I didn’t start boogie boarding until my mid-60s. I think having grandchildren visit was what got me to try it, but after a few rides on good breakers I no longer needed the kids as an excuse. Now I’m a great grandmother and I’m as good at it as they are.
I also embarrass them by letting out a yell as I ride all the way in to shore.
My “rebel yell” started spontaneously. I simply couldn’t keep myself from vocalizing my delight even if it attracted the attention of waders, and if an onlooker happened to comment I would tell them it was such a thrill to be able to do this at 71 that keeping quiet wasn’t an option.
I wouldn’t go into my history, how as a only child, labeled as clumsy, I shied away from sports and didn’t have siblings to help me learn how to play schoolyard games, like dodge ball. Or how I’d spent summers amusing myself in the water alone, making up water ballets inspired by Esther Williams movies.
In grade school I dreaded gym class. I was sure I wouldn’t be able to hit, catch or throw a ball because my father’s efforts to teach me these things had always ended with him yelling at me. Like a scarlet letter, I was marked with a self-fulfilling prophesy of athletic inadequacy, always the last to be picked for any team. In high school, I envied the girls who could drive a field hockey puck or dribble a basketball.
I married a man superior to me in athletic abilities and was sure any and all physical attributes our children inherited would come exclusively from him. After four kids in quick succession, I had neither the time, the energy nor the the interest for physical fitness. My only exercise came from carrying groceries and vacuuming rugs.
After my divorce, I might have benefited from being more physically active, but I didn’t discover the miraculous release of even a brisk walk until some years later when I found out I had osteoporosis. The diagnosis came at the same time I was actively engaged in therapy, 12-step recovery and membership in a church community—all important steps in redirecting my life to a healthier course but still only about seeking well being from the neck up!
To combat my osteoporosis, I started taking daily walks, and after I moved to Cape Cod I added bike rides and eventually turned to strength training to reduce the risk of thinning bones without medication.
But medical reasons aside, if I had to work out 6 days a week all year long just to be able to boogie board for another summer, it would be worth it.
One evening only my husband and I and a couple in the early 30s were out on the Coast Guard Beach sand bar. It was a few hours past low tide and the surf was stronger than it looked from the shore. The other woman and I were catching the breakers rolling in on the flats while the men were going out further in search of higher waves.
Walking back out after a bucking bronco of a wave had left us both giddy, we observed that we were getting better rides that our spouses. We decided that chasing the big one must be a guy thing and that this activity was the most fun thing in the world to be doing on a late summer afternoon.
For just a second, a deep sadness washed over me as I looked at her wet, beautiful young face. She would have thirty-plus more years of boogie boarding while my hope was for just one more season.
On the next ride in, my celebration-of-life yell was even louder than usual. The only thing that matters, I thought, is that I’m doing it now.