7 Valuable Life Lessons That Surfing Has Taught Me
Though we continue to learn throughout our entire lives, the era of your 20’s offers many struggles and therefor many opportunities for learning and growth. I was personally lucky enough to learn from a plethora of events in which have changed me forever. Upon reflection, I realised that many of these lessons have been solidified through surfing, and what the sport and lifestyle has represented for me, and potentially others. Here I share a couple of insights in which I hope will probe you to consider your own life, and the lessons that can be drawn from your experiences.
Don’t be too quick to judge others.
On an instinctual level, quick judgment was designed to protect us from danger. This “skill” is ingrained into us biologically, therefor making the habit hard to change. Surfing ultimately attracts all sorts. In the water, our passion for the ocean and the thrill of what it provides has the ability, albeit momentarily, to put aside race, religion, gender, economical status, sexual orientation – the list goes on. We are, above all, there to catch waves, have fun and feel good, despite what may be happening back on land. I have met people through surfing from all over the world who initially I too placed judgment. More often than not, I found myself learning a thing or two from these people, despite their differences, and became a more open minded, motivated and inspired person because of it. We all have our faults, we all have our strengths, we all love the ocean, and both our similarities and differences should be respected.
Nature is the best cure for spiritual, mental and emotional struggles.
As a person that has struggled with anxiety for virtually my whole life, and has suffered numerous big blows by the age of 23 I can tell you first hand about the power of simply immersing yourself in the natural environment. Through the hard times, I have been lucky enough to have people who have literally forced me to get outside almost every day, and for that I thank them. Surfing fell by the wayside numerous times over the years, but getting out for a walk, smelling the satly air, feeling the dewy grass under your feet, these things are more powerful than you would imagine. When we look up and see the stars shining down it is virtually impossible not to be taken aback at the magnificence of the earth and to have the reminder that no matter our struggles, we are lucky to be alive.
There is power, safety and strength in community. Together we can create change.
The surfing community is often a tight knit one. There is something special about belonging to a group in which stands for something bigger than yourself and is brought together by passion. My home town of Raglan is a classic example of a community in which has a strong sense of environmental awareness, standing up together to protect what we love and care about. If we want to create change, to act sustainably and ethically, the truth is that we have to rise up together as a community. Whether the issue big or small, there is power in numbers.
Travelling brings awareness, travelling offers growth like no other.
Surfing has taken me all over the world, to spots I would never have travelled to without the drive to find the next best wave. Because of this I have encountered people, places and systems in which have me gobsmacked, both positively and negatively. I have experienced the dark side, the desperate, being robbed at knife point and having my room invaded. I have experienced the generosity of people that have nothing but have given all. I have realised too, that by venturing on these surfing missions, culture can be both beautiful, and dangerous. Travelling in essence, has shown me that I am incredibly lucky to have options, to have my basic needs met, and to appreciate safety and companionship from most of those I have encountered so far.
To live well, you must find passion.
For me, my passion is surfing. Since the day I started this sport has driven almost everything in my life. Every morning, I continue to pose the question to myself, “I wonder what the surf’s doing today?” Through surfing I live in a paradise, I have created an employment opportunity, I keep my health and sense of excitement and youth. Whether your passion involves surfing or not, does not matter. I believe however, that having something which requires you to constantly learn from and that inspires you to immerse yourself in something outside your comfort zone is an incredibly satisfying, exciting and precious thing to carry through life with you.
We need to protect our planet and those that reside within it.
This is such an obvious point and I cringe when I think of surfers especially, that fail to make the connection between their actions and their impacts on the environment. You say you love to see wildlife in the surf, yet you continue to use plastic bags, and put no effort into a recycle system. You comment on the water looking funky and dirty, yet you use chemically based washes, and throw your ciggies out the window. Make the connection that your actions, big and small, have a direct impact on our world, the animals in it, and of course, your favourite playground, the ocean.
It is the simple things in life, that will always bring sustained happiness.
Many people seem to be caught up in material wealth, achieving their next career goal, arranging their perfect house and staying one step ahead of their peers. Though all of these things can be important to some extent, we always want more, and when we get them, they are never enough. The moments in which we remember for ever are those adventures with friends and family, the amazing sunset on that perfect pumping day, the luxury of having beautiful fresh food after a long session and the simple thrill we get from riding a wave with speed. These experiences are golden, and are memories in which can never be taken away.
Overall, life is many things, but with surfing, it will never be boring. Often lessons learnt are challenging, and only with hindsight do we appreciate their existence. Day to day living is fast paced, and if you don’t slow down, you run the risk of missing these valuable lessons which will ultimately enhance your life experience. I encourage you to take a moment to reflect, to allow the highs and the lows to sink in, and to remember, as surfers, we are the luckiest people of all.