She stood there, barefoot in the surf shop, board under her arm, still in her wetsuit, talking to the shop owner about the rip that the storm had brought up. She laughed about her wipeouts, and how she needed to be braver. I stood there, checking out the board wax, but actually checking her out, listening to every single word that she said.
When she finished chatting, she turned to go, saw me staring, smiled (because she knew). And then was gone.
I was awestruck. Gobsmacked. A little bit in love.
Not because she was some kind of model-esque beauty (although, in that moment, she was physical perfection, as far as I could tell) but because she represented almost that I hoped to achieve in my entire life. Which is odd, seeing as I never actually met her, and only saw her for about 3, 4 or maybe 5 minutes at the most. And this was years ago. Long before I met my husband. Long before I had children. Long before I was even brave. But what she represented has stayed in my belly since then. And I know that one day, I will be like her.
I fell in love that day, because the lady standing in the shop with a board under her arm was at least 50 years old. Probably more like 55. She was fit, strong and hearty – and had a laugh to go with it. She had grey hair – loads of it, in a plait to keep it out of the way and she looked like she knew how to have fun. Of course she did. This was about 18 years ago, when women surfers were a rare breed any way. (I can’t class myself as one of those, as I am still as crap on a board now as I was then.) She’d been riding the waves on a day when me and my pals were too scared to even think about paddling out, and she was there, just chatting about just another day in the sea. She was ballsy enough to just get out there, even though there would have been no other women out in the waves, and probably nobody as old as her, and almost definitely no old ladies out there.
And it hit me. It hit me in a way that I’ve never properly thought about but realised that a bit of my future was set.
I will be like that.
Not because I want to be cool. But because I was always going to be like that.
Somehow, and I don’t know how, I will be the old lady who rocks out to the sea every single day. I may not be taking a board out with me – maybe I’ll be one of those crazy but fab sea swimmers who go out every day in the sea at Clevedon – but I will be in the sea. I won’t be able to see, because my eyes will be even worse then than they are now. My back will have given in and I’ll probably be on hip number 4, but I will be there.
Which is why I give a damn about now. Being fit and strong enough to surf in the sea when I am a pensioner might not be the most lofty of long term goals, but at least I have one. I have no idea how it’s going to happen, but I know that for it to happen, I need to look after my body so that it will last long enough.
What are your long-term goals? What do you intend to be doing with your body in 20/30/40 years time? Do you need to start looking after it a little bit better now so that you have at least the tiniest chance of achieving it?
I can’t tell you what you should aim for, but it surely is worth having some kind of goal.
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