My own story as a surfer has been short and sweet so far, having been out there with a board, most recently in Bali, only a handful of times. Still, however young a story, it’s been enough of a journey to understand the incredible wisdom at the core of the sport. And like many other sports, the physical realization of this wisdom is life-changing.
First, there is the divine connection with the vast body of water surrounding you. It is the sensation of a force so much greater than you, and it’s pulsing. It knows you’re there, and it’s begging you to get up and dance. As I contemplate it now, I imagine that the last time we found ourselves in such a state was probably in the womb—another body of water surrounding us, another force so much greater, that finally crashed and danced us into life. Surf is like that too. It will dance you into life. Are you ready to give it a shot?
Laying on your stomach in the water, listen for the rush of the next wave forming behind you. As it nears, its force calls out to you, and you take a brief second to calm your breath, to scan left and scan right to feel your balance. You begin to paddle, and as the sound of the rush increases, you begin to paddle harder. Yes, that’s it, you’ve got it. Step-by-step…
Now paddle faster. Paddle harder. Feel the surf grab you from behind first, then soon enough, it’s got you. It’s got all of you. Feel the force of the wave beneath, and then stand up! Push up! Lift up! Back leg comes forward and plants itself near the tail, then the front leg picks up towards the top of the board’s belly. Now squat down. Get low, and lift your heart to the sky. Ride. Pump your legs up and down, up and down. You’re gaining speed. Do you feel it? You’re dancing, you’re flying on water.
Now, let’s stop there for a moment. Press pause, as you ride the wave to infinity. Looking good there, by the way!
There’s this incredible jewel in there about wherever we look on the board, we go. We have no choice. Look down, and down you go. Backwards, and back you tumble. Looking anywhere else but the expanse of the view in front of us, the journey ends—or, perhaps never begins. In the surf you are called to see what lies immediately before you. You’re called to see what’s here and what’s now, and to move with the force of the moment. You’re called to trust yourself.
But I must be missing something, right? Oh sure, if you’re like my own inner-skeptic (and we all have one), you’re probably asking—but, Paulina, what if you fall? What if you eat shit? What if the wave plummets you to the bottom, and worse: what if you can’t get up?
Lucky for us, there’s a jewel here too. As surfing has taught me, the answer is that you will fall. You will make your mistakes, and you will fall off. And though it will hurt, and you may end the day in wounds, the force still calls at the end of it. The force still begs you to come dance again. So what happens is that you absolve to learn from it, and to try again. Each time, tweaking your balance, or your stance so that eventually you’re able to keep standing.
As you’re probably able to tell, this entire activity is a metaphor for life, and the greatest take away is: if it’s not fun, it’s not worth it—but the biggest secret is that we get to choose how we look at it.
That’s to say, we get to make the choice to find the joy in every moment. To find the fun in falling. The fun in seeing the depths of that beautiful water below, watching the whitewash pass you overhead. The fun in swimming up to the top with the fishes in order to find your board and get back up again. Do whatever you can to surrender and accept the painful moments. Once you’ve succeeded in failing to the best of your ability, it’s up to you how you look at them—and I suggest to make them worth your while. Make them fun.
The only way to be on top of the world is to be here, now. To find the joy in the moment. That’s surf. It wants you on top of this world, on top of the wave, sharing energies, riding in a symbiotic force of give and take.
To feel the surf means you have no time to analyze whether or not the wave is too strong. No time to waste looking back to contemplate whether or not you’re ready for it. Thinking thinking thinking so much — there is no room for it. No room for hesitation, no room for imagining the unknown of the future — how you’ll end up in the swell. In fact, the only thing that surfing calls you to do is to be in the moment with your decision, and if you decide to surf, then the only way is to feel it. Feel what the force calls for in each moment. The here and the now. And dance with it, the only way you know how.