In December, I was lucky enough to escape my rainy hometown in Seattle for a few weeks, flying across the Pacific to Hawaii – dreaming of luxurious beaches, shaved ice, and warm ocean waters.
Crazily enough, while most restaurants and shops were closed because of the pandemic, surf schools were open. So with a lot of time on my hands, I figured “why not give surfing a shot?”
As a lifelong swimmer, learning to surf was surprisingly challenging. But through my experience, my love for the water remains the same – if not, even stronger.
First off – I don’t know about my other swimmers out there, but pulls are not my strong suit. Instead of paddling out to the waves, I kept kicking, trying to use my surfboard as a kickboard which was incredibly inefficient (especially considering that my board was a massive 12-foot longboard). I kept having to tell myself “Get on the board and PADDLE!”
My instructor knew I was a swimmer right away because I kept racing the waves while paddling. He told me that in order to catch the waves, I’d have to get out of my competitive mindset and paddle at the speed of the waves that were coming up behind me.
It’s almost as if you have to become “one with the waves” – letting the waves work alongside you, rather than outpacing them.
Once you have the right mindset, you’ve got the hardest part down. Now, to get up on the wave…
Getting up on the Wave:
When I tell you this is the BEST feeling in the world, I am not exaggerating.
On my very first day of surfing, I felt so free and powerful that I ended up staying in the water for about 2 hours over my time limit. I left with tomato-red sunburns to tell the tale…
After finally getting a hold of the whole “paddle at the speed of the wave” technique (aka becoming one with the wave), I was able to push myself up to stand and ride the waves.
What stood out to me and led to this amazing feeling was the way that the wave grabs a hold of your board. There is a point where you stand up and feel secure as if the wave has you within its grasp, gently guiding you towards the shore.
I did learn how to surf: the technique, how to spot waves, and how to care for my board.
But as I reflect back on this experience, I’ve realized that the sport has taught me oh so much about life.
I almost fell off of my surfboard laughing after my instructor told me to “watch the ocean breathe.”
I wondered “what type of nonsense is this?!” But he continued to urge me to stare into the horizon, keeping note of where the ocean rises and how the sailboats in the distance bob up and down over the incoming waves. By turning all my focus towards the waves I was able to escape all my worries, thoughts, and concerns as I gazed into the distance eager to find and catch the next wave for the ride of my life.
Nobody can control how big the waves are, how low the tides are, or even the temperature of the water. I have to come into the ocean ready to face whatever it throws at me and prepare to wait for the right moments. These experiences have shaped how I look at life today: I can’t control 99% of what happens; sometimes you’ve got to sit back and “watch the ocean breathe”.
Surfing has given me a new connection to the water I had never felt before. Swimming has equipped me with skills that have always allowed me to fly through the water, but surfing has taught me that I must ground myself and take it easy, letting the forces of nature take control.
Let me know if you have ever surfed before and please give me tips if you have! I am beyond ecstatic to start my own surfing journey. Stay tuned as I invest in a board and catch some bigger waves. Surfing has opened up a new world of water to me, and I’m excited to explore it!