Wave Goodbye to Addiction

So here I am – an empty nester living my new best life. I hope my story will inspire someone going through hard times, or even just someone in need of a little motivation to try surfing after an injury.

I’m originally from Seattle. I moved to LA to style hair and learn to surf. But just 11 months into my new life I was hit by a car door while riding my bike. I broke my wrist and had three surgeries, but I got an infection and nearly died, which led to emergency surgery and a 5-day stay in hospital being pumped with antibiotics. Once I was discharged I had to continue to self-inject daily, with a cast on for another eight weeks. I decided that as soon as I recovered I would learn to surf; because in that short 11 months that I put off surfing, I could have died without ever finding the love of my life – surfing.

At the time I had been sober from alcohol for 15 years, but was still smoking weed and cigarettes. However, I knew once I recovered I needed take my health even more seriously, so I quit smoking and weed. And so came January 31 2015. My life completely changed when I bought a foamie from Costco and lived across the road from a surf break in California, on the Pacific Coast Highway. I tried to teach myself to surf, which I wouldn’t recommend, but I couldn’t afford lessons. I felt proud of myself everyday I went in. I never imagined how spectacular being the girl I always wanted to be would feel. I rode that cloud of endorphins from the pride.

Swimming with seals, seeing dolphins, conquering fears, meeting new people and staying clean and sober – now I had something to focus on. Not to mention that I only have one body, and at 43 surfing gave me a reason to stay in good health. So I will do it for as long as I possibly can.

I had never travelled outside the country by this stage in my life. So when I got the opportunity to travel and do hair for a celebrity client I came back changed. I don’t want to sound ungrateful, but as a mermaid, travelling on one of the biggest yachts in the Mediterranean with jet skis, a slide and a banana boat, it was torture when I learned that I wasn’t allowed in the water while I was on the job. So I told myself that as soon as I got back I was going to plan a surf trip.

And that’s what I did. I travelled with some friends from my surf break that were already going to Bali. I got to paddle out at Uluwatu after only eight months surfing. When three of the four guys paddled back in I thought perhaps I shouldn’t be out there. I wouldn’t advise a surf trip with a bunch of men, as they won’t tell you much about what you shouldn’t attempt in the surf. Since then I have travelled on my own to lots of different surf spots including Bocas del Toro, Panama, Fiji, Barbados, Australia, Philippines, Sri Lanka, Maldives, Costa Rica and Nicaragua.

Surfing will break you down and lift you up all in one session. You’ll cut your feet, get stung by jellyfish, step on sea urchins and get washed up on the reef, but it won’t stop you. People who don’t surf ask why we do it? But don’t even try to bother explaining your passion to a non-surfer. They don’t understand that feeling of riding a wave. It might be only two in a two-hour session, but nothing beats the feeling of making the section, or doing something you’ve never done like a cutback or a good drop. Conquering fears of big waves or fast waves you didn’t think you could get. Travelling places and seeing beaches you would never see unless you were a surfer. Boating an hour with only four other guys in Fiji to conquer your big waves after only a year of surfing. You barely remember your Fiji reef tattoo, but will never forget that wave!

So, I am almost 47 now and cannot picture my life without surfing. Yes, I am and will always be an addict, but now my dreams are filled with waves. Now my sleepless nights are because I am stoked with the thoughts of the swell the next day. You can’t beat those early mornings getting up at 4:45am because you are in love with surfing. I always says don’t wait until you’ve retired to live, because by then you might be too tired!

Jennifer is starting a sober surf retreat in Malibu, click here for info and follow Jennifer @lasurfergirl_