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SHJ Issue 7
Spring 2013

I Invented Body Surfing

by Laura Jeanne Morefield

I invented body surfing.
I was eight years old, at
a pocket beach north of San Diego,
Mother, two brothers of six, sun,
picnic lunch, towels, sand
and bottle-green waves pealing into
the throat of the cove with lush abandon.
The first ride was an entirely 
accidental meeting of wave cresting &
eight-year-old body stumbling shoreward.
It caught, then lifted and laughed
me all the way to the shallows.
On hands and knees, gasping air,
and then back without hesitation
to duplicate the ride. Wave after
wave, sweeping me into the beach
& then, the outward journey for more.
Time lost all utility—so who knows
how long my session ran. I remember
impatient shouts about it being time
to go. I must have skipped lunch entirely.
If I know myself at all, I know
I went back for one more ride before
heeding Mother’s imprecations and 
likely even one more after that before
she would have sent Bob or Charles to
herd me to the beach. They were ever her
enforcers. I the wild child.
As we drove home, I shared my secret discovery
with my brothers. I described the miracle
of body melding with wave in a
barely controlled, over too soon, plunge
of abandon. Coolly, with a note of
paternal disdain—one of the two told me
“It’s called body surfing. You didn’t invent
it. People do it all the time.”
I was crushed. But now, 40
years later—I see that Bob (or Charles)
was dead wrong. There was no one on the 
swells to imitate. That
it had a name, that others had learned
it, too—had no bearing.
It was me. And the wave. The rush
of joy and freedom. And more it was
picking myself up & going back to do it
again. It was preferring the sea to the shore.
When I was eight years old, I invented body surfing.


SHJ Issue 7
Spring 2013

Laura Jeanne Morefield

(8 October 1960–17 July 2011) was diagnosed with stage IV colon cancer in November 2008. Before she died, Laura asked her mother, Charlene Baldridge, to collect and edit her post-diagnosis poems. She believed them to be her best. The resulting chapbook, The Warrior’s Stance, was published in March as prelude to performance of a theatre work, The Warriors’ Duet, based on some of the poems, which will be performed in the San Diego Fringe Festival.

Charlene Baldridge is a prize-winning, full-time arts writer, an emeritus member of the San Diego Theatre Critics Circle, and a BMI artist. American composer Jake Heggie has set her work into two song cycles.

“...we have been born here to witness and celebrate. We wonder at our purpose for living. Our purpose
is to perceive the fantastic. Why have a universe if there is no audience?” — Ray Bradbury