Chocolate Fishes

Chocolate FishesStrange waters

A black man or woman on a board my stand out to you, hell, we even feel like we're in a fishbowl out on display for the rest of the beach. Perhaps at first. It may be strange waters for the black man or woman or for the spectator, but the reality is most African Americans didn't grow up with open water awareness and thus have legitimate trepidations. Nevertheless open water recreational activites are on the rise for Americans as a whole, and who are we to shun a good time?

My first 'moment' with my now husband was at a beach barbecue he threw before we were even a twinkle in each others eyes. At sunset he beckoned everyone to get back into the water one last time. To the rest of the party this was normal. To me, it was a bucket list challenge. With some tropical liquid courage to give me strength, I waded in and the first wave that rolled up on us, I jumped and clung on to him -- a mere acquaintance at the time -- like a koala bear on a eucalyptus tree. The way he tells it, the wave was no more than 3 feet. In my minds-eye I survived a tsunami.

Now baptized into my first adult ocean experience, I was altogether raptured and terrified. I grew up with a love for pools and the water park -- that's it. I went boogie boarding one time as a child and got rolled in the whitewash -- and was out. Drop the mic, DONE. So this new immersion, decades later felt like an analogous challenge to open my mind and try something new. I skipped bodysurfing, which definitely would have helped me get comfortable in the waves, and I jumped straight into paddle surfing a few times then surfing.

The fear, for the longest time, weighed me down. I was terrified of it all: getting tossed/drowned in the crash zone, sting rays, jelly fish, heebie jeebies and the like. But to me, as is my personality, I was determined because I was sure there was a God-breathed life lesson in this new adventure. As a black woman I was precociously taught to tread carefully, stay in control of my person and survive. Everything about surfing went against how I was raised. The danger and possible outcomes governed the first entire season of my experience learning to surf.

But as I began to observe and find the poetry of the experience, it dawned on me that perhaps and especially as an African American, the lesson in surfing was learning how to let go, relinquish to the experience, and quiet my mind. To learn to become one with the water versus fighting to stay on top. To stop swimming upstream and to take the adventure in stride. I learned, over the course of several innagural seasons, that, just like a duck dive, if I want to avoid the danger I must submit to it. In duck diving you must go under the wave, trying to go over it will put you in greater danger and you certainly cannot outswim a wave. You must face the wave and bow to it, to let it pass. I am not a great surfer, and currently not even a good one. But the lessons I learned made me a lifelong