I spent Christmas day wet, cold and hungry.
Why, I hear you cry, why not spend it with your loved ones. Why not spend it in front of the fire with a load of spuds in your belly and Baileys on tap? Why not spend it arguing *lovingly* with your sister and giving your dog the best leftovers of the year? Why not spend boxing day watching old films or in the shopping centre getting the bargains of the century? Why not panic over what to get your brothers new girlfriend and decide the best thing you can afford is a hand made gift certificate for a hug whenever she wants it? (Never do this… unless your 8, then it’s perfectly cute and acceptable.) Why not spend the best day of the year cosy and warm and loved and happy and full?
Why spend 25th December cramped in a house with your cousin sleeping on the blow up mattress beside your bed and listening to uncle Terry giving off about the names of his step children which are totally unacceptable according to him. (Fegan for a boy’s first name? Terry is having none of that and will call him ‘lad’ until they find a suitable replacement name. Fegan is 12 years old.) Why spend the night before Christmas getting merrily smashed and ending up in someone’s shed playing pool at 4am and consequently, not being able to keep your Christmas day dinner down until well after 6pm. Why watch Love, Actually for the fourteenth time when you actually can’t stand Hugh whatsyourface.
All valid questions, I suppose. Depends what side you’re batting for.
I chose to spend it on a beach. It was slightly Christmassy though because there were 3 out 8 members of the family present, so that counts……… Is there a memorable way to spend Christmas day in a country that doesn’t celebrate it? We could lay up on a sun lounger in a hotel and drink our merry hearts away. We could spend it at a waterfall. We could spend it in mourning, disappointed by our decision not to spend it with our loved ones. We spent it in the ocean with wetsuits and surf boards rented for the sum total of £6.50. Add a light lunch of avocado smeared on some khobz (bread), oranges and lemonade. That was our Christmas dinner. Measly, I hear you shout, an absolute travesty!! Not so, that’s the perfect beach side lunch: easy to carry (and digest) when there is a heavy surf board in your hand.
I’ve surfed before. In Ireland. You’re an absolute mad dog McAuley, I hear you exclaim, you can surf in Ireland?! Yes. There’s actually waves which are alright. Try Portstewart or Donegal #discoverireland #ad #spon (haha I wish it was #spon.) It is decidedly colder than Africa but hey, ho, we have to make do. Now, I’ll be the first to tell you I’m not a natural in the water. Swimming would be average to weak for me due to my chicken arms. I’ve tried wakeboarding a number of times, as many can attest to, and failed as many times as I’ve tried. Paddle boarding isn’t as hard (or hard at all, really) but balancing on a board is hard for me, ok? I’m sure there are many more water sports for me to discover and I’ll try them all but nothing sticks. I’m like a fish out of water. But surfing has always appealed to me, mostly because of the general attitudes of surfers: CHILL. I try to be that chill.
I think I’ve been so successful with surfing because once you got the technique down (or rather, standing up) that’s it. You have to go with the waves and if you feel yourself losing control: fall backwards into the wave. And try again. I LOVE THIS. Imagine we implemented this belief in our everyday lives: just go with it and if you feel yourself failing, fall backwards and let the waves bring you to the shore. And try again. And keep trying. And when you finally get the hang of it, you’ll feel like you’re flying. Wind in your face, heading towards the sandy beach, concentrating on nothing else but this moment. Please, please, please, if surfing doesn’t give you this feeling, find something that gives it to you. It is so important. I find that saunas and steam rooms give me that sense of PEACE as well as a good album or being dragged into the fictional world of a great book.
If nothing else, surfing is a total body work out. I am still waiting for the geniuses to come up with a machine for the gym that works your body like the sea and the surf do. You’re using your arms to swim far enough out to the big waves. You’re using your torso (abs) to manoeuvre yourself into position. You’re using your legs to jump up and balance on the board. You’ll probably use your back to break your fall into the water many times when you fail to stand up. And repeat. But it doesn’t feel like exercise at all. It doesn’t feel like the pump class you went to at the gym last night which offers a full body work out. It’s not like doing crunches and squats and star jumps and mountain climbers a for a minute each. It’s FUN!!!! And you get to look super chic with a soggy wetsuit which someone has probably wee’d in clinging to your skin. But the salty water of the ocean will clean that right up and dredge it away. You will get a mouthful of salty water and bloodshot eyes but it all feels totally cleansing. And two hours in you will be sore and bruised and bloody and hungry and tired. And you’ll sit and let the sun warm you up and you’ll go again. It’s addictive and it contains a lot of the skills needed just to get through a normal day at the office. Keep going.