Princess: Riding the wave of life |

Princess: Riding the wave of life

Ali Margo
The Aspen Princess

I had no idea it was going to be like this.

I’m like a crazy person walking around with spirals where my eyeballs are supposed to go, smiling so hard for so long it makes my cheeks hurt. My heart feels physically swollen, like it might eventually pop out of my chest and land on the sidewalk in a big, bloody heap.

It’s kind of like being on drugs, only I’ve never been more sober in all my life. I’ve also never been happier.

It’s actually kind of strange to write about being happy, and it feels borderline inappropriate or like it might be offensive or annoying. It’s much easier to be relatable when you’re flailing than it is when you’re floating. Plus, I don’t want to seem like I’m gloating — that’s what Facebook is for.

I spent so many years writing about my problems. I’ve been doing it since I was 10 years old. I filled journal after journal with not-very-pretty handwriting that never stayed between the lines, like literally.

From a ripe young age, I worried about my weight and about boys, two topics that would occupy my mind and my journals for the next 30 years.

The angst only got worse in my late 20s when I moved to Southern California after college, a place I always thought should have a sign at the state line that says, “You must be at least 5-foot-6 to ride this ride,” and then in fine print, “and you must weigh under 120 pounds, wear a 32D bra and be a size 2.” It’s true what they say about California girls. I was way out of my league.

It was an uphill battle from there. Nothing came easily except my career. There I was, traveling all over the world to write about snowboarding and surfing, and I was pretty much miserable most of the time, convinced I couldn’t find love because I wasn’t skinny enough.

I remember being in Fiji, sitting in a tiny boat off the coast of Nomotu, looking out where the sky met the sea, the landscape saturated in every shade of blue. I thought there was no lonelier place in the world than this, a beautiful place with no one to share it with. I was on location for Surfer magazine writing the first-ever feature story about female surfers I’d begged my editor to let me write, and I was miserable.

For starters, these girls I’d fought so hard to represent resented me because I wasn’t a surfer, at least not a good one. They entertained themselves by teasing me relentlessly.

One day, in an effort to prove myself, I paddled out at a barreling reef break that probably should have killed me.

“I’d give you some pointers, but I haven’t seen you get to your feet yet,” said Layne Beachley, the seven-time female world champion. She was from Manly Beach, Australia, which couldn’t have been more appropriate. She was a brute of a woman with a strong nose, light eyes and thin lips. “I just can’t believe you haven’t hit the reef.”

I took wave after wave and got pummeled every time, somehow managing to avoid getting shredded on the razor-sharp coral in shallow waters. It was way too fast and way too heavy, and I didn’t have the skills to navigate that. I was in over my head on so many levels.

One day when the waves were flat, we were messing around, jumping off the top deck of the boat into the water. I did a back flip, and she stood there, perched on her toes, looking over her shoulder at the water below, but she was too afraid to do it. She didn’t like standing backward. She didn’t like not being able to see where she was going.

Welcome to my world, I told her.

After that day, her attitude changed. I was able to get one of the best interviews I ever did in my entire career. We talked about fear and how to overcome it. Her approach was to throw herself into whatever situation scared her most, to prove to herself that her fears were unwarranted.

That never worked for me. But only because I was only afraid when there was nothing to be afraid of. In really scary situations, like surfing a barreling wave in the middle of the South Pacific, for example, I was too focused to be scared. I was a worrier. Those surfer girls picked up on that, and that frustrated them about me. They saw it as self-indulgent.

One day they caught me on video, playing with the split ends on my hair, an unflattering look of worry plastered across my face.

The girl who was filming me mocked, “I don’t know what to doooo, I’m so confuuuused.”

I guess my point is I put myself out there for so long. I was alone for so long, and I was sad for so long. That’s not to say I didn’t have incredible life experiences, because I did. I traveled all over the world, but I never felt comfortable in my own skin. So I was always running away, but the one thing I couldn’t escape was myself.

So when I look at my baby, his eyes so big and wide to the world, my heart is so full it hurts. Maybe it’s because I’ve been waiting for this for so long. Or maybe it’s because he looks like Ryan and is just like him, so happy and so content, so comfortable in his own skin right from the start. Or maybe it’s because for all those months he was in my tummy I fell in love with him then, and so I loved him long before he was born.

Or maybe I’ve always known him somehow and he was what I was searching for all along.

The Princess is very excited for her first Mother’s Day. Email your love to

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