Winter Waterland

December-sunrise-Rockaway Beach

I hadn’t surfed in three weeks. It felt wrong. I didn’t like it. It wasn’t even the cold that held me back. I accepted a long-term freelance gig that’s been all-consuming. It’s the type of schedule where you fall behind on life – laundry, making the bed, no food in the fridge, Christmas decorations all over the living room floor. I’ve skipped needed showers, skipped brushing my hair (well, in fairness I rarely brush my hair), and skipped writing my column (eek). I’ve been living on a screen, on Slack, and in InDesign.

Last Sunday it was sunny with no wind and small waves. That met my criteria. I went surfing with the intention of trying out my new winter gear.

It took me forever to put my 5/4 wetsuit on. I felt a bit claustrophobic. The most challenging part was getting the gloves on. I was bending and cursing and laughing and sweating. My concern about being cold dissipated after the 40-minute struggle in rubber. The wetsuit sleeve is supposed to go over the glove. Less water enters in this way. I gave up on the last glove. Luckily, I flagged down my friends Kaitlyn and John who I saw on the boardwalk and they helped me.

I felt like a fish out of water or like the Marshmallow Man from Ghostbusters. It’s hard to hold the board with mitten gloves. I had to carry it on my head.


Entering the water is a strange sensation. You expect to feel the shocking cold but you don’t. I was immune. The constraints of the wetsuit disappeared. I transformed. I was a buoyant, happy, cartoon crab. Cartoon because it’s so silly to be wrapped up head to toe in thick rubber. This is what it’s like to have an exoskeleton, to be an ocean animal, I thought. But my outer protection is 5 millimeters of neoprene.

My hands in mittens were now claw-fins. I was paddling through the break faster and stronger than ever before. Though, I remembered to conserve my energy because my arms were a heavy exoskeleton. I couldn’t hear. My head was hooded. But it was ok! I just needed sight, to see the waves forming on the horizon. Finally, after acclimating to my new form, I fly out of the sea like there’s a bass chasing me and I escape onto the wave, riding it to the safety of the shore.

The winter sunrise is especially colorful, yet the beach feels lonely and quiet. It’s the type of loneliness that I need right now. The solitude before the work that waits for me back on land.

Follow me  for the day-to-day on Instagram –@theglorifiedtomato. 

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