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5 Life Lessons from Surfing

The way to learn how to do something FAST is to find someone who can do it well and learn from them. That’s how I found myself standing opposite Matt with his lean body, weathered face and twinkling blue eyes. He explained how to ‘pop up’ when catching a wave. Easy enough to do when the surfboard is on solid ground I thought.

Our daughters, Kaelyn and Bridget were in on the action and once our land lesson was complete, we waded out into the gentle waves, ready to test our new skills. Matt was encouraging and supportive. Watching for the perfect wave, getting us get into position on the board and then pushing us, one by one, onto the wave yelling STAND UP! NOW! Time and time again we just crashed back into the sea.

“You are not looking straight ahead” Matt would yell over the crash of the waves. “Focus!” “Stand up faster.” “Put your feet in the right position.” “Watch the sea!”

And then suddenly BOOM - I stood up and surfed! Loud whoops of delight escaped my mouth. I couldn’t believe I was surfing! The glory was short lived as the second wave came along and knocked me off the board. I was laughing as I hit the sea. What fun!

It occurred to me that surfing offers us many valuable life lessons such as:

1. BE PRESENT: you have to watch the waves and prepare to duck, dive and get out of the way of the big waves. There is no space for other thoughts or concerns, it is just you, your board and the waves.

2. SPOT THE OPPORTUNITY: learn to know which waves are worth catching and which waves should be avoided.

3. FOCUS: your mind cannot wander while surfing. The waves very quickly slap you back into the present. Drift off to your “To Do List” and the sea will reward you by dumping you. Unceremoniously. On your head.

4. ACT NOW: when catching a wave, you need to stand up quickly. If you don’t, you will fall off and have to paddle back out and wait for the next wave. Act now and be rewarded. Act later and lose out. Every. Single. Time.

5. PERSIST UNTIL YOU SUCCEED: Even with a coach by our side, it took many many attempts before we could stand up and surf. Steely determination kept us in the water. That and Matt calling us back out for just one more try!

6. GET – AND KEEP - A GRIP: Especially when things feel out of control: you have to grab your surfboard as quickly as possible once you have fallen off. Failure to do this will result in a surfboard whacking you hard. I saw stars when my surfboard whacked me on the jaw. Kaelyn got such a fright that she didn’t watch her board and bam, her board hit her too! The seas were rough, the wind was high and it felt scary and overwhelming. Focusing on that reality just gets you hurt. Get a grip, grab your board and paddle out. Fast!

7. EVERYTHING IS ALWAYS CHANGING: we had such fun during our first lesson that we begged Matt to take us out again the following day. Even his 6am roll call was not enough to deter us. We headed back to the beach to find choppy seas and high winds. “Looks quite lumpy out there” Matt said grimly. Bridget lasted about 10 minutes before stalking back to the beach after being dumped and hit on the side of her head with a loose surfboard. Kaelyn looked at me with huge brown eyes that yelled “Seriously Mom?!” Yes. Seriously. We went back in again and again for the rest of our lesson. Finally emerging bruised and slightly battered. “Mom, I am SO glad that is over” Kaelyn managed. Matt told us that the sea changes all the time, nothing is guaranteed and you simply have to learn to deal with the conditions.

I put my arms around our brave daughters, thanked Matt and as we left I thought to myself that’s just like life...

We simply have to learn to deal with the conditions!





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