doing but my own. I truly love every single human that was there.
This injury has taught me a lot over the past two years. But the most important lesson is patience and acceptance. After cheering on my fellow teammates at competitions, cutting my surf sessions shorter than I’d like, and now not surfing Skook I’ve realized that saying no was way more challenging to my character than competing or surfing Skook. The gratification for such action isn’t immediate but built upon each and every time I choose to not jump in the water.
I’m in that age (26) where we’re still learning to trust and listen to our bodies. Where our egos and fear of missing out clouds our judgement. But I urge all of you who are athletes or adventurers struggling with an injury to be patient with your bodies. The fomo will pass and the ego will eventually be silenced.
Finally, when I get back from Zimbabwe and South Africa I will be getting surgery. I owe this to a very good friend of mine, Gentian, who is making sure I’m getting this done by one of the best specialist in the world. Recovery time is almost immediate and it won’t slow me down in any part of my life. I can’t wait to see what it’s like to have normal arms again!