When I was a boy, about 12 years old, I wanted to become a surfer, but it turned out to be more difficult than I expected. Living inland from the shore, about a half hour from the beach, no public transportation and a busy family, I didn’t get to go very often. Any surfing I got to do was relegated to family vacations where I would beg my parents to allow me to bring my board on the trip, only later to end with my attempts at riding waves usually leaving me upside down in them, so eventually I gave up. When I reached my 20s, I decided to give it a try again, but still having very little experience, I went at it the same way as I did before and ended up the same way, upside down in the waves. Eventually I just gave it all up and traded in my surfboard for some needed guitar equipment, as that I had some skill at. Over the years it always bothered me that I never became successful at it, never making it past being a beginner. It was always something I’d been drawn to, something I wanted to have a level of skill at, not because it was cool but because it looked like the most fun in the world and it wasn’t until recently that I had the chance again.
With being recently laid off, I kept feeling a “pull" to start surfing again. After some time debating if I could afford a board, being out of work and all, I decided to just do it. Driving by a local surf shop. stopping in on just a whim, I found the right used board at the right price and paddled out the next day. I chose a spot near my house, as I live just off the beach, called “the pit”. I’ve seen and photographed many surfers there over the years, so I thought I would be the best to start. There was no one out that day, so I waxed up my board, put on my leash and went straight out into the waves, just as I did as a kid. The sets were waist to chest high, which when you are in water looks very large, but I was able to paddle out past the break and float out my new/used eight foot Challenger “fun board”, and I waited. Soon enough a wave came that I felt I could catch, so I paddled to get into it. When I felt it had me, I went to stand up, the board nosedived and I went ass over teakettle, ending up upside down in the wave, just like when I was a boy. I quickly got back on my board, got myself clear of the wave, and paddle back out for more. The next three waves were all the same, with me wiping out time and again. I began making the same excuses and complaints I made when I was a boy “This board just isn’t right! It’s still too small for me! The waves break shitty! That’s New Jersey surf for you…” I soon stopped though, realizing I was doing the same thing I did as a boy and that was the problem; I was going out the same way and that’s why I was getting me the same result. I wanted things to be different, so I needed to approach it differently. I thought back to two surfing lessons I had one is a boy and one is an adult, with the one as a boy sticking out in my mind. The person back then told me “We’re just going to catch whitewater, that’s how we start.” So that’s what I decided to do. No more paddling out past the break, time and time again, trying to catch waves. This time I was just going to catch whitewater, and I did. Little by little as I worked my way through it, I started making improvements; I was catching the whitewater and start to actually pop up, and almost to stand! I made corrections as I went along for what worked and what did not, what needed improvement and eliminated what did not serve me. By the time I was done, my body was tired, but I was able to catch the white water and pop up, and actually able to get into somewhat of a shaky stand. This is the best I have ever done surfing and proud of the efforts I had made. As I sat on the beach, going over it all in my head, watching the waves, I begin constructing a “wire frame” for how I was going to learn this, and began to realize that I discovered the structure for how I learn, how my brain learns new information. With that, I realized I could learn almost anything, teach myself anything, as long as I followed this structure. I left the beach feeling proud & accomplished and headed home to journal what I had learned. I also wanted to think some more about the next steps, I was looking forward to the next time. It was during this I learned one of the greatest life lessons, patience and timing.
The next few times I went, I kept using my “wire frame” to push myself up levels, and I was very excited and anxious to do it, quickly becoming impatient with the process. Jumping at every wave, paddling like mad man, wearing myself out. I would get anxious that I would miss a ride, not get any better fast enough or that or the next day there would be no surf and I wouldn’t be able to surf again for I don’t know how long, but my biggest fear be losing the progress I’ve made. That all changed one day as I reflected upon my process while surfing. Tired from paddling, I looked over the other surfers out on the water and saw them just floating they’re on their boards, just passed a break. As I watched them, I thought about the “soul surfing” movie I had watched and the spiritual nature of surfing. How being “waterman” was important to the ancient Hawaiians and yearly surfers. How being in the ocean and being part of it was just as important as learning to surf it. I began to think about how every day I checked the waves and decide whether not it was a good day for me to ride it, and if it was a good day. How I was going to utilize that offering. I began to realize that I was being impatient with the process and myself. I wasn’t being kind to myself and was just wearing myself out. So I decided to paddle out past the breaking and just sit on my board and float. To just wait, catch my breath, to feel the ocean, the pulse of the earth, and just wait. As I waited and watched the waves I would get anxious to catch one, but I just kept floating and breathe, waiting till I was full with energy and the wave was right. When I did and I was ready, I paddled for a one I thought was just right and I got one of the best rides I had all day! When the wave was done, I just stood in the shorebreak and smiled & laughed for about five minutes… Not only was it the sheer bliss of, what was for me, a decent ride, but the fact that I had learned and grown from it, that my process was working. I was teaching myself and that’s when I realized how this applied to my life.
Patience and timing… Often in my life I’ve been confused around decisions, not sure what the best choice was. It took a long time for me to come around to trusting my instincts and learning to surf is honed that. Out on the ocean, I realized the power of patient and timing. How not being anxious for the next wave, not jumping at each one that comes by, waiting for the right one, conserving my energy to spend it properly on the right one was the key to mastering surfing. I quickly saw the parallel to my life. Each day when I go to the beach to check the waves, the offering for the day, I choose if it is right for me or not. If it isn’t, there will be another offering tomorrow. If it is right, I decide how I am going to ride it that day. When I do, I paddle out past the break and wait on my board, patiently. Letting myself and the board become one with the rhythm and just wait for the right time to move. When I’ve moved and once is done, I go back and do it again until like I feel I have enough for the day. Then I pay my respect to the ocean and head home. Quickly I saw how this is no different than my everyday life. Although it may seem very different because the complexities of life are appear not to be as straight forward as watching waves, but I feel that is only an excuse we tell ourselves as we are not used to doing making decisions in this way. I realized every day I wake up, life will have an offering for me and that offering is neither good nor bad, it’s just is, and I have to decide what I’m going to do it that day. Am I going to go out in it or staying on shore? If I decide to go out in it, I need to choose how I’m going to use it then paddle out into it to just be with it and wait. Being patient and waiting for the proper moment to make my moves, not calculating, not cunning or scheming, just waiting for the when the moment feels right. Not being anxious about it, or being fearful that another opportunity won’t come. But just by relaxing into it and being present, I can be fully aware of the opportunity as they come and will “paddle to catch them” when they do. By being patient and allowing myself to relax into it, being kind to myself and not filling myself with worry or anxiety, the opportunities come and I will be able to move with them. And when the day is over, I will “check the waves” the next day. It will be different but my “wire frame” for it will still be the same.