Joni Sternbach bio | Rebecca Olive bio

Trickhouse Volume 13, Sea/Land-based

Joni Sternbach | SurfLand
Rebecca Olive
| Across the Water


Surfing with someone else can mean nothing, or it can feel deeply intimate. There is something about it that I don’t feel in other places in my life, and even the most distant surfing acquaintances – those known by their board or car, more than by their name – become confidantes and friends in the surf. Things can be noisy and hollered or can be unspoken and quiet, revealing themselves later in a compliment, a kiss or a joke. Usually, I am cautious when going surfing with someone for the first time. I feel vulnerable as I strip and get changed, I feel awkward as I paddle out and I worry that they will be judging my surfing as inadequate. But then I get over it. The ocean takes over and the joy of catching waves and sharing those moments with another person becomes the focus, rather than my own insecurities. We smile and laugh, and snake and tease each other, and by the time we are walking in the sand back to the car, our friendship has usually shifted and deepened.

Of course, sharing all of this can mean compromise. We like to think that surfing is about freedom and self-expression, and it is. But once you introduce a relationship into the mix, it can get more complex than that. It means that a wife is not home to take care of the housekeeping. It means that one person might have to compromise on which waves they surf in order to surf with their less-skilled friend. It means alternating time on the beach with the kids with your partner, taking turns catching waves. It means that surfing becomes far from an individual pursuit, and is not longer separate from the rest of life. For many of my friends, it makes them feel safer and more daring in the water, encouraging them to try new things and take off on waves they usually wouldn’t. The flying and falling is shared and the laughter that follows is kind and loving (or joking) rather than negotiated through the eyes of strangers.



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