No doubt this type of piece has been done before by others, but my recent foray into the world of surfing combined with idle musings in a cafe in Perranporth, Cornwall, set off a scramble of comparisons between these two things which I wanted to write down. Not least because the perspectives which kept pushing to the front of my mind seemed to make a great deal of sense to me and have since turned my attitude in a better direction than it has been the last couple of months. But mostly it’s because I’m just made up to have found something I’m seriously passionate about and want to write about it for a bit.
So on that rainy Saturday morning, with an extra coffee and a slice of homemade Victoria sponge at the ready, I scribbled these down. They’re not in any particular order. My mind doesn’t work that way. But first some basic principles- waves are the opportunities and good things in life. Situations, relationships, jobs, friendships, times. Surfing is catching them and riding them out. The sea is just life. Easy. I wasn’t really stretching the imagination that morning.
Here we go…
Wade out to meet the waves. Constantly. It may be tiring. It may be difficult. But it’s the only way you’ll find the good stuff to surf on.
Be patient. This might be the biggest and best lesson to learn. But also the most difficult one. Sometimes it takes a while for a great wave to come along. Sometimes it can take really long. In fact, even just a vaguely surfable wave can take its time. The ability to be patient in the water. To float comfortably, waiting and watching, is worth learning. Otherwise you’re just burning energy and emotion with anger and frustration at something which is basically out of your control. Most of your time will be spent waiting. The best you can do is to put yourself in the best position you can while you wait.
Don’t panic if things start to go bad. It will only make things worse. You may drown if you’re not careful.
You will get thrown off your board. Enjoy it as much as you can when you do. Find the positive, even if it’s minute. Enjoy the fact you’re alive and can fall at all. Even better, learn from it when you do. What went wrong? How do I try and avoid the same mistake in the future?
Accept the fact that if you’re thrown from a good wave- you may never know why. Driving yourself crazy over it will eventually stop you from finding other good waves. Be ready to move on as soon as you can.
If you’re thrown- get back out there. And smile when you wade. Laugh. It helps.
You can’t catch every good wave that comes your way. But as you get better you can catch more of them.
Don’t wait too long waiting for the perfect wave. You’ll miss good ones. And probably the perfect one too. Waves can be hard to predict. Sometimes you just need to go for it. You may be pleasantly surprised.
You will have good rides. Amazing rides. Some will be short and sweet. Some will be incredible and go the distance. Enjoy the hell out of them when you catch them. Enjoy every second. And if they die out or you fall off suddenly, remember you enjoyed it at the time. Take what you can.
The more you surf, get stuck in, fall off- the quicker you learn, the longer you’ll ride in future and the more happiness you’ll have.
It’s cool. You’re alive. The fact you can feel and do things is actually amazing.
You will get battered and bruised when surfing. Don’t let it deter you.
Others may steal your wave, get in your way or hit you. Deliberately or not. There are all kinds of people out there whose actions are beyond your control. How you handle them and what they do is entirely down to you. Be cool.
If you let it, the sea will take you where it wants you to go. Sideways. Way out. Into rocks. Places you don’t want to be. You may not realise it is until too late. But as soon as you realise it is, it’s down to you to get yourself out of the situation as best you can. This may take a while and exhaust you. Be smart. Shout for help if you really need it. Otherwise, end up adrift or washed up.
Keep any eye out for lifeguards. The people who are there to help you. Make sure they’re in your life.
If you see someone out there in distress, lend a hand. Do what you can without putting yourself at too much risk. If in doubt, get professionals involved. It’s their job, after all.
The sea does have nasty surprises- jellyfish, sharks, stingrays, rubbish, pollution. These things may hit you out of nowhere. Don’t obsess over them coming your way but be ready to handle them if they do.
When you fall off, do what you can to protect yourself. Keep your hands up. Keep your head safe as it can be.
Promising waves can turn out to be disappointments. Either because of your actions or just the way the wave went because of its nature. Likewise, seemingly unspectacular waves can be beautiful surprises. You won’t know until you catch it. Keep learning and getting better at reading them, though. Improve your odds. It’s a numbers game, after all.
Search for better waves. Sometimes this may mean going further out. Find that balance between being bold and being out your depth. Remember that at some stage you have to take more steps out or stay where you are. If the latter is your choice then don’t complain about lack of better waves or being bored.
Seek advice. Other people have surfed before. Some are wise and have much to teach. Others less so, despite age and appearances. Use your best judgement. Ultimately, find out yourself.
There will be hotties out there with you. Smile. Say hello. You never know where it may lead to.
Have fun falling off. Or at least take it in stride. Getting pissed off does nothing but make you feel worse and does nothing to change or help the fact you’ve fallen off. This one is also hard to mind sometimes. It can take time to learn but is worthwhile if you can pull it off consistently.
Find the right suit and the right board. Be comfortable with your chosen skin and platform. Be confident in them. Know them and catching waves will be all the easier. The wrong choices of what you take with you into the sea might make it near impossible to ride well. Trial and error but worth the search.
Surfing can look so easy. People can make it look so easy. Some are naturals, yes. They may find waves easier than others. Others have worked bloody hard to be as good as they are. To look that effortless. But you haven’t seen all those times they fell off. Don’t be overly concerned with other people’s rides otherwise you risk becoming a spectator and you’ll never get anywhere yourself. Except perhaps to a state of jealousy, frustration and disappointment. You’re here for your rides. Your waves. Sure, learn what you can by watching sometimes, but make sure you’re trying too. Get better. Get as good as you can in your own way.
Enjoy people’s company but be comfortable on your own too. Not everyone surfs at the same time. Talk to people. Talk to strangers. Be careful who you discount. Sometimes you will be out there on your own. At least for a while. Don’t worry about it. Even if it seems scary.
Go where the action is. If life isn’t providing you the waves you want where you are, taking you where you want to be- move. If you can. As soon as you can. Save up. Bide your time. Take the plunge elsewhere. Why keep wading into waters that don’t suit you, your abilities or your desires? Life’s too short. Go after what you want.
Take a break. Surfing is knackering. As much as you want to, you can’t do it 24/7. Not without some form of amphetamine and even then the waves won’t always be there. It’s draining. Mentally and physically. Be smart. Rest. Eat well. Stay hydrated. Enjoy a beer. Good friends. Good lovers. Books. Netflix. Whatever. Keep yourself together, reenergise and get back out there when you’re ready.
Accept that some days there is no surfing. You’re ill, injured, conditions are bad, you’re out of cash, out of work, unexpected events in your life have derailed you etc. Do what you can during this downtime. Learn. Recuperate. Chill out. Practice other stuff that you enjoy or may help you surf when the chance next arises. Keep ticking over. Exercise. Stay sharp for when conditions improve. And they will, don’t worry. You just need to keep an eye out and be patient.
Keep your mind and body in pretty decent shape. You will be able to paddle for longer. It will make catching waves easier. You’ll surf better and enjoy it even more.
Remember that most of surfing is paddling out and trying to catch the waves. The rides themselves are comparatively short. But they can be really worth it and make the effort and the waiting all the sweeter.
Practice surfing. As much and as often as you can!