At first, I started surfing as an alternative to the daily gym. I soon realized surfing offered way more than that, and I fell in love with surfing. I now try to surf every day.
Have you ever wondered where the “surf bum, chill dude” image of surfing comes from?
If you have taken even 1 surfing lesson you will realize that the entire time you are in the water, there is an equilibrium between having to wait for a long time for mother nature’s waves and having to jump on the opportunities really quickly. This equilibrium is kin to finding the harmony and balance between the eastern principles of yin and yang.
If you haven’t surfed yet let me tell you about it. A surfer continuously, has his gaze turned towards the horizon and evaluates every wave that is pointing its nose at the horizon. The surfer has to evaluate where will the wave break. Will it break in front of him and shower him with an intense wall of foamy water, some compare to a horde of galloping horses for the biggest waves. Or will it break tens of feet behind him and the wave will be just a bear little bump under him? Or, and that’s the best-case scenario, will the wave break just 10 to 20 feet behind him while he is in the perfect position to turn around and paddle to catch the wave? This evaluation is done for every wave and requires attentive mindfulness which turns into a kind of meditation. Usually, there is a wave every 10 to 20 seconds when you are in the water. Many of them small. Some of them much bigger.
And why is this relevant? Because while you are sitting on your board, practically in a buddha position, your mind is captivated by this repetitive attention-focus process which doesn’t leave any space to think about any of your other worries. You are worried about your work? Nope, you won’t have work on your mind while you surf. Are you worried about a family issue? You won’t have it on your mind either.
Usually, you are being gently rocked by the sea, in the sun, floating on clear azure water, focused on the horizon. Your mind captivated by a fun game of guessing. It is easy to see the comparison with meditating and why many call it a surfing meditation.
Surfing leads to a healthy body
In addition to surfing meditation, there are many additional benefits. Have you heard of the expression “a surfer’s body”?
What happens when the wave is just right though? Then you have to quickly turn around and paddle, most will say “paddle hard!”. Surfing is a very complex exercise of paddling speed, similar to swimming speed, followed by a delicate standing up, the famous pop-up which is an explosive pushup, leading to a skating-or-snowboarding like ride on a mountain of moving water with continuous moving bumps. All of this within maybe 2 or 3 seconds. So yes, surfing, like yoga, or other physical development programs, leads to a good and healthy physical shape, mixing cardio and whole-body strength. And once you are done riding the wave you have to paddle back to the initial position through the incoming waves. Most intermediate surfers can surf for two or more hours. Is this a good physical exercise? I will let you decide.
Learning to commit and trust
Is there anybody out there who doesn’t have any self-trust issues ever? I also think surfing teaches you how to commit and trust yourself. Lets now zoom on a very short time frame in surfing, the exact moment when you are paddling for a wave and you are about to pop-up. When you have done two or three paddles into the wave there are three possible outcomes.
Either you haven’t really paddled hard enough and the wave will pass you by. What can you learn from this? Surf teachers often tell you: paddle like you really want the wave. There are other people in the water who often will compete with you for the waves. So if you really want it not only do you have to paddle hard enough to catch it but you have to look like you are trying really hard in order to discourage other people from paddling for the wave that is now “your wave”.
Or when you have paddled hard enough and your board is starting to slide down the face of the wave and you don’t get up. Yes, breaking waves are very steep. If you look down it looks like you will fall headfirst into the water. You are afraid you will fall and therefore hesitate. Hesitation leads to delay. If you delay popping up even one second it will be too late. The wave will fall on your head and you will be buried under a mountain of water. Surf teachers will then tell you: trust yourself, get up, pop up, and don’t look down, look where you want to be going. You have to trust yourself, trust your skill, trust your board, and you have to look where you are going, to your left or right and pop up. I have experienced this multiple times. When the waves are big and you are scared most people will look down and will hesitate. That will lead to failure.
When you start sliding on the face of the wave you begin to trust yourself. You look towards the wall of the wave, left or right and you pop up. You jump. And the reward, as most surfers also have experienced, is an exhilarating ride, on the face of the wave, gliding up and down in a sensation only found in surfing. That is your reward for learning, from surfing, to trust yourself and to commit.
Learning about the always-changing conditions
I also believe surfing is one of the hardest things I ever learned. It takes commitment and perseverance. Sometimes you have surf sessions when you don’t catch a single wave. Sometimes you are so scared that you catch a single wave in 1.5 hours. Sometimes you paddle out, and the first set of waves are so big you get scared and paddle back to the shore’s safety.
Why is surfing so hard?
It is hard because the sea is one of the few things not controlled by humans. Waves are created by storms. The storms can be far or close, strong or weak. Waves will be coming from various directions, and the shore shape combined with the swell direction will lead to completely different breaking waves shapes, anywhere from ideal to completely useless. Waves are also affected by wind. Wind from the land to the sea will make great surfing conditions. Wind from the sea to the land will destroy the waves and will make the sea-surface so choppy you won’t be able to ride anything. Tides also affect the waves: in some spots, waves will not break on high tides. In other spots, the reef will be dry or so shallow that surfing will be suicide. And of course not to mention the surfboards themselves, in all kinds of shapes, which will either be ideal for given conditions or un-usable.
Imagine if you wanted to learn tennis where the field will have different angles and bumps depending on the wind and storms. Where the balls would grow on the trees and you will get balls of various size and bounciness. And you would have as many racket types as surfboard types.
So yes, learning to surf is in my eyes the hardest sport out there. Every few sessions you will get a better wave. You will get a better ride. You will have that feeling of gliding and flying. And some sessions you will get out of the water completely demoralized. I think it takes anywhere between 50 to 100 times in the water in various conditions to really progress from beginner to intermediate. So what does this teach one? It teaches you to commit and persevere, and if you do so the reward will come.
Surfing also teaches you to deal with the situation as it is. Humans don’t control the waves. They are what they are and you have to make do with what you are given. You can not make the waves bigger, or smaller, or faster or slower. This is common in life and you will experience it again and again.
Surfing leads to nature and travel
Have you heard of the expression “endless summer”? Surfing is the gateway to it.
To surf, one can use most types of waves and one needs more or less off-shore wind conditions. In fact, to be precise the waves have to also not break on the rocks. Those are the minimal conditions. But beyond that, I think that the ideal surfing conditions also include clear azure beautiful water. Beautiful sun. Being able to get in the water in a safe manner via a sandy beach. And probably most importantly warm water that doesn’t require a wetsuit.
Most humans, unfortunately, don’t have these conditions where they live. So surf leads to traveling. Surf is a perfect excuse to travel to beautiful tropical places. And once arrived your daily surf session will involve being on the beach, in the sun, in the water. Surfing is also a license to be in the beautiful clear water when the waves are not safe enough for swimming. Surfing is also the perfect pretext to be out there, hundreds of feet away from the beach, in the currents, in the waves, while you are completely safe.
In surf you dive under the waves, your body surrounded by water. When you finish riding a wave you sometimes jump in the water in the middle of the ocean.
While surfing I have often seen turtles, dolphins, seals and nearly always small and large fish swimming around.
I believe surfing is the perfect excuse to travel to amazing tropical places and to enjoy our amazing ocean and everything it has to offer.
And by appreciating our ocean we are also teaching our young surfers how important it is to preserve our ocean. Free of plastic, pollution, and other garbage. And to protect it and keep it as it is.
I have fallen in love with surfing. Floating on transparent blue warm water, being surrounded by the ocean’s, under the sun and turning back and looking at green island paradises. The feeling of sliding on the face of a wave can not be explained, it has to be felt.
I have to say that surfing has absolutely changed my life! So much so that I started Wave Soul Surf Travel to share my passion and the gift of surfing with the world. It’s my wish that everyone could learn to surf and experience the many benefits it has provided me and can provide for them as well. I realize now that surfing is more than a sport but rather a lifestyle. It’s a lifestyle that when embraced changes the way you see the world, it’s people and our connection to it. Surfing has gifted me with newfound health, an eco-conscious awareness, and a deeper level of mindfulness that I carry with me at all times and affects all areas of my life. I welcome everyone to embark on the journey of Mind, Body, and Surf, embrace surfing meditation as a practice for whole-body well-being.