Sibling surfers make Mom's day

00:07, May 20 2014

Last Sunday I caught the foam of a wave, slowly stood up, wiped the hair that was plastered across my face from my eyes, and spread my arms out on either side of me.

I lasted about six seconds before crashing into the water and straight onto the sand. The first thing I did after grabbing my board, and disentangling myself from the seaweed that was dragging me back out, was look around for my mom to check if she had seen me. ''Did you see that?'' I wanted to yell. ''Did you?''

I am a 36-year-old woman, trying to teach herself to surf. It's pathetic and awkward, but - I imagine - extremely entertaining to watch. I am sure people who have homes at this beach now time their happy hour drinks on the deck to coincide with my evening collisions with the Pacific (''Brad! Hurry up with the martinis! She's starting!).

But last Sunday my mom raised both arms over her head like I'd just scored a touchdown against insurmountable odds. I felt myself inflate with pride. Then I was back in the water again, to show her it was no big deal.

Last Sunday was, of course, Mother's Day. Mom didn't want to spend the day getting a manicure or going out to a fancy lunch. At the beginning of May she announced that her big request for Mother's Day - besides rice pudding for dessert - was to watch my brother and I surf together.

This request was payback after my petition, while chopping cabbage weeks before, that my parents should let me keep my new board and wetsuit in the back shed so that my brother and I could surf together. My brother kept his boards in the rafters of the garage after all.  The subtext spoke loud and clear: This wasn't just about your daughter's new hobby. This was a new pastime to go into the Hyndman family box of tricks known through our entire childhoods as FFF (Forced Family Fun).


My mom was onto that one pretty quick. And sure enough, here on Mother's Day, my brother and I were in the waves south of Santa Barbara, on boards our parents had just busted us for trying to keep hidden on their property (this is a quiet, but ongoing war since my brother and I both left home: who gets to store the most junk in the roof of the garage, the shed, the closets and under the beds in our childhood bedrooms).

But payback turned out to be anything but painful. It was a beautiful in the water. The wind that had been unbearable during the past week had died down. My brother and I sat a few metres from each other on our boards. It was quiet and calm. Dolphins surfaced and disappeared just beyond us, and both my brother and I started paddling towards them. My mother was in a beach chair guarding our stuff in the sand, with a cooler of water and snacks. My father was parking the car so I wouldn't have to walk so far with the board on the way home.

For the last month, I've been out here on my own. I've wanted it like that - no pressure, I can come and go as I like, and there is no one to see how terrible I am out here - and it's been my little secret project. But this was the first time all four of us have been together for awhile, and it struck me while paddling, how both good and strange it felt to have my whole family with me as I give this a go. I felt protected and looked after. It also struck me that I'm not really used to that.

I tried to keep paddling behind my brother and then I gave up and just watched. From where I was, it looked like he was almost amongst the grey fins and sleek, elusive bodies and I thought about how sweet this moment was for two families, this mishmash of mammals - that for just a little while we all get to travel through this big, vast ocean with our pods.

The Southland Times