No two days are ever the same in the ocean, and no person is never the same once meeting her. For Kelly Perriello the ocean is a place where she found power in perseverance, and belief in her inner strength.
I’ve always loved the water, my dad taught me how to swim at one.Then at three, I developed the fear of the ocean briefly after watching too much of Disney’s “The Little Mermaid.” Yet, you could never keep me out of the water when given the chance.
What started off as an excellent day, catching some waves on my bodyboard before work, turned into a terrifying one. When I found myself encountering my first rip current. Somehow, I had gotten swept out further from shore without realizing it. The fear was paralyzing. In that moment the only logical solution was to swim back to shore. About halfway back, I was already tired from swimming futility, and the realization of being stuck, felt like at any moment I was going to drown.
I could still touch the bottom, depending on the wave. It was right between high tide going out and the low tide coming in. I felt like I was constantly hopping from foot to foot, my fins bouncing uselessly against the sandbars as I weighed my decisions and possible outcomes. What would happen to me? Could anyone see me? What would happen if I drowned? I don’t know how, but I managed to swim parallel to the current, get out, and stagger my way to shore.
The feelings from that day rattled my cage and kept me scared for well over a year. I couldn’t venture into the water without replaying the day over and over. I grew paranoid and uncomfortable with the ocean, and knew 2017 needed to be different. I wanted to turn a new leaf and get back out there, wash away my fear of being in the water. I guess you could say call it a “sign”, when right before New Years Eve, a small ad popped up on Facebook for Slyde Handboards.
I had experimented with bodysurfing a little the year previously to no avail. I was still easily discouraged and frustrated, I couldn’t get over my fears. Handboading felt different, the community and the simplicity of the sport inspired me. It was just the spark I needed. It made me believe in myself again, and feel like it was something I could do. Ultimately, instilling the confidence to face my fears and go back out into the waves.
Facing my fears of the ocean didn’t stop at the shoreline. It’s helped me gain my confidence in the real world too, by making significant lifestyle changes. I’m eating healthier, going to the gym to work on strength and cardio training, and haved added meditation into my everyday routine.Handboarding pushed me into making long, much-needed changes in my life. I have never felt better and I greet each day with open arms. Who would have thought, my quest to get better at a new sport has lead me to a healthier lifestyle, and a greater drive to do more with my life.
Shortly after submitting this piece, Kelly had an unfortunate skateboarding accident that required knee surgery. We trust that the determination she displayed in overcoming her fears of the ocean, will ensure a speedy recovery back to the sea.