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As I leave school after six hours of abusing my writing hands, I look up in the sky to see that it’s very foggy. It doesn’t seem like a pretty day to get in the water, but I wish that within the thirty minute drive down to Pacifica the fog will clear out. When I get to the parking lot of my school, I can see the big, white van with like ten surfboards on top and a big logo right on the side saying “City Surf Project.” All the students get in and we all drive down to the beach, listening to the radio station 106.1 R&B and Rap, getting us in the mood. I have to have a right-side window seat because when we’re driving up and down the Pacifica hills, I have the best view of the ocean. Looking at the ocean gives me this inexplicable feeling. The sun is out, making the beautiful water sparkle, and when I look up a little bit, I can see the horizon that connects the sky and the ocean. It gives me the same feeling of awe that I get when I see a rainbow after the rain.

Out of all my years of living, I had never thought of surfing. I knew about it, but I watched movies of people surfing and getting eaten by sharks which put fear in me. I didn’t even want to go surfing, not only because of my fear of sharks, but because I’m scared of drowning. I also thought surfing wasn’t for me because all you ever see riding surfboards all over the media are white males. I don’t see any black girls in the water surfing, ever, and there’s history to why there are barely any people of color who do sports involving the water. In the 1950s, black people were discriminated against and prevented from swimming in public pools. Police officers in the city would prevent black people from entering pools, and it was encouraged by police officers that white people should beat black swimmers out of the water and even pour acid in the water so that the black people would be forced to exit the pools. Simone Manuel became the first African American woman to win a medal in an individual swimming event in just 2016. This is so important because she overcame that barrier and wanted to be an inspiration to others, to make everyone believe that they can do anything no matter what.

One day in my ninth-grade health class, one of my classmates asked me to come to the surf club at our school. He had his own wet suit and a surf- board. In my head, I was nervous to even think about surfing, but I have an exploring personality, so I just felt that maybe I should check it out. He decided to get our health class to go on a surfing field trip. I was so excited because most of my friends were in the class, which means we could all try something new together. I went home that day to go get my field trip permission slip signed by my mom. I was kind of nervous about what she was going to say about me surfing, since it does sound sort of dangerous and unsafe. My mom was really supportive though, and was happy that I was trying something new.

Putting a wet suit on is difficult. First you have to make sure the wet suit isn’t backwards—the knee pads have to be on the right side. Then you pull the wet suit up each leg, and it’s so difficult because the wet suit is so tight that it feels like your leg can’t even fit through. Once both of your legs are through, you pull it up to your waist, and pull the wet suit up both of your arms. There’s a zipper on the back, and there’s this string that’s built in so that you can zip it up yourself.

I pick up a surfboard and carry it with a partner down to the beach from the parking lot. The board is really heavy, which is why it takes two people
to carry it. When I step my feet on the beach, it hurts, but I can’t look down to see what I’m stepping on since the surfboard is on top of my head. I know that I’m stepping on rocks because I can feel small, sharp objects scratching the bottom of my foot. In a couple of steps, the sand becomes soft and I’m guessing this is where the tide ends that makes the sand clear out smoothly. We lay the surfboard flat on the sand and get in a circle to stretch, go over safety tips, and practice popping up on the surfboard while we’re on land. To pop up, I lay on the board looking back at my feet, and scoot back to make sure they’re at the end. I cuff both of my hands and pretend like I’m paddling in the water, digging in the sand. When the wave is coming, I lift up a small bit, arching my back so that the board doesn’t tip nose-first into the water, and I place both hands flat on the surfboard to push my body up, lifting my right leg forward so that I have a good stance. I make sure to stay low and look forward, not down, to keep my balance.

After we practice, I’m assigned to a surf instructor and we start walking towards the water. I already know that the water is going to be cold, but once my feet touch the water, I become shocked, but at least the wet suit is making the rest of my body warm. My instructor helps me carry the board into the water and once the water is at my waist, I hop on top and start paddling. As I’m paddling, I can see a wave coming at me and, oh boy, I’m terrified. He tells me to start paddling harder because we’re going to go over. He pushes the back of the board down and I hold on tight to the sides of the board so that I don’t get smacked off by the wave. I’m in the air for like two long seconds. I feel like I’m flying and I snap back to reality once my board hits the water. We see the next wave coming and even though I’m still a little terrified, I give him a thumbs up. My instructor turns my board around and tells me to start paddling. As I’m paddling, I feel like I’m literally going nowhere. I can feel the wave come under me and my instructor gives me an extra boost. I push my body up with my hands and stand up with my feet flat on the board. I wobble a bit, but I bend my knees to keep a balance. I can’t believe it. I’m actually standing up on the board on my first try. Everything is going in slow motion. I look down at the water and I can just see my board gliding like I’m walking on water. I look up with a big smile and I can hear everyone cheer me on. I feel like I’m in my own world and when I fall off the board, I get back up with laughter.

When I came out of that water, something sparked in me. I unlocked some- thing in me that I never thought I had. All my life I felt limited to the things I can do because of my race and gender. I always felt nervous and scared to be places where I didn’t see anyone like me. Surfing has made me figure out that it doesn’t matter what surrounding you’re in, at least you’re doing some- thing that makes you happy, and that’s all that matters. I feel like surfing has unlocked my inner freedom because since then, I’ve done things that I never thought I could do. I’ve joined a science internship at University of California, San Francisco, I’ve participated in an all-girls firefighting camp, and I even went to Switzerland for a Model United Nations debate conference.

Surfing has made me believe that I can do anything, without a doubt. I hope to inspire and be a role model to those who believe that they can’t do anything because of who they are. I want to introduce career pathways for the youth who didn’t grow up seeing people like them pursue careers. I’m looking forward to going to college and pursuing my dream career as an as- tronaut not only for myself, but also for the ones who are interested in space and science, but can’t imagine how to get there.

–Marrianah Meadors is a San Francisco native who wants to be an astronaut or an astronomer. She loves to travel the world.

from 826 Valencia

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