No Ocean for Young Women

Anat Deracine
18 min readFeb 24, 2018

A few people’s names have been changed or hidden to protect their privacy (and mine). The rest is all true.

Waves are merciless. This is the most important thing you will learn about the ocean, hopefully before you’re held down by one for what seems like an eternity, only to have a surfboard crash onto your head when you surface. For years I watched other (taller, stronger) people walk effortlessly through the waves to the lineup where the water was calmer, while I despaired of ever making it there. I stayed in the shallow whitewater, trying to catch the last breath of a broken wave as it fizzled out towards the shore.

Daniella and I are sitting on the beach at Nosara. She is the assistant to surf coach Andrea Diaz, and she’s convinced she can help me overcome my fear of the water. It’s my first day at the women’s surf bootcamp here in Costa Rica.

Daniella asks me, “How do you spot a rip current?”

“The channel where there are no waves,” I reply immediately, feeling a creeping dread as I spot the one right in front of us.

She nods and says, “So it’s like an elevator, taking you directly to the lineup. If you get caught in one, don’t fight it. Wait until it lets you go, then swim away from it and catch a wave back to shore.”

It is said so matter-of-factly that it takes me a while to realize the enormity of her words. According to her, a rip current, that confluence of dark swirls that I’ve seen on warning signs at nearly every beach on the Pacific Coast, is not something to be feared. In fact, fear is the completely natural yet exactly wrong response, one that can exhaust you or kill you.

But it is one thing to know this, and another entirely to act on it. And I was thirty-five, and at this point had already been struggling with both fear and failure for over a decade.

My first ever surf lesson was at Pacifica. It was a miserable day, cold with a fog that seeped through to chill the bone. I was with two of my friends, colleagues who had bought a group lesson. The ocean was choppy, with high winds that created an incessant swirl of seething…

Anat Deracine

Author of "Driving by Starlight" and “The Night Wolves” I'm on Twitter at @anat_deracine