At the age of 34, there are only two things in my life that I’ve stuck with for over 1000 days. The first is blogging and the second is surfing. I realized the other morning as I paddled out at Manhattan beach that this would be my fourth year of surfing. So, I thought I’d share some life lessons with you from 1000 days of surfing.
Standing up is the hardest part
Learning how to surf is a bit like losing your virginity. The first time you do it you really suck at it. You’re uncoordinated, your timing is off, and you’re basically a kook. But the second you figure out how to stand up, the euphoria is so intense that all you can think about is when you’ll get to do it again (so, I guess sex and surfing have something in common). When I asked 10 surfers to describe the feeling of riding a wave, Dave Doolin summed it up beautifully: “It’s like an orgasm. You spend a lot of time trying to get it, it doesn’t last very long and it feels really good when you do.
Surf until you’re too committed to quit
The best advice I ever get about learning how to surf was from a guy in a bar. He said “go 50 times because then you’ll be too invested to quit.” Once you’ve done anything that much you’ve reached the point of no return. From that point forward, it’s not a matter of if, only when.
All it Takes is One Good Wave
I’d be lying to you if I told you I’m ever content with one wave in a surf session. There are few things in life that will cause you to give up hours of your time to experience seconds of joy. Surfing is one of them. Even on the worst days, all it takes is one good wave. In life nobody remembers you for your wipeouts, failures and setbacks. When you manage to catch your wave, the only thing they’ll remember is that perfect ride.
The Conditions are Always Changing
Some days are epic. Some days completely suck. But all you can really do is just keep surfing. Life ebbs and flows in a similar way. You catch a perfect wave, and you hit a lull. But all you can do is just keep living.
Don’t Let a Perfect Wave Pass You By
I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve seen a wave, thought it would be perfect, and let it go. There’s an opportunity cost to hesitation. Either you miss the perfect wave or you end up making a half assed commitment and generate half assed results (aka eating shit on the wave).
There’s always another wave coming
This goes counter to the point above. But don’t kick yourself for missing your wave. There’s always another wave coming. If the perfect opportunity seems like it passed you by, stop dwelling on it. That won’t bring it back. Live in the moment, but keep your eyes on the horizon because another opportunity is usually right around corner. In my experience the second wave in a set is always a bigger and leads to a better ride.
Wave Selection Makes a Big Difference
Learning how to read waves is a giant pain in the ass. The only way you can learn to read them is by surfing more. In other words to make the right choices, you have to learn by making the wrong ones.
If you’re not present, you’ll eat shit
Surfing teaches you that there’s tremendous power in a thoughtless mind. When you drop into a wave your mind goes blank and your overcome by euphoria as addictive as heroine. But the minute your mind wanders the ocean gives you a saltwater ass whipping.
The Wipeouts are never as bad as you think
Unless you’re surfing the Bonzai pipeline, or your name is Drew Brophy, the wipeouts are never as bad as you think. You might get shaken up mentally, but things usually turn out fine. It’s rare that you’ll experience your worst case scenario and even if you do, there’s tremendous power in hitting rock bottom (figuratively, not literally).
When you surf you learn to deal with somebody else’s schedule all the time: mother nature. She decides when she wants to dance, when she wants to play, and when she wants to sleep. She’s the kind of woman who tells you she wants to dance, calls you over and falls asleep when you show up (we call this a lull). You can whine, you can complain and nag her to death, but she won’t wake up until she wants to. The lesson is simple. Nature rewards our patience.
You need to get out of your comfort zone in order to get past it
When I started surfing, I would look at the surf report and hope that it wasn’t too big. These days I look at it and hope that it’s not too small. But it took some life lessons from a big ass surf day for me to get out of my comfort zone. It hasn’t been all fun and games (as you might remember from what I affectionately refer to as the Nicaragua death wave). But every time I surf a bigger day, I get a little bit more outside my comfort zone.
Don’t Judge Yourself By Your Worst Day
There are going to be days when you’re not at the top of your game. It’s what makes you human. But the minute you start judging your abilities by your worst day, it becomes a self fulfilling prophecy.
One of my friends asked me what I did with my weekends before I started surfing. I told him I couldn’t even remember, but it couldn’t have been all that great. Surfing completely altered the trajectory of my life. So I supposed it’s fitting to also let you know that I will be leading the social media efforts on a part time basis, for professional surfer Kyle Thiermann’s non-profit Surfing For Change.