He grasped the rails on his BIC 8"6 Magnum board with his new winter 5mm surfing gloves with extra grip built into the palms bought as a present from the Duchess. Steadied himself and began to give the four powerful strokes with his arms he knew he needed to reach the speed of the incoming breaker.
You know instantly when you have caught and harnessed the natural force of a wave straight away and this time he had lucked in.
Now remember pop up skill, straight up onto feet with none of this knees first untidy sprockling which was for old men and kids. Feet placed perfectly leaning slightly forward with weight of head closer to front of board. Knees bent and arms helping with balance.
He was up. Actually up and riding the natural oceanic power of an Atlantic wave. 44 and he was surfing, not in a lesson on a foamy board with a helping push off hand from the instructor but on his own. He had spotted this wave, tracked it coming in and judged his push off right on the money by himself.
Depression and BPD left in his wake with only riding that wave mattering. In the jargon he had been taught in his DBT six month training he was truly 'in the moment' as Marshal McLuhan repeatedly described the state we needed to be aiming for in her seminal DBT workbook which had been our bible during the classes. Fully committed to one fleeting minute in time.
He was just another guy in a wetsuit catching waves on a winters January day on the East Strand in Portrush. Wasn't the BPD basket case with a decade of depression and pain. Wasn't the car crash of a Dad who hadn't been able to see his three sons for years, not the ex ambulance man who had been forced to retire because of mental health giving up not just a job but large part of his identity, he wasn't the pathetic and lost soul who had been in and out of mental health hospital five times following breakdowns or suicide attempts.
Was it even a minute he had lasted riding the wave? Who knows? Who cares? As the breaker began to lose power reaching the beach and began to dissolve into white froth the board slowed and he didn't just allow himself to fall off as the momentum ebbed away. He dove off in a spectacular wipe out disappearing momentarily right under the icy cold ocean.
Resurfacing he could feel a strange sensation on his face. A smile of the purest innocent childlike joy. With no disrespect to Christian friends he felt surfing and the Atlantic Ocean had combined to give him a full emersion baptism. In his own way his soul and troubled mind had been born again.