From The Huffington Post:
Newly divorced and edging further into her 40s, Diane Cardwell’s life hadn’t turned out as planned. So one day, out on a reporting trip for The New York Times in Montauk, a beach town at the eastern end of Long Island in New York, Cardwell seized the opportunity when a cottage rental and surfing lesson presented itself.
The result was the first step on a long journey that took her from a version of her life she’d always imagined — the house, the career, the husband — to another version in which she found joy and love again, complete with a new community of friends and a house in Rockaway, a surf town — yes, a surf town — in New York City.
In the spirit of “Wild” by Cheryl Strayed and “Eat, Pray, Love” by Elizabeth Gilbert, Cardwell sets out on a journey to learn to surf and comes to the end of the road a changed woman, transformed by her experience. The result is her memoir, “Rockaway: Surfing Headlong Into a New Life.”
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Tell me about the seed of this memoir. What inspired you to write it?
I wrote an essay for Vogue after Sandy, and I just got such a tremendous response from it. I wrote the essay during the first, I don’t know, three or four days after the storm. I was in a fugue state. I didn’t know how I was going to help replace my utilities that were gone. And when the editor called and he was like, “We can pay you,” I was like, “That’ll buy a new boiler.” So I ended up doing the story and I was actually very grateful to do it.
So that was the first inkling that maybe I had a subject that might interest people. I mean, I literally had strangers coming up to me on the beach like, “Oh my God, it’s so great to see you back in the water.” And, “I love that story.” And then a couple of years later, I think in 2015, I did a story for the style section that actually yielded the subtitle of the book; the headline was ”Surfing Headlong into a New Life.” That was the piece that showed me that I had an arc, a beginning, a middle, and an end— and even a happy ending where I’m finally able to surf, at least reasonably decently on good days. And I was in love and had this life that I couldn’t have imagined even three years later. So that was how I got to writing the book.
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Surfing is not something you just pick up and know how to do. It’s a huge undertaking. It boils down to practicing it over and over. There is a scene in “Rockaway” where you and your friend undertake a month of practicing every day: He practices writing and you practice surfing. Could you talk about that?
Right. So I think, well, with surfing specifically, you stand on the beach and you watch good surfers in the water and it looks incredibly easy — and I’m talking about normal-sized surf, not those enormous skyscraper-high waves — but then when you try to do it, it’s actually really hard. And I think some people, especially if they start much younger, it can come really quickly. Their bodies are more flexible, they pick up new things. But surfing isn’t really like that and was really, really not like that for me. I mean, I think of myself as the anti-natural.
I just could not do it for so long, but I loved it. And so I knew that the only way to get even a reasonable competence was going to be to practice. And that month was pivotal for me in a way, because I had this friend who wanted to try to write; I was trying to surf. He said, “What if you were to surf every day? And what if we were both to keep each other honest, and report back?” That kind of accountability really helped me stick to it, because I didn’t feel like getting in the water every day.
I would get up and say, “Oh, it’s cold.” Or, “I’m tired.” Or, “I just want to sit out back in the garden and have a beer.” But it became a thing that I had to do. And so the day was organized around “When am I going to surf?” I think that that kind of practice, and also accountability, is important in anything that you want to pursue in a serious way. And that doesn’t mean that it’s ever going to be something that’s your career or something that you do to the exclusion of other things. But if you want to do it seriously and get the benefits of doing something seriously, then it just takes attention.
Link to the rest at The Huffington Post