If I could turn back time I would bring back those endless days of summer when I hung out on San Clemente’s beaches watching my three young sons answer the surf’s beckoning call to the ritual of surfing. It was a special time, one I shared with many of the stay-at-home moms in town in the ’70s. And as a spectator standing vigil on the sand, I was often touched by the surfers’ extraordinary ability to dance upon the waters in communion with the waves.

Webster’s defines ritual as a religious practice; an observance of set forms; a prescribed code of behavior.  Observing my sons perform this feat, these definitions certainly seemed to apply.

Like priests preparing for liturgy, they woke before daybreak each day, stumbled sleepily into my room, shook  me from slumber and begged a ride to the beach. Often I complied, other times I insisted they ride bikes or skateboards, saying I would join them later.

Resigned to their own resources they grabbed the previous night’s clothing, and splashing tapwater into sleep-crusted eyes, paused only momentarily to “check themselves out” in the nearest mirror. Then, taking the stairs two-by-two, they were noisily on their way.

Just when I thought they were gone, I’d hear rummaging in the pantry. “There’s never anything to eat around here,” they mumbled. And as the refrigerator door squeaked open, I could picture milk carton to lips in complete rebellion of the admonishment to, “get a glass, don’t drink out of the carton.”

Then, as abruptly as this pre-surfing rite began, it ended. The last sound heard was  that of wheels whizzing loudly down our hill. When surf was up, nothing else mattered except the chance to lose themselves in a commune with nature.

Gathering on the beach like worshippers for a service, the boys greeted other “surfing brothers” with handslaps or sometimes just nods, exchanging few words. If they spoke, it was in a language unique to their own, communicating in a language I sometimes found objectionable. But I’m sure to them, like most tribesmen, it seemed necessary. The only possible way to communicate the anticipation, triumphs and defeats of the indescribable experiences they encountered with the forces of nature on a daily basis.

Before entering the water they paused on the sand, sometimes standing, sometimes stooping on haunches, boards ready, “checking out the waves.”  In brotherhood with other surfers offshore , already suited-up and bobbing astride their boards, these sea-worshippers strained to interpret the water’s signs. With their combined wills they appeared to be invoking the sea to belch forth the swelling waves, coming in the sets they all yearned for.

If I weren’t such a chicken, dreading the nightmare of the wipe-out, I would have joined my sons on their quest to be at one with the waves. Instead, I participated in spirit, watching the beauty of the sport from the sand, finding the beckoning whisper of the surf irrestible. And just as its irrepressible urging continues to call surfers to come and accept the challenge to conquer nature today, I, too, hear the call. Not to come and ride, but to participate in the extravaganza as a spectator of this extraordinary feat.

This is so beautiful, a mother capturing her sons’ greatest passion in life, surfing! Thank you! This certainly resonates with my heart, for my son too loves nothing more than to be one with the ocean. It has been the source of healing and joy for most all of his young life, and what a blessing it has been to me to partake in his enthusiasm when he anticipates the next big swell, or returns home from yet another epic adventure. It is such a spiritual connection, one that I am ever grateful for…the ocean has called out to generations in my family as well as having taken home two of my dear loved ones when I was a little girl, both my father and oldest brother. Because of these sad losses to the ocean I have great respect for its powerful force and yet I hoped to never pass down my own fears to my sons for never wanting to chance them missing the beautiful mysteries of the sea and all the wonders it has to offer. For all of my life I have wanted nothing more than to experience the ocean as generations before me have…to step in quite a bit further than I usually do, I pray that one day I will, just to experience its beauty side by side, with my beloved sons. But no matter, for I know one day, when the big day comes, my sons will fulfill my last wish and scatter me along the beautiful sea to dance as I never have before as I rejoin our loves who’ve gone so valiantly before us. God bless you, Carpe diem!


I was just looking at my blog and realized that I had overlooked your response of many years ago. It is wonderful to read your words about your connection to the ocean. We are definitely kindred spirits. Thank you for taking the time to comment. You made my heart sing.
A rambling writer


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