Practice. It’s certainly a theme on this blog. It’s the story of our lives, but as adults especially, we often put the concept of practice on the back-burner in favor of ‘getting things done,’ ‘hitting targets’ or ‘reaching goals.’ Fortunately, if you’re going to learn to surf, you’re going to have to learn to chill out and be bad at something for quite possibly, a really long time.
Why is this a good thing? Because when you’re ok with sucking at something you open yourself to the possibility of having fun and enjoying the process, not to mention physically letting go and allowing for new movement to take shape. Ready to learn something new? Get the most out of your earliest surf experiences with the following five tips.
1.Surfing is really really hard.
Let’s start off on the right foot by setting expectations here. You’re not going to the surf Olympics as a recreational surfer who spent 14 days in the ocean last year. This might seem like a too obvious assertion, but if you’re a person who has a really hard time not being good at something right away, you could likely use this reminder. And…surfing will be a good thing for you, because it will certainly give you an opportunity to face those perfectionist issues. You’re going to fall. You’re going to fall a lot. Set your expectations accordingly. Allow yourself to enjoy the process, and laugh it off.
2. There’s a huge gap between being told what to do, and being able to do it.
“He kept telling me to pop up quicker, but I couldn’t!” Don’t be angry at your surf instructor because you can’t do what they say to. It’s your surf instructor’s job to tell you what to do. Over and over again. She knows you won’t be able to do it at first. But if she’s doing her job, she’ll keep telling you anyway. I’ve seen lots of folks throw in the towel out of frustration that they couldn’t follow the commands the first time they heard them. It’s ok. “Get up quicker!” sometimes needs to be said 100 times before you can actually, you know, stand up sooner. Your instructor only wants you to try, and try again. If you could do it perfectly the first time, well…we would call that ‘already knowing how to surf.’
3. Water will go up your nose.
And in your ear, and down your throat, and in all the unmentionable nooks of your body where water could go. Shake it off, cough it out. Take a break, but then get back out there. If you’re pushing yourself to exceed your comfort zone, your fate will most definitely include becoming one with the ocean in ways you really didn’t want to. A good instructor will give you tips for paddling out past the white water, handling your board, and staying safe. This doesn’t mean you won’t get a good ole trip through the ‘washing machine’ every now and then. Key thing is, the more relaxed you are, the better you’ll fare. And remember…wiping out is funny. Don’t take yourself too seriously.
4. Young Children and Dogs Will be Better Than You
You’re new here. It’s ok. Inevitably a long-haired 6-year old child who’s been on a surf board since they were in their mother’s womb will drop in on your wave, do a 360 and skim the rim on their backflip exit. Yup, on your wave. I’ve been in the water missing waves, while dogs on surfboards caught longer rides. Seriously. Get over yourself. The one having the most fun wins. Actually, forget that. Drop the idea of winning all together and just have fun.
5. Nobody Cares What You’re Doing. At First.
Really, nobody cares. Every single person in the water is enjoying their own practice time or caught up in their own vibey world, and they most certainly are not out there just to look at you. The only time it matters? If you get in their way, or if you do something unsafe. So whether you’re still tooling around in the white water, or if you’re nearing the line-up and trying to catch green waves, control your board, stay aware of your surroundings, and on a right breaking wave – look left! People won’t think you’re a loser for wiping out. People will think you’re a loser for getting all aggro and not having fun while you’re in the ocean on a surfboard – no matter what you’re doing. Take a deep breath and notice. You’re in the ocean, on a surfboard, learning how to surf. Does life get much better than that?
Learning something new will make you a better person. Surfing will make you a better person. But only if you let it. Let go of the goal and enjoy the process. Get humble. If you’re lucky, you’ll get to practice surfing multiple times per year for the rest of your life. Just as in yoga, we’ll never feel as if we’ve fully arrived at a complete practice. Nobody ever said, ‘Crow pose? Yup, I’m done with that one. Perfect now.’ Same goes with surfing, there will forever be room to grow. Even as you progress towards regularly catching waves, the process will continue. The end goal? To simply keep enjoying that process.
All photos via Sara-Mai Conway. Special thanks to Mario Surf School for the smiles behind all these photos of people learning to surf and having fun trying. To practice surfing on a yoga retreat with Baja Surf Yoga, view our upcoming retreats and events.