I have always loved the water. The ocean, however, always seemed to intimidate me. This great force that held so many unknowns, took my breath away. Being from California, I had been to the beach many times. I always admired its intensity from afar, dipping my toes in if feeling adventurous. While in the Dominican Republic two years ago, I took the first step. I let the warm Caribbean waters swallow my anxieties. I swam in the ocean. I became more comfortable, but I was still afraid.

This spring break, I was blessed with another amazing opportunity. I went to Hawaii where I stepped even farther from the shore, as well as my comfort zone. I went snorkeling off the coast of Maui. Excited and nervous, I was restless in the water. When I finally got the hang of it, I caught a glimpse of the life undersea.

Never did I think I would go surfing. Even after having these other encounters with the ocean, I was still afraid. When the opportunity arose for me to go on a trip with my friend to Santa Cruz, I decided that it was time for me to face my fears and go for it. We booked lessons a few weeks out and before I knew it, I was putting on a wet suit for the first time. Not exactly knowing what I was getting myself into, I paddled out towards the waves.

My biggest fear throughout this experience was getting thrown around in the waves. As we approached the break, my heart began to race faster and faster. We watched a wave appear in the distance. Like any experienced surfer would do, our instructor was not going to let a good wave pass by. He grabbed my board and gave me a nudge. As back of my board was lifted by the water all I could hear was, “paddle. paddle. PADDLE.” My mind spun in circles. I don’t even remember standing up, all I know is I was thrown into the ocean and spit out. I grabbed my board and I paddled right back out. That first wave was the first of many that I wiped out on. The waves that I rode, however, made up for the ones that I missed. I’ve never experienced something so peaceful and powerful at the same time. I left the beach that day with a fire in my belly. I felt as if I was one with this mighty ocean. That feeling is addictive. I have longed to go back out since.

The thing that scared me the most happened on the first wave. It was no longer that big of a deal. I feel like that happens a lot with life. We get so caught up and scared of the inevitable. Our fear consumes our thoughts and often prohibits us from reaching our full potential. The greatest blessings happen when we consciously make the decision to just paddle. No matter what challenges we face, we have to decide whether we are going to let an opportunity pass by us, or will we make that decision to push our limits, face our fears and paddle. Maybe it won’t always be your wave. Maybe you will fall, get sucked in, and drink a little saltwater; but maybe you will stand up and ride a wave bigger and better than you could ever imagine.

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