198 words about bodysurfing

I know how uncool I look

Once you’ve seen a shark beside you in the surf, it’s impossible to return without scanning the shallows to make sure you’re alone. The one I saw a few years ago was about the size of our dog and it swam between me and my kids, moving slowly and wholly ambivalent to whatever human nonsense we were up to. As I age, my relationship with fear changes. I’ve become almost philosophical about threats to my life because, as I’ve learned, I’m wholly at their mercy when they strike. But I still scan the shallows as I wait for a good wave. I never could bodysurf as a kid — no confidence, lousy timing. The tide is low but rising, and the North Carolina sun piercingly goddamn hot. This time we see a baby manta ray which, thanks to a broken climate, I guess lives here now. And this time it clicks: Bodysurfing is like playing the drums. You don’t wait for the beat — you trust it to be there and you move without hesitation. If you’re lucky, the wave will swallow you as it propels you shoreward and roar sweet elemental static in your ears for just a few delicious seconds.