Life lessons from the surf

I went on a women’s surf and yoga retreat in Bali with one of my best friends and IT.WAS.AMAZING.  This was the first time I’d ever surfed, and the water was like a bath, the sun was bright, and the beaches were gorgeous.  A perfect spot to learn the art of surfing.

Now, I’d never surfed, but I’m athletic and a good swimmer, so I figured I was bound to be a natural.  I was excited to dive in (literally) and get started, imagining myself surfing those big waves you see in movies, winding back and forth in the water as I neared the shore.  It was going to be awesome.

And it was.  But what I learned about myself – and how I react to challenge and fear – was the surprising part of this adventure.  The lessons I learned on the board while I surfed (and while I waited) are the parts that stick with me today.

Here’s what I learned:

Me.  Getting pummeled.

Me.  Getting pummeled.

  • Sometimes you take a pummeling.  Lean forward, dig your feet in and keep going.  On the second day in the surf, the water was stronger and scarier.  This made me want to go back to shore and just watch.  I gritted my teeth, put my head down, and pushed on.  Which led to more scariness.  AND, more awesomeness.

  • Look where you want to go.  When new surfers (read: ME) are getting up in the board, there is a tendency to look down at the board.  This causes you to fall pretty quickly.  Instead, if you look at the shoreline – where you want to go – your board and your body are much more steady.  Keep your destination in mind and don’t worry about the waves crashing beneath your feet.

  • Some days will be worse than the days before.  The first day, I was excited and couldn’t wait to get out there, even after falling off a few times.  The second day, my muscles were sore and the waves were stronger and I fell a lot more than the first day and couldn’t seem to get right on the board.  That was the day I felt the worst about myself and thought maybe I should skip the other surf days and either stay on shore and watch or just stay at the resort.

  • Sometimes peer pressure is good.  Since I was there with one of my best friends and the other women who were also just learning, I was too embarrassed to stay behind on our third day in the surf.  So I saddled up, gritted my teeth and got back to it.  And once I did, I realized that every time I got up, even just for a moment, everyone was cheering and celebrating with me.  And on the third day, I started to have a little more fun.

  • Relax relax relax.  The instructors could see me struggling and observed my tenseness as I waited for the waves.  One floated with me while I waited and simply said “Relax, relax, relax…” and I took a deep breath and decided – if there is any place in the world to learn, it’s right here with great instructors, supportive ladies in the water with me, out in paradise.

  • Take a moment to look around because 2 feet outside that fear is something beautiful.  Once I took that moment to relax and look around, I realized – I’m in BALI!  My fear didn’t go away, but I got to experience, and enjoy, that peaceful easy moment that I was completely missing while tensing up and worrying about whether or not I would get up on the board.

Me.  Having some fun.

Me.  Having some fun.

Surfing turned out to be the amazing, exciting adventure I thought it would be – but the real gem was what I learned about myself and how I handle challenge and fear.