There are few things in life more exhilarating than catching the just-right wave—watching the wall of water form and waiting for the perfect moment to push up on the board, shoot the curl and be transported. Rockaway, Diane Cardwell’s bracing memoir of the ways that surfing launched her into a new life, is as invigorating as waxing up your board and getting in the water.
In 2010, following her divorce, Cardwell finds herself shuffling listlessly through her life and work as a New York Times reporter. Casting about for an assignment, she heads out to Montauk, Long Island, and spies a group of surfers out in the shimmering surf. Although she’s never been athletic, she’s transfixed by this group of men and women, and soon she’s trekking out to Rockaway Beach from her apartment in Brooklyn to take lessons and join her newfound troop. As she rides the train home after one of her first lessons, she embraces the “righteous soreness from going all-out chasing after something that I’d decided, entirely on my own, I wanted to do. I was proud of myself for not chickening out, for not, as usual, letting the fear of failure stop me.”
Cardwell dives into surfing, alternating between fear of failure and dogged determination. As she gains more confidence and develops her own style, she eventually moves to Rockaway Beach, buys a little cottage and a board and thrives in her new neighborhood, mostly made up of surfers. When Hurricane Sandy hits in 2012, she rides it out in Rockaway with some of her friends, and they emerge as an even more tightknit community.
Cardwell’s moving story washes over the reader with its emotionally rich portrayal of the ragged ways we can embrace our vulnerabilities in order to overcome them.