I can deny it now not: The wetsuit I’ve had since highschool doesn’t match me anymore.
The final time my browsing buddy — an excellent painter named Victor who throws meat cleavers at a tree stump in his spare time — picked me up for an early-morning session in south Jersey, he laughed on the sight of my barely neoprene-clad legs. “Swimsuit’s a bit of quick?” he recommended. I shrugged him off however my ankles froze earlier than we hit the seashore.
The wetsuit, a thick Rip Curl winter mannequin, was a Christmas reward from my dad in 2001, when a full rubber swimsuit price double what it does now and made you are feeling like a magician in a straightjacket. Your solely trick? Not hyperventilating from claustrophobia. Once I pulled it on for the primary time in my kitchen, my sometimes mellow English setter freaked out — I regarded as alien as I felt.
Whereas paddling and duckdiving, my arms have been so dense and awkwardly buoyant I earned a rep for ditching the seal pores and skin halfway by means of offseason periods, 45-degree water be damned. I could have blown a couple of takeoffs however, on these mornings, nobody heckled me for losing a wave. Sporting a bikini when everybody else within the lineup (nonetheless testosterone-heavy within the early aughts) had gone full-hood-and-booties garnered me extra respect than any kickflip might. Which is good, as a result of I’ve by no means been in a position to do a kickflip.
Nonetheless, the wetsuit was vital to me, not less than on a symbolic stage.
My father, a retired firefighter, was a standout on his highschool soccer, baseball, and diving groups, and he wished me to be an athlete, too. With a September birthday, I might have began college a yr earlier, however my dad thought holding me again would give me a leg up on whichever varsity staff I ultimately joined. When he pictured the sports activities I’d play, he had one thing extra conventional in thoughts. However in seven years of softball I by no means hit something greater than a single and, regardless of my top, I sucked at basketball. To my father’s dismay, I fell in love with nearly the one sport he couldn’t play mentor.
Being a first-generation surfer means navigating a steep studying curve solo. I spent a bit of my adolescence throwing myself into waves till my sinuses have been stuffed with salt and my eyelashes crusted white. Once I referred to as out sick from my first job working at a trinkets store by the seashore in an effort to hang around with a boy, my dad punished me by forbidding me from attending an upcoming surf contest. “You’d by no means ban me from a monitor meet,” I bear in mind grumbling.
So, when the wetsuit appeared below the tree on Christmas morning, it felt like validation in neoprene kind. I’d put the time in. I’d gotten sucked over the falls sufficient. I’d lastly satisfied my father I used to be on this for one thing apart from cute lifeguards and a tan. I used to be the surfer who confirmed as much as college with seaweed in her ponytail and paddled out within the depths of winter. A number of years in the past, whereas organizing my closet on a summer time’s day, I laughed on the house the wetsuit occupied — it wasn’t haphazardly strewn over a rail or exploding out of a drawer like all the things else, however fastidiously hung subsequent to the one different fastidiously hung piece of clothes in my wardrobe, my marriage ceremony costume. I considered discovering a extra acceptable spot however, by way of significance in my life, it is sensible these two items find yourself closet buddies.
It’s not the primary time I’ve gotten all sentimental about gear. I nonetheless have the bike I rode after I was 12, a seven-speed seashore cruiser that will get me into city for summer time errands. I cherish a softball glove my grandfather imprinted with my handle utilizing a leather-stamping device. (I’m unsure what the purpose was — there’s no road identify, only a quantity.) And I nonetheless remorse letting an artist paint and promote my first surfboard, a 6’three” Cannibal I purchased with my life financial savings at 13 and rode till its white deck turned brown.
And now, regardless of having shivered by means of offshore spray extra days than I can bear in mind, there’s part of me that appears like I’m betraying an previous (and, at this level, disintegrating) good friend as I browse the web for a more recent, hotter, extra versatile type of neoprene. However there’s no turning again — I’m enamored with the concept of a zipperless neck or quick-dry lining. Sustainable, plant-based rubber sourced from hevea timber in Malaysia? I can get on board with that. Wetsuit tech waits for no lady, regardless of how sentimental.
Final yr, earlier than the vacations, my ever-growing household drew names from a hat to find out our secret Santas, a comparatively new custom that cuts down on vacation spending. We agreed on a restrict of $200, making certain everybody will get only one, very nice reward — live performance tickets or, maybe, that Otterbox cooler they’ve been eyeing.
My dad picked me out of the hat. On Christmas morning, he handed me an envelope that learn: “I’m proud to be your father.” Inside was a present card to an area surf store. Now, I’ve acquired $200 to spend on a wetsuit that, if I’m actually fortunate, I gained’t wish to half with in one other 18 years.