This is Jack Unsworth—boyf of the author and competitive logger—and his mistress. Photo: James Parry @jimmyjamesparry
True Confessions Of A Surf Widow
Nobody died, FYI.
My name is Holly and I am a surf widow. I may be in dangerous territory speaking out about my widow status on a platform that is solely read by surfers, but it is time my story is told. My boyfriend’s name is Jack and we have been together for a couple of years. I am a novice in surf widow terms. I am also not a surfer myself. This, as many of you may tell me, will not help my case. Before you turn away, I would like to ask you to give this disgruntled widow a chance. I promise this will not be a moan, but rather an ode to the complex relationship between a surf widow, her partner, and his mistress.
Urban Dictionary defines a surf widow as “A girlfriend/wife that spends endless hours on the beach watching her boyfriend/husband surf”. I’d like to dispute their definition. We also sit in cars in the rain, wait with a glass of wine whilst dinner gets cold, get disturbed at 5 am for the dawny wake-up, our cars stink of pissy wetsuits and we pick our holidays based on swell.
This is my life as a surf widow. I have never dated a surfer before. My dad got the surf bug later into his adult years and my brother dips in and out occasionally, so I was never part of a family who live and die by the surf. My dad was always the kind of man where if all surf conditions weren’t aligned, he would instead choose home and the company of his wife. I was wrong to assume that all men are like that. In my relationship, there are 3 of us; myself, Jack, and the surf. We are a threesome, a trio in perfect disharmony, and it’s where I can understand how polygamous relationships start to turn sour. Surfing is his life, it was in his life long before I arrived and if we ever parted ways it would remain his steady and solid companion—nothing I or anyone else could ever say would pull these two lovers apart.
I have started to learn this threesome can actually be of some benefit to me—myself and his mistress service him in different ways. When Jack comes back from a good surf, he is a thousand times more affectionate, happy, and loving. It is quite literally like he is having an affair which I know about, but I allow it because I know he comes home a happier man, ready to give me the attention I want, which in turn works in my favour.
Don’t get me wrong, there are still pangs of jealousy: ‘Does he love her more than me?’, ‘Will I ever make him as happy as she does?’. But our relationship is built on trust and mutual understanding. Yes, he loves her more than me, but that’s okay because as much as he’d like to, he can’t marry her, she can’t bear him children, and when the surf is flat I know I briefly peak ahead in his ranks.
At this point, if Jack was able to contribute to this article, he would argue vehemently that he loves us both in equal measure. But honestly, his efforts are futile. Men, surfers; us surf widows are happy as long as you are happy. This does not mean I am giving you a free pass to drag us to the middle of nowhere with no toilets and surf three times to then wonder why we are a little quiet on the drive home. But it does mean I am grateful as long as I get the occasional ‘Thank you for putting up with me’ or ‘I wanted to surf for 3 hours but I thought I would come home early and we could cook dinner together’.
In many ways, adopting the surf widow life has helped my relationship. Just as Jack knows when I am riding the ‘crimson wave’ I tend to get a bit emotional, he cuts me some slack, and when he hasn’t been in the water for a while I have learnt to forgive him for being a little short-tempered. I have visited far-flung places I would have never known if it wasn’t for the promise of good waves, and I have a deep appreciation for the water and how much it makes my partner happy.
In my time as a surf widow, I have started to twig on a few well-used phrases that mask a surfer's intentions, which I would like to expose. Surfers reading—I’m sure some of these will sound familiar and I’m sorry for busting your secrets. Widows, these may also ring a bell, and whether you realised it or not, we have been played:
‘Shall we do X at Y time instead?’
Translation: When you wanted to do it, the surf is good.
‘Let’s go on an adventure’
Translation: Let’s go check a couple of secret spots.
‘Let’s have a beach day’
Translation: Please sit on the beach and take photos of me whilst I surf all day.
‘I’m just going in for a quick one’
Translation: I’ve told you its a quick one to pacify you, I have no idea how long I will be, it depends on how good the surf is.
‘Yeah it's not that good really’
Translation: I’m still going, don’t be under any illusion I was thinking of not.
‘I’m just going down to check the surf’
Translation: I’m going for a surf regardless.
The surf widow life isn’t for everyone, and although I may grumble and groan occasionally, I’m getting pretty used to those 5am alarms and pissy wetsuits.
Ed. note: for more "surf widow" related content, follow @surfwidowsclub on IG.