Life is to Surfing like Surfing is to Waves

Surf’s Up, Photo by BradensEye

The culture of life is fashioned with varied elixirs. Surfing is a sterling cause for a life metaphor. One cannot surf without waves upon which to glide. Winds and currents arc their measures of what a surfing day may hold. In life, we cannot live without ‘surfing’ the motley mercurial moments. That’s why I think life is to surfing like surfing is to waves. One must have waves to surf and one’s living is akin to surfing life. The more attuned you become to surfing the better surfer you will be.

I’ve spent the last two weeks in the surfing sanctuary of Santa Cruz, California. Before surfing was trendy, three teenage Hawaiian prince brothers crafted longboards out of local redwood trees to surf these waters. I’ve long-held a heartstring for this space, even before I ever visited. As a very young girl, I had a blue sweatshirt — the color blue that matched my eyes and the ocean on these shores — which read “Santa Cruz is for Lovers”. It was a favorite clothing item. As well, being a romantic before I even knew what a romantic was, this shirt became a symbol of so many things I wanted in life: love, time in the ocean, soft pretty things, the attention wearing this would give me, and California. I even kept this shirt on my teddy bears and dolls, long after I grew out of it. It’s a keepsake with me still today.

I’ve actually never made time (yet) for a surfing lesson. I’ve long thought about myself aboard a longboard, easily drifting atop slow swells, under the heated sunshine, popping up without trouble to walk my board as the waves push me along gracefully. Mind you, I have been surfing exactly once. My first boyfriend after I moved to California had the brilliant idea he wanted to surf without lessons. He bought a shortboard about his height and we took to Seal Beach together for him to practice a few times. One day I remember using his board. I recall successfully standing up for what many have been half a second. Plunging into the cold Pacific waters, in retrospect without any wetsuit to shield me, I promptly returned his board to him. I was best at cheerleading from the shoreline. Little did we know that longboards are much better for beginners. This spoke volumes about our ethics. At the time, I believe we both assumed we could be great at something without a learning curve.

Life and surfing have loads in common. Come what may, we cannot predict each wave, what kind, or that there even will be waves. The more we arm ourselves with instruction and exercise our bodies and minds to the fluctuation, happenstance, patterns of weather, people, locations, cultures, methods and practice, practice, practice, the more mobility we create to move artfully among life’s waters. Think about it — when you know more about your surroundings you feel at ease. When you’re lost in translation you are literally lost in translation. Sometimes winging it can be a fun adventure. Lucky is a state of mind and grace. However, a lot of these times we show sides of our character we likely wish never surfaced.

I invited a potential boyfriend along with me on a Belize FAM (professional business familiarization) trip one summer. He was upfront about his lack of international travel at that stage in his life and his expectations of his own anxiety. I was super appreciative of his communication, as it made our travel prep easier for me. I returned his communication by telling him I was well-traveled and an easy traveler. Together, I was confident we would enjoy the trip and I could handle his worries if they arose. I’d managed a lot of VIP’s, my own family, and friends with similar concerns during travels in my past. In truth, he did have a few waves of discomfort. Prepared, I surfed each with smiles of ease, words of explanation to help assure him, and plenty of cuddle time, food and relaxation for balance. Our most challenging moment was actually with near seven-foot ocean waves on a day we took a catamaran sailing all on our own. We’d both sailed, though never together.

The water was so inviting and the sun was just so sunny, we didn’t think twice about having this in the bag for enjoyment. The one thing we didn’t account for was high winds and current. Along the sandy shore, we didn’t feel the winds or clearly see the white caps far out at sea. We picked up speeds so fast and loved it for a good bit. Yet, when we aimed to tack our way back to shore in super high winds, the lightweight boat was engulfed and tossed completely in giant swells. First capsizing, then turtling (completely turning the boat upside down with mast fully underneath us). We righted the sailboat, only to be knocked back in turtle mode nearly instantly. I consider this similar to being punched so thoroughly, you’re not quite sure if you can stand again in the middle of a boxing ring. We both were unsteady in our words and our movements for a bit. We felt we’re tried every angle and were achieving the same poor results. The shore was in sight, but the winds and waves were dying down. We didn’t have phones to call for help. There also seemed to be no one in eyesight checking on us. Unwavering, we struggled and persevered. It was a good story much later in the evening and retold many times since always mixed with some humor and lots of wisdom.

The moral to me was that uncharted waves are a constant, so the more fluid your foresight the stronger your result. And not all waves are created equal. Some are tall, wide, slow, fast, full of dangerous undercurrent, a hoax as they fail at reaching us or the shore, a wily docket of changes as they go, seemingly foolproof and then skillfully setting us askew, or damn near unblemished in their synchronicity with our us. We all want the most success in life. No matter our wishes to gain love, income, family, certain work, material things, or more, the fluidity of life is possible through staying buoyant. It’s simple, but we don’t get very far very fast by drowning. The more we know the waters and waves we will come against in life, the better opportunity we give ourselves for being stoked about the interaction with them.

I’ve been wistfully studying the local surfers lately like I would pay attention during my dearest classes in life. I’m ‘listening’ to every body type, style of dress, where they get in the water, who they are with or not, how far out they paddle, which direction they face their board, what I might overhear them say, how they maneuver each wave they may catch and the ones they miss and choose to miss, as well their reaction when they close to another’s path. It’s an unending education. Some are solo, some teachers, some families or friends. Everyone has a different lesson for me. All encourage me to start my own surfing journey again with better course correction of a longboard when I’m ready.

Grant yourself time to examine the waves around you. Are you the one that needs to test the mere waters before engaging your board out into the waves? Are you the one that loves the feel of riding waves to shore alongside others? Are you the one that paddles far out into your own space to tackle the breaks on your own? Are you the one that helps others, imparting your skills and knowledge? Are you the one with tendencies of expertise before you’ve learned a lot? Are you the one ripping the curls to show encourage the possibilities? Are you the protector catching the signs, surges, and weather ahead of its effects to communicate? Are you the patient type that makes sure it has the best odds of working out to support those around you and yourself?

Mastering your mobility muscle will give you the sweetest rides. May your life waves be most legendary but remember they are what you make of them. Surf’s always up somewhere!

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