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Body Surfing

by Christina Ritchie Rogers

August 5,2006

I've been working on perfecting two skills: successfully riding a wave from break to beach, and successfully riding Charlotte traffic from home to work.

Body surfing requires timing, proper movement, perseverance, and going with the flow. The aptly named activity invites beach lovers who possess a penchant for the occasional adrenaline rush to mimic a surfboard - with their bodies.

From my years of experience, I have learned a few things. To body surf effectively, you must position yourself beyond the point at which the waves are breaking. Then, turn to face the beach and start kicking and swimming at just the right time – just before the wave begins to curl in the direction of the wave. You will know it is the right time when you feel the undertow begin to tug at your legs. At that moment, position yourself horizontally, keep you back and legs stiff, and kick rapidly so that you stay just in front of the break. If you fall behind the wave, it will drop you and you'll get nowhere. If the wave overcomes you, your friends might as well toss you a dryer sheet and hit “permanent press” ’cuz honey, you’re gonna tumble. Should this occur, I recommend going with the flow. Fighting is futile, as the water will win. The only suggestion I have is hold your breath and enjoy the fast and furious reminder that nature is a force to be reckoned with. Don’t panic. Have fun for the 15 spinning seconds and worry about the sand burns, sand mouthful, and sand “settlements” later.

To arrive at work successfully, I find myself adhering to many of the same basic principles. I must leave the house at precisely the right moment. I fight and kick and rush to get out of the house, all in an attempt to stay just in front of the wave of stalled motorists, fender benders, and rubberneckers. If I do this successfully, my ride to work can be fast, fun, and at the end I’m ready to do it again. If my timing is off, however, I can easily get tossed, turned, and tried by the traffic all around me. And there is no effective way to fight it.

Being boiled by the ocean is different than having your butt handed to you by the traffic, however. After being knocked around by a wave, I first find which way is up. This is usually the opposite direction of the sand. I then stand up, confirm that I still have both pieces of my bathing suit, assess my damage and seriously consider diving back in to do it again.

After a particularly rough commute, I first apologize to my boss for being late. I then mumble an incoherent explanation reminiscent of the traffic lady’s report I got to hear six times. Then, I rush to my desk , assess the gabillion messages and emails I have, and begin the day stressed, tired, and not even remotely looking forward to trying it again...ever.

I realize that this is my third article in which I mention traffic. And, I realize that DC and New York traffic surfers point, laugh, and consider me amateur. But there is a reason I don’t live in those places. Charlotte is a great place for a born-and-raised ‘burbs girl to live in an urban setting. I once heard someone refer to Charlotte as a very “drivable” city. And, in many ways, this remains a true statement.

So far, Charlotte is kicking, paddling, freestyling, doggy paddling – trying hard to stay in front of the breaking waves of motorists. At the same time, the city is earning such descriptors as “most livable.” Good reviews attract good crowds. Charlotte‘s resident population is growing rapidly, adding spice to the city and cars to the roads. So what now? Are we really ready for it? As more and more people flood the city, we need to surf or get boiled. How does a city maintain it's "most livable" reputation while staying ahead of the resulting flood? Add trains? Subways? Transportation construction will only increase traffic, and drastically at that. Have we waited too long to start a major transportation overhaul?

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