Mindful Margaret River volunteers Katherine Seisun and Marg Lindsay find solace and celebration in the ocean thanks to their love of surfing.
There’s nothing quite like the feeling of that first moment paddling out, your head ducks through the first wave and the refreshing cold-water washes over you.
Your body calms, your head clears, the feeling of the water is invigorating.
Any raw emotions are soothed and you become totally present in the moment.
Paddling out with my sister and having someone share that moment with you is even better.
Surfing is so good for the body, mind and spirit.
The physical workout can be intense on a big day, especially when you have to punch through the lines at Grunters.
The legacy of loving the ocean came from our dad, who introduced us kids to the wonders of the ocean through fishing, skin diving and crabbing.
Growing up we had different mums – Marg and Sue’s mum was also an ocean lover.
Kathryn and Graham’s mum grew up in the Wheatbelt town of Kunnonopin, so she was not a confident swimmer and averse to the sand.
She did however love a good day out fishing in the boat.
Our brother still has the old boat, and sister Sue is a passionate scuba diver who has explored many of the amazing diving wonders of WA and beyond, and often volunteers for ocean clean-ups.
For the rest of us, including our partners, kids and nephew… it’s all about surfing!
As the Billabong slogan from the 80’s said, “Only a Surfer knows the feeling!” and it’s true.
Surfing is a great metaphor for life.
A wise surf coach once said “pick a wave with a future”. Such great wisdom for life.
Yes, we try to apply it to our surfing as we make the judgement of whether to paddle for a wave.
We can also reflect on how we make judgments in life to follow a particular path.
There’s an important moment of commitment at the take-off, when you need to just go for it. We cheer each other on! The ocean can be rough, wild, howling on-shore (for those who don’t know, on-shore is not good).
We can feel discouraged, exhausted, useless when faced with the circumstances or conditions.
There are the crap days, the days we have ended up on the shore in tears, the days when we have had to give each other ‘pep talks’ as we walk back to the carpark.
There are the days when we’ve just lost our ‘mojo’.
It’s ok to have these days, everybody does.
It’s ok not to be ok, as they say.
It does help to reach out, to not be alone at these times.
Someone cares, guaranteed!
Other days are sunny, glassy, fun, exhilarating… the times when we’re with great company, surrounded by the big blue, blessed by the presence of a pod of dolphins swimming through the line-up.
There are days we feel like we are just waiting for the sets to come, sitting in the water you finally see the lines approaching and the anticipation builds.
Sometimes it takes just one wave to spark joy.
We are sharing the ocean with others who we have journeyed life with over the years, sometimes only crossing paths in the water, but nevertheless connected.
We love being a part of the motivating and positive Facebook group – the infamous ‘Grunters Girls’ – a Facebook group of surfing women (and Mike).
Having this special family connection with the ocean has been so important in coping with life’s challenges through our recent season of grief.
We lost Dad to cancer in 2008, and since then our parents have all passed away.
Losing your parents is such a difficult time of your life, no matter what the circumstances or how old they were.
Along with loss, significant life changes have presented stressful emotional challenges, like Marg’s retirement and selling the family farm of 30 years.
Grief is intense, it is unique and has no time limit. It can be a heaviness that sits on your chest, or rests alongside you.
It can be the tears that sting in the back of the eyes, or it can rise up and overwhelm your ability to function.
Grief can make you emotionally raw, or numb.
The important thing is that we check in with each other, jump in the sea together, go for a surf together, no matter the weather!
Knowing it’s ok to not be ok and having each other has been such a blessing.
We also share a common faith, which is also a blessing as we connect with our faith and find peace in the ocean.
Kathryn Seisun is a member of Mindful Margaret River and has been a YouthCare Chaplain supporting students at the Margaret River Senior High School for 15 years. She is a wife and mother of four who loves the outdoors and is passionate about community.
Marg Lindsey, has a family of three daughters and has recently moved into Margaret River town after being on a farm in Metricup for 28 years. She is also a member of Mindful Margaret River and works with YouthCare. Marg is passionate about youth mental health and is about to start mentoring at Margaret River Senior High School.
Mindful Margaret River is an alliance of mental wellbeing professionals, government agencies and community members aimed at promoting health and wellbeing in the AMR Shire. Mindful Margaret River is funded by Lotterywest and supported by the Shire of Augusta Margaret River. Find out more on our website mindfulmargarteriver.org.au and follow us on Facebook.
First published in the Augusta Margaret River Mail 13 October 2022.