Surfing is more than a sport, an art, or a pastime. For most surfers, it is a lifestyle and as close to a religion as we’ll get. Here are 10 reasons why surfing makes you a better person.
Number 1: Surfers Confront The Unknown
Beneath us lurks everything from sharks to jellyfish, rocks, coral, stingrays, orcas, and giant man-eating squid. Surfers play at the edge of the world, where there are no walls or barriers to protect us. We are literally out in the elements, facing both our fears and the possibility of enjoying more fun and flow. Back on land, surfers are the same as everyone else, dealing with tax, groceries, bills, car maintenance and spicing up our love lives. But in the water, we are in the unknown, and free.
Number 2: Surfers Are Resilient
You can never become a proficient surfer without building a good dose of resilience. The act of surfing will ensure that you get knocked around by nature’s elements. Waves will smash you, your board will hit you, some days you won’t even make it out to where the waves are breaking. But if you are resilient, you will have the courage to bounce back from adversity, to paddle and persevere – and strive for the things you desire.
Number 3: Surfing Makes You Practical
By this, I speak of practical in a boy scout kind of way. By simply being out in nature’s elements, surfers are more connected to the environment around us. Surfers are practical in that they will search for the easiest way out to where the waves are breaking. They will avoid the oncoming walls of water if they can. They’ll jump off rocks and will launch themselves off piers (or anything else) that will get them to the lineup faster. Being out in the elements with salt and sun and crashing waves forces you to have a practical mindset. You’ll be out there scanning the horizon for the next ripple and paddling hard to find it.
Surfing creates a very goal-orientated mindset, for you have a purpose when you’re in the water and that is to catch the next wave. Once you’re finished surfing, you need to find a way back to the sand. Depending on where your local surf break is and how experienced you are, this may be more difficult for some that others. Surfers need to be practical to ensure their own survival.
Number 4: Surfers Strive for Grace
The best surfers are often the ones who can link their maneuvers together gracefully. Many surfers can throw one or two big moves, but combining them into an effortless flow takes skill, style and practice. Doing anything in life with grace is a beautiful feat, and graceful living is perhaps the most virtuous type. Surfers strive for grace and this beauty and fluidity of movement is a dance, which for many overflows into other areas of their life and lifestyle.
Number 5: Bravery
There are few surfers who haven’t experienced moments where they felt like they might drown. Certainly most surfers who have been surfing for much of their life will have helped another surfer out of a dangerous situation. Surfing calls for bravery and this is before we even venture into the realms of pushing our own performance in big waves.
When you begin surfing, everything above waist high is huge, and has the potential to flip you over and tumble you around, and propel your board like a weapon towards your head. Passing from phase to phase of your surfing life requires bravery and every surfer who looks up and sees a new challenge and decides to take it — to step outside of their comfort zone — they have demonstrated bravery, and bravery once found can never be lost.
Number 6: Surfers Are Obsessive
Being obsessive is rarely thought of as a good trait, but it is impossible to master anything in life without a good deal of obsession. The law of mastery states that prolonged effort is required and, indeed, an apprenticeship should be undertaken before you can gain mastery of a skill or subject. The 10,000 Hour Rule holds true for surfing as much as it does for anything else. Being obsessive will drive you towards mastery and for many, mastery is freedom.
Number 7: The Search
Surfing is one of the pursuits that is most conducive to travel and exploration. Every wave is different and every surf break is even more so. Surfers love the variety in waves that break along the shores of our blue planet. From the soft sandy beaches along most surfing shorelines to the rocky reefs and coral gardens that line some of the world’s most treacherous and challenging breaks. But before you can find perfect waves anywhere, surfers need to embark on a search. The surfer becomes the hero and the search for waves becomes his journey.
American scholar Joseph Campbell identified a pattern of storytelling, which he called The Hero’s Journey. Any great surf trip will undoubtedly follow many of the same stages as The Hero’s Journey. In mythology, legend, and many storytelling traditions, the steps are the same: First there is a call to adventure; a person feels the stirrings of wonder, or quite literally is challenged to go out and embark on a voyage of discovery. Subsequently, they will often encounter a mentor or a helper, who might be a friend or a teacher, that will assist them in their growth and transformation. They will then pass through many trials and tribulations before they’re confronted with the greatest challenge, which might be perfect waves or a dangerous situation. Hopefully, the surfer overcomes the challenge and rides the waves of their dreams. They achieve greatness, they experience the flow of surfing, and they return home a hero, changed and accomplished.
Number 8: Appreciation of Beauty
I feel it would be almost impossible for a surfer not to notice and appreciate nature in all of her moods. Sometimes, the ocean is scattered with diamonds as the sun rains down light, showering the surface with sparks. Sometimes, the ocean is white and stormy, yet the depths below are dark and ominous. Other times, the ocean is golden and silky smooth, as the sunrise or sunset turns it to honey and gold. It would be virtually impossible not to sit out in the middle of a sunrise or sunset on a calm offshore day and not marvel at the beauty of being not only part of nature, but completely immersed inside of her.
Number 9: Learning to Balance
In a world where most of us spend far too long sitting in front of screens, many people have not only lost the concept of balance but have forgotten the importance of balance in our lives. Being able to walk in a straight line, being able to crouch down and spring up, being able to navigate your way along a moving surface — these skills overflow into your general feeling of confidence in life. Surfers test their balance with every single ride. Even paddling and sitting on your board requires balance. Finding balance is not easy, but once you have it, you’ll know how it feels.
Balance requires practice and practice brings with it the blessings of skill.
Number 10: Sunshine
Surfers spend a lot of time out in the sun. Not only does sun exposure provide valuable vitamin D to humans, who can’t create this vitamin in any other way, but regular sun exposure endows a great feeling of wellbeing in humans. So long as precautions are taken to ensure that the surfer doesn’t get burnt or sustain long term skin damage from over-exposure, then sunshine on your skin can only be a positive thing. The healthy complexion that many surfers boast is testament to this fact.
Photography by Bradley Hook and Evgeniya Ignatova