In the space of one 10-day surf retreat, my body image changed. I gave up the story I had been telling myself for as long as I can remember. For years, I’ve struggled with loving myself and the body image issues that many people are familiar with. At times I’ve been the greatest offender of negative self-talk, allowing others to criticize me as well – especially people I found myself in romantic relationships with. I’ve taken care of my body but I’ve also treated it like it wasn’t mine to live in at times. Immersing myself in surfing changed all that by running around the beach in a bikini all day.
This may sound dubious to some, but hear me out. I’m not a young 20-something-year-old surfer. I’m 37 and only started surfing just after my 36th birthday. I haven’t been doing this for long. Surfing makes me incredibly happy and healthy, though. And when you are happy, you are beautiful. And it’s exactly what’s allowed me to accept my body as it is.
I don’t have perfectly toned legs or a washboard stomach. I have a belly that won’t tone up no matter what I do. I have hips. My back lacks definition but starts to get toned when I surf for days on end. I find soft parts of myself that weren’t there before. I still have those moments when I look in the mirror and remind myself of these things, but I’m no longer in my 20s or even my early 30s. The difference now is I respect, honor, and admire my body for being able to push it the way I have.
It’s easy to eat mindlessly and make impulsive choices while covered up in layers of clothing. But being free and shedding your security blankets allows you to become more attuned to your body. You can see how it moves, you ask yourself am I actually hungry? You start to fuel your body instead of abusing it with over-consumption or by trying to fill a void. And then there’s the obvious fact that surfing can be a great workout. The paddling, the newfound shoulder strength, and the improved agility to pop up and balance on a board that is moving with the rhythms of the earth and the ocean.
Part of the manifestation process is believing you already have exactly what you need. Being a surfer was something I dreamed of and never had a single doubt I would do. I took my hits along the way but by being connected to something bigger than myself and recognizing my place in the world, and through the sheer power of the ocean, my perspective changed – including my perspective of myself. All of a sudden, what I look like while surfing, what I look like after a session, doesn’t matter. It’s quite possible I look like a drowned rat at the beach, I just don’t care because of the ultimate joy I’m soaking up. That roll of flesh on your belly? Suddenly it’s not in the forefront of your mind. Surfing is presence in motion, it’s meditation in motion. And experiencing that is how I began to fall in love with myself and everything my body was capable of.
So my body changed its shape over those 10 days with some help from early morning yoga sessions and midday surf sessions. When your body relaxes it lets go of what it’s holding on to. That may be extra weight, it might be cortisol and stress hormones from our daily lives spent connected to media, technology, and our work life. But surfing allows you to let go of all of it and finally show yourself some love. Those people you think have opinions of your body while you catch waves? They don’t. Once your mind lets go, your body lets go too.
My message is simple: Surfing allowed me to see myself in a different light and be ok with who I am. My favorite outfits now are bikinis. I feel uncomfortable being layered up at home. I have struggled with body image issues for years and now I’m finally able to just “be” without worrying about the silly things that don’t deserve my attention, like what my body looks like in a bikini.