Athleta Journal: Learning to Surf Before I Turn 45 (Pt 4)

Follow journalist and fitness junkie Jessica Hundley over the next few weeks on her journey to conquer the waves before her 45th birthday in our new series: Athleta Journal
Jessica in bamboo shower

Tomorrow is my birthday. I’ll be spending it surfing. If you were to have told me this two months ago, I may not have believed you. But the experience of the last eight weeks, penning this series, conquering some deep-seated fears and getting in the water and onto the wave, has been nothing short of life-changing.

I know that may seem a little melodramatic. But it’s true. Learning to surf has been an empowering, thrilling, exasperating and beautiful adventure so far and I’m not about to stop.


Jessica is wearing our Wailea Scoop One Piece.

For someone like me, (like most of you, I’m willing to bet), someone who spends their days tapping the keyboard, eyes strained, shoulders hunched – surfing has been utterly cathartic. I find myself in the water and I realize, with a sweet, palatable relief – that I am alone. I am alone, feet dangling into the blue, gulls screeching, the occasional pelican swooping past on broad wings. I am alone, far from shore, from my desk, from my phone, from e-mail/i-pad/i-phone, all those modern techno hyphenates that push us forward, but also, at times, overwhelm us and push us back. When I surf, I am alone. There is not a screen to be found. I am disconnected, cord cut. There is nothing but salt hitting shore and the slow sway of my board on the swell.

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I decided to surf because I wanted, when I turned 45 years old, to be in the midst of learning something entirely new, trying something that truly scared me. What I didn’t expect is how much it would teach me, push me, make me angry and also, make me happy, in that pure, deeply content way you are when you’re a child, when you’ve spent another endless summer day running and jumping and playing and you’re tucked in bed, the sheets crisp and cool, falling into sleep to the calm murmur of your parents’ voices downstairs.

Surfing makes me feel like that.

In case you were wondering – no, I have not gotten up, not quite… not yet. I’ve come close, this past week – so close I can taste it. I’ve caught the waves at the right moment, my board hugging the crest, and I’ve ridden them, but on my knees or in a low crouch – hands out, begging for balance. But not to worry, friends – I am going to stand and I am going to stand soon.

I’m surfer now… and there’s no turning back.

Photos by Todd Weaver

Michelle Sommers

June 11, 2015 at 2:59 pm

So proud of you, Jessica, for sticking with it, through all of the frustration. The reward is worth all the hard work and effort. You will definitely stand, and once you do, it will be the best feeling you’ve ever had! If you think you’re addicted now, wait until you are getting to your feet on a regular basis:)


June 12, 2015 at 5:02 pm

You have grit!

Jessica Hundley

June 15, 2015 at 4:08 pm

A quick update – I went out surfing 3 days after this story posted and actually GOT UP for the first time by myself – not once, but numerous times! It was utterly cathartic. Thanks for sharing this journey with me!


July 13, 2015 at 11:22 am

Beautifully written!

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