Memory child

The ocean is wide, endless. What arrives as a wave at the beach, is only some little hill, some peak outside at the open sea. Far out, the water molecules are still on their way to collect themselves, to find pairs, triples, to form groups and bound each other until they are countless, as is the energy they are carrying.

The sun is falling. In that particular moment it’s hiding behind some clouds, the rest of the morning fog, some rainy dust. Below the warm orange, yellowish sun, the ocean’s blue is even more beautiful. I’m sitting at a tongue of land that is extending into the Atlantic Ocean. It’s a Portuguese piece of land, their holy coastline, as I could also call it – the coastline of the world surf reserve Ericeira.

Five years have passed and I’m finding myself back in that small surfer’s village. At that time I had passed hours and hours at the beach without taking a foot out of the water. It’s probably there where a new description of myself was born: “My hair is out of order, my eyes are red, my skin is hispanic. And I won’t stop until my entire body starts hurting.” Now, passing by the surf school, I recognize the surf teacher that had taught passionately the art of surfing. He used to provoke me by throwing me off the board. I pretended to be angry, but of course the only thing he could see, was some little girl’s smile. It takes a while until I remember his name. But then the memory pops up. Alvaro – this is how he was called.

Being here the second time, I would enter the surf school routinely every day, grab a new board to test it, smile to one of the surf teacher behind the welcoming desk and search for Alvaro to ask him the “daily question”. Often he wouldn’t be around, then I’d shrug my shoulders, jump in the water, and wait for another occasion. The daily question would deal with surf technique, surf material, or surf anything. I would realize soon, that I annoyed Alvaro with my questions (understandably a surf teacher had other preferred subjects in his free time than again and again this one and only issue. However, one day I couldn’t but ask whether he’d like to go surfing together.

I was laying on a bench reading a book, when I dared to ask this question. One leg was stretched, one bent, so that Alvaro would easily recognize the fat black and blue mark on the inner side of my leg. “What did you do, Pauline?”, he’d ask in a caring manner, but also with a voice of great humor. I explained that the fins had caught me. He would slowly shake his head and tell me that a surfboard had the purpose of laying down, not of fighting with the fins. He’d look at me with his warm and provocative eyes, he’d wait for my laughter, which would of course follow every path that he was joking with me. I loved his humor, I loved the warmth in his face. Surprisingly, the answer on my hesitant question was an offer (a ‚yes‘ would have been too simple). He offered me to join the afternoon’s surf class. However, I surely already knew, that I’d be there on point, I just casually shrugged my shoulders and told told him that I’d think about it.

At the spot, Alvaro asked me for some wax. I shook my head no. “Oh come on, Pauline, you are a surfer!”, he provoked me again. In order to tease back, I stripped some wax from my board, until my little finger was white. “Here you got some”, I offered him my littler finger. “Funny girl”, he just remarked. Of course I would laugh again, as honest and as liberated as only a kid could laugh. Probably that was the reason why he loved teaching kids, I thought.

We would paddle out together and he’d assign me which wave to take. In the beginning, I didn’t catch any. I heard some ironic shout behind me “Oh, Pauline…”. When I arrived back in the lineup, waiting for his provocative smile to appear, he stated very seriously: “When you paddle, Pauline, you have to paddle with commitment!”. I nodded. Then, for the next wave I showed my commitment. This time it was a whipeout that kept me away from surfing the wave. It was probably the strongest whipeout I experienced in my entire holidays. I grasped for air, looked how much time I had until the next wave would overrun me. And there he was – surfing a wave of his choice. The wave had partly already broken next to him, he paused and then introduced a strong, powerful bottom turn. It was fascinating to see this strength, the tension and smoothness in his movements, the harmony with the wave. A second later I had to dive to not be entirely caught by the force of mother nature.