It’s crazy to think that surfing has been a part of my life for over 15 years now. Surfing was introduced to me by my father at a very young age. I remember sitting on the beach watching him surf, wanting to be out there playing in the waves too. He used to push me into the surf and I would ride the whitewater all the way to the shore. It has become so much a part of my life that it pretty much defines me now. I love to surf, it’s who I am.
The ocean has kicked my ass, pounded me senseless, and scared the crap out of me. But, the ocean has also cradled me, rejuvenated me, and given me some of the best memories of my life. Being out in the ocean, riding waves, has taught me so many incredible lessons that I’ve been able to carry over into my everyday life. And, I’m grateful for both the beat downs and the good times.
I often think about the Gerry Lopez quote above while I’m out in the water. I remember reading it for the first time. I remember how much his words landed with me. Surfing really is such a beautiful metaphor for life. And for so many of us, surfing IS life. So, I’ve compiled a list of the top seven “life-lessons” that I’ve learned through my relationship with the ocean. They may not be the same for you as they are for me, but I encourage you to think about what surfing, or any other outdoor activity, has taught you about the bigger picture. Then make your own list. And sit, filled with a life-time of memories and a heart full of gratitude.
Fall down 7 times, stand up 8. Surfing can be frustrating, especially to beginners, and even the best of the best have their off-days. The same goes in life. It can be downright frustrating at times. Some days it seems like the world is against you. Throughout your life a lot of people are going to tell you “no.” But keep getting back up and never stop trying. Prove those suckers wrong.
2. Power of Positivity
Keep an open mind. Conditions aren’t always going to be perfect. The swell forecasts aren’t always going to be right (they usually never are). Sometimes, you are going to blow the best wave of the day. People will let you down. And more times than not, things aren’t going to go quite as planned. Don’t blame the waves. Don’t blame other people. And most importantly, don’t blame yourself. Take each experience as a lesson learned, an opportunity to grow, and then move on. Don’t harp on the negative. Negativity is toxic in surfing and in life.
3. Never Panic
Panic is just a reaction to fear… a bad reaction to fear. Panicking gets you nowhere and in reality, it just makes the situation worse. In surfing, especially big-wave surfing, panicking can get you into sketchy situations (it can even lead to death). So whether you are afraid out in the water, or dealing with a nightmare on land, remember to breath. Think happy thoughts. Do whatever it takes to calm yourself down. With a clear, calm mind you can get through anything.
4. Give Up the Need to Look Good
Unless you are getting paid to surf, which most of us are not in that position, give up the need to look like you are a pro. Surfing, at least to me, has become more about my personal time in the water and less about how I look while riding a wave. Surfing is not about looking good, it’s simply about having fun! I’ve also noticed that as I’ve gotten a little older (and maybe a little wiser) that I care less about how I look, or seem to appear, to others. I am who I am. I’m not trying to be someone that I am not. So be confident with who you are and secure with where you are at, regardless of how it may seem to appear to the outside world.
5. Step Outside of Your Comfort Zone
Keeping lesson #4 in mind, the only way to grow, as a surfer or as a regular ol’ human being, is to step outside of your comfort zone regularly. Do things that make you uncomfortable, maybe even a little scared. Try something new. Try something you’ve always wanted to do but never have done. Know your limits (especially out in the water), but know that you are always capable of more. All it takes is the will, a little courage, and a little faith.
Respect your elders, respect the locals, respect the ocean and respect yourself. Respect will get you a long way in both the line-up and in life. Trust me.
7. Presence is the Key
If you’re not present in the water you’ll miss the wave, miss the section, or get caught too far inside and get worked. If you’re not present in life, well, you’re going to miss out on life. No need to harp on what happened twenty minutes ago or twenty years ago, just like there’s no need to analyze what’s going to happen in the future. Get your mind off of the “could haves,” “should haves,” and “going to be’s,” and focus your energy on the NOW. Because life, and the wave, only occurs in the present moment.