Surfing….is it a lifestyle that can change your life or just one of those inexplicable and seemingly useless things people do just because they ‘can’?
Surfing brings to mind images of bronze suntans, sun bleached locks and, in these days of skin cancer awareness, ubiquitous zinc smeared faces. It’s also synonymous with a carefree lack of responsibility, even a somewhat hedonistic lifestyle. But, underneath this apparent casual approach to life are some deeper realities because in the words of legendary surf writer Matt Warshaw “Surfing, alone among sports, generates laughter at its very suggestion, and this is because it turns not a skill into an art, but an inexplicable and useless urge into a vital way of life“. So why does the urge to hop on a flimsy synthetic man made creation and challenge one of Mother Nature’s most unruly, capricious forces engender such passion and loyalty amongst its devotees?
Quite apart from the fresh air, sunshine, water and exercise, for many surfing devotees it’s all to do with getting right back to basics and becoming one with nature. Raw, pure nature, in all its forces, has a habit of reminding us that she doesn’t care who we are or what we are. Most powerful person in the world or mere mortal, you’ll get exactly the same treatment from her. It’s a profoundly levelling experience and one which makes you understand that, despite thousands of centuries of development as a species, despite being at the top of the food chain, despite being able to exploit just about everything else on this planet for our own ends, when it comes to Mother Nature all that means absolutely nothing. We have no choice but to bow to her on her terms because what Mother Nature giveth, Mother Nature can also taketh away.
Surfers, like few other sports people, ‘get’ this completely. It’s akin to standing in the path of a massive storm and realizing that the storm is going to do what it wants, when it wants, how it wants. Storm chasers are like surfers; the elemental thrill of the ‘chase’, finding that great storm, tracking it, keeping in contact yet staying just out of reach. Knowing that being able to read it with accuracy and precision is the key to staying safe and possibly even alive. It’s an exhilarating, intoxicating adrenaline fuelled high unaided by chemicals yet just as addictive. And when the split second timing and lightening swift ability to think on your feet and adapt in an instant becomes an instinctive part of you then you truly know you’re at one with forces you understand.
Surfing indeed was a lifestyle. No, more than that: a life. It deeply influenced every aspect of our existences, from where we lived to the cars we drove to who our friends were to the temperament of a prospective mate it our career goals, if any managed to surface through the turbulence of our single-minded passion for the water. But more than anything, surfing forged our perception of ourselves and of our relationship to the world around us- Allen C. Weisbecker, The Search for Captain Zero
So how does surfing change your life? Well, for most surfers, surfing IS a lifestyle. Surfing controls pretty much everything you do. Whatever you drive must be able to accommodate surfboards. Where you live needs to be conveniently close to the best surf. Over time non-surfing friends drift out of your life to become casual acquaintances whilst new solid friendships are made on the waves. Earning a living fits in with the rhythms of the sea and the best times to surf, not the other way around.
Then there are life’s lessons learnt through the waves. Sometimes things are beyond our control. Sometimes the conditions just aren’t right for surfing, no matter how much you wish they might be. You can’t control circumstances like that and it isn’t your fault either. Sometimes things just suck big time because that’s how life is. Deal with it and move on. Life is much too short to waste on futile regrets about situations you have no control over.
In moments like this you realize that worrying is a complete waste of time and energy and that we tend to make a big deal out of real small things. ― Peter Heller.
Learn patience, because it doesn’t matter how much you want it, the perfect wave will come when it comes, which may be the very next wave or it may not happen that day. And once you realise that impatience gets you absolutely nowhere, other than perhaps a short cut to frustration, you learn to bide your time waiting for the right opportunity and you learn to recognise it and embrace it when it arrives.
“people who turn their dreams into reality don’t put a timeline on their dream.” ― Peter Heller.
Persistence and courage – time and again you’ll get knocked off your surfboard or you’ll get dumped, injured, embarrassed because you misjudged the timing or made a tiny mistake or didn’t take preventative action in time. It takes persistence and it takes courage to keep getting back on and going out for more. But eventually that perfect wave will come along and make all the spills and bruises worthwhile. That’s life – persistence in the face of adversity is what will get you through and without courage we would spend our lives shackled by perpetual fear. No one understands this better than a surfer.
Surfing is also all very much about living in the ‘now’. Surfing happens in real time. What happened a second ago is in the past. Leave it there. Dwelling on regrets is mostly futile unless you can learn something from them. What is about to happen is in the future. Leave that there too. Focus and keep track off what is happening right at this very second because that’s the only way you’ll know when you have to make split second decisions that could alter the course of the next few seconds.
So, yes, surfing can change how you live your life, it does change your perspective and the way you view the world and yourself in relation to what is happening around you. Surfing is quintessentially about you, your board and the sea. It’s about relying on yourself to meet and conquer challenges that are thrown at you. But most of all it’s about coming to an understanding with a capricious force of nature and through that understanding be in perfect harmony with it.
“We love surfers for the same reasons we have always admired doctors and pilots and firemen and shamans, for the same reasons we admire excellent soldiers: because despite themselves they have bowed to a force much greater than themselves, which in this case is the wave, and submitted to the gnarly rigors of its discipline. They have allowed themselves to be shaped and polished by the sea.” ― Peter Heller, Kook: What Surfing Taught Me About Love, Life, and Catching the Perfect Wave