Discovering a passion for surfing and meeting three women who became “beyond words important” have propelled former principal ballerina Sheree da Costa full throttle into new found happiness. At age 53, the former ballerina with the Australian Ballet, choreographer and actor has added writing to her list of achievements.
While Sheree is re-familiarising herself with her maiden name after her long-time marriage to high-profile dance man David Atkins broke down 15 months ago she is about to publish a book, Taking the Drop, she co-authored with her cherished surfing girlfriends.
Whether it was her restlessness on the beach watching her sons surf the waves, or her desire to overcome her fear of the ocean, Sheree picked up a surfboard for the first time at the age of 45 and has never looked back.
“Sitting on a beach and reading a magazine drives me completely nuts after about 10 minutes, so I ended up getting in the water with a board and being a complete doofus – but I just loved it. I loved the freedom of shooting along a wave,” Sheree da Costa told Australian Women Online.
“Surfing is like an active meditation…really there is only one thing on my mind; where is that next wave, am I sitting in the right spot, is it going to be a right or is it going to be a left…so if I have something else on my mind, I find that surfing just completely wipes that. Whereas if I try to meditate, I’m constantly fighting that thing coming into my mind and nagging at me, you should be doing X, Y, Z. In the ocean, none of that exists.”
Sheree’s shared love of surfing with her best friends Danielle DuBois, Jillian Flitton and Debbie James prompted the group to write a book as a way to celebrate their friendship.
“The four of us, as we became closer, felt like we wanted to do something about our friendship,” said Sheree.
“I had actually started a book, just to do with my own life. I had half a chapter done but I didn’t know what I was going to do with it. Then Danielle said ‘why don’t we write a book together?’ That’s when I ran like a maniac and got my writing…they got very excited and that’s how it happened.”
“That was nearly three years ago, so it’s taken a whole lot to do it. Thank God we didn’t know how hard it would be because it would never have got off the ground otherwise.”
With all four women experiencing writing, editing and seeking a book publisher with no background in the industry, Sheree explained it was a challenging but rewarding learning curve – a lot like surfing.
“I found the layout area was really, really difficult. The actual writing thing is joyous, even though if I was to look back over my first draft and go ‘what a piece of crap, boy was that boring’, that was actually a release. The learning process was fantastic, just like surfing,” she said.
When it came to choosing a title, the women received advice from a wise friend with experience in the world of publishing.
“She said we needed a term that summed up everything about surfing and also about us girls and the different challenges that we’ve had, and how we like to face our fears head on.”
“It was actually Jillian who said what about ‘Take the drop?’ Because taking the drop when you’re surfing is one of the hardest things to do. The actually riding of the wave is not that hard once you’re up, but it’s getting that timing right to take off. We all looked at her and went ‘that’s it’, and it ended up being Taking the Drop.”
Sheree says the friendships she has formed with fellow authors, Danielle, Jillian and Debbie, are “ridiculously important”.
“Between the surfing and my girlfriends, speaking for myself, those two things combined have kept me sane and I think led me, personally, to come out of a marriage breakup and be ready to meet someone else. And I have, and I’m incredibly happy.”
Sheree has advice for anyone looking to overcome a fear of something new, or who simply wants to try something they never thought they would.
“They probably just need to, without trying to make water puns here, put a toe in the water, because that’s all it takes, one step at a time.
“Make a step and then it’s funny how one step leads to another, like writing the book.”
Taking the Drop will be available to purchase online from November 20th, 2011 from www.vividpublishing.com.au/takingthedrop, or it can be purchased in advance by emailing at email@example.com. You can also find the women on Facebook and Twitter under Taking the Drop.