Finding Comfort In The Ocean Again
The late Rell Sunn taught me a valuable lesson several years ago. It happened on a warm summer afternoon at Makaha Beach. The sun was beginning to set, but several young surfers were still chasing down waves at the world-famous break.
We sat quietly watching set after set roll in, soaking up the beauty of the ocean and the moment.
I knew my dear friend was in physical pain. Cancer had taken hold of her now-fragile body, but not her mind, and certainly not her spirit.
Rell hollered at a young girl who was carving up a wave twice her size. She cheered loudly as the teenager rode the large wave all the way to shore.
Aunty Rell had always been a strong voice, an advocate, for Hawaii’s youths, and without question she was one of Makaha’s biggest cheerleaders.
The girl flashed the shaka sign at us and smiled with great satisfaction, knowing Aunty Rell had seen her memorable ride.
It was at that moment when the Queen of Makaha turned to me and calmly said:
“Ronnie, whenever you’re feeling sad, angry, frustrated or overwhelmed, turn to the ocean. There’s nothing like the feeling of the sea on your skin, the smell of the salt and the coolness of the water as waves splash against your face.
“Never forget, always make time to take a beach break. It will save your life.”
And with that, she looked to the horizon and smiled as the sun started to hide behind the clouds … and then slowly disappeared. It was a magical moment, one that will forever be burned in my mind and heart.
We lost Rell several months later, Jan. 2, 1998, at the age of 47, but it was the healing power of the ocean that extended her life. Yes, she was a fighter, but she always acknowledged that the ocean kept her alive.
I saw it with my own eyes. The ocean always has been my playground. Whether it was bodysurfing the shore break at Kalapaki Beach on Kauai as a child or surfing waves on my oneman canoe along the cliffs of Makapuu as an adult, the ocean has soothed my soul for decades.
But it was only after Rell’s message on that summer night at Makaha that I had a true understanding of the healing powers of the sea.
It is a lesson that I’ve tapped into over and over again through the years, and the ocean has delivered every single time.
I recently revisited that lesson after encountering some turbulence and challenges, and once again the gift from Mother Nature did not disappoint.
I sat quietly, watching the shore break at Sandy Beach, and visualized myself free falling from the top of the wave and finding my way into the bone-crunching tube.
The frown I had arrived at the beach with was starting to fade. The tightness that had taken hold of the muscles in my face was starting to ease.
The rhythm of the surf was calling me.
The ocean was starting to work its magic.
I slipped on my fins and carefully entered the water. The smell of the salt and the coolness of the waves splashing against my face soothed my soul to the core.
Just like Rell said it would. I soaked up the feeling for a few minutes before a large wave started to form in front of me.
I was up.
I kicked into the wave and positioned my body for the steep drop and then maneuvered myself into the waiting barrel. My eyes focused on the tube in front me until I could no longer maintain the speed needed to make it through the section. My ride came to an abrupt and jolting end.
I fought to the surface and smiled.
It was at that moment that I saw an image of my dear friend Rell. It was if she was nodding her head in delight.
The ocean delivered again.