Every summer, my friend asks me to play in this very competitive country club tennis tournament. My partner is a much better player than I am, and I am notorious for getting nervous and choking in these kinds of tournaments.

I was in my first year of surfing and decided I would go for a surf at dawn before the tournament. When I got to the beach, the waves were huge. I sat on the sand with no desire to paddle out. My instructor, Joe, told me I had to go. He knew I would beat myself up for not trying.

I don't really remember the paddle out, but I somehow made it out the back on my 8-foot foam board. What I do remember is the fearful feeling of "what the heck do I do now?" once we got out there. I could not figure out how I would get back to shore. Joe calmly told me there were 5 waves to the set. The first two were the biggest. He said I would go on 4 or 5. I backed off the first two times he told me to go, and when the next set rolled through, he shoved me over the wave, and I had no choice. I promptly went tips over tails and scrambled to the surface, terrified of the 5th wave that rolled me. But after what felt like a long time, I came up and realized I hadn't died. I paddled back out and said "OK, let's do this." Even though my hands were trembling, I felt it. I felt the adrenaline. The size. The excitement. 1…2…3..Joe yelled, "Paddle!" and I got to my feet, and the rush was unlike anything I knew.

I had to do it again. And again. And again. I took a lot of waves to the head on the way out, but it just didn't matter. I looked at my watch and debated bailing on the tournament. But friends don't do that. A big one was rolling in, and Joe said, "You're going on this one!" I said, "It's the first one. No way!" He smiled a Cheshire cat grin- "Yes. You. Are." I knew he would push me if I bailed, so I started paddling. I stood up and kept saying, "No way. NO way. NO WAY." It just kept going and going. I figured it felt bigger than it was, given my ability, but I didn't care.

As I came out of the water, another instructor was there and said, "I wish I had my camera! That thing was well overhead, and you were just smiling ear to ear!" I could not stop smiling.

With no time to shower, I turned up at the courts salty and with wet hair, still smiling. But I also had this complete sense of calm. My friend looked at me and started laughing: "Why are you smiling?" I suppose she was looking for my intense, nervous look, and instead, she got my grin. We took to the court, and there was no serve I could not return, no volley I could not put away. In my memory, after we won the match, she laughed again and said, "You carried ME this time." Still smiling, I said, "NONE of these women surfed an overhead wave this morning. I did." We came in 2nd instead of 2nd to last.

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