Photo: Unsplash / Jakob Owens

The Inertia

Learning to surf was the best thing I’ve ever done for my body and mind. Even though I am in love with the mountains and everything they represent, they can never keep me away from the ocean for good.

While I could never have all my passions wrapped up in this one sport or place, I am so grateful that one day five years ago I dug up some courage, bought a good wetsuit, grabbed a very-cute-but-not-good-to-learn-on surfboard, and started teaching myself how to surf. But when you catch the surfing bug, you’re hooked. It takes hold of you and there’s no other option than to give your soul over to it all and enjoy the ride. As you experience the ups and downs of this beautiful, yet cruel, sport keep these things in mind:

1. Humility
Learning to surf is hard. I don’t care how athletic you are, you are not going to be catching head high waves and getting barreled your first day. The ocean is constantly changing and just when your ego starts getting too big, the ocean instinctually puts you back in your place. I’m not trying to deter you from learning to surf because we all need a dose of humility every now and then. I’d actually be the first one to encourage it, but take it on with the right frame of mind: persistence, non-attachment to the results, and a great sense of humor.

2. Patience
You can have the best work ethic, but the fact is you’re embarking on something that involves working with a dynamic piece of nature. Once you do get strong enough to paddle out the back and sit on the outside, sitting is exactly what you will find yourself doing with a majority of your time.

3. Persistence
Some days you will swear that you are going to drown out there. You can’t let a big set or a big swell deter you. You have to keep paddling and keep fighting or else you will end up just sitting on the sand watching. Surfing is a sport that can constantly be improved upon, which requires a lot more failure than success.

4. Awareness
You always keep your eyes on the horizon and never turn your back on the ocean. You may zone out a bit while you are sitting on the outside or strike up a small conversation with a fellow surfer, but 90 percent of your attention is given to scanning the horizon, waiting, anticipating, and hoping the next set wave is headed right to where you are sitting.

You have to keep your awareness on the present moment. In life, that’s one place I have to work on staying. Stay connected to the paddle strokes. Acknowledge the engagement of the wave. Execute the pop up correctly. Then use every cell in your body to feel the ride of the wave.

5. Acceptance
Clean up sets are a regular occurrence on a good day. And they are a learning experience every time.

Surfers will paddle as fast as they can to get deeper in hopes of paddling over a wave that seemingly came out of nowhere, but most of the time those waves crash right on them and you see boards flying all over the place. Don’t overreact, take a deep breath, stay calm, get back on your board, and start paddling back to where you were. Don’t let fear cause you to sit too deep and miss out on the fun because often your best waves are right there in the sweet spot.

6. Act Like A Kid More Often 
Why would anyone choose a sport that is so stressful, painful, and at times ruthless? Because nothing else exists when you do catch a wave. The adrenaline of those five seconds alone can create a high that makes your entire day perfect. Kids love to play and never need to justify why they want to go have fun. When you do finally learn how to surf, it is pure fun.

7. Confidence
“Hell Ya!” That’s what I think after every great ride. I earned it. No one gave it to me. No one did it for me. It was all my effort and my persistence to get that stoke, and when you work hard for something and get rewarded for it, you have no choice but to feel confident. Who doesn’t love success? It feels good to accomplish something and the best way to success is through failure and learning. So go for it.

8. Be Grateful
Appreciate the moment. That wave ends fast. There’s always someone out there catching more waves than me and I have to work on remembering not to compare myself. It’s easy to get caught up in the keeping up with the Joneses mentality. Be grateful for the waves you do catch and if you want to catch more then it’s up to you to work harder.

9. Detachment
You can’t have too much wrapped up in this sport. The ocean can be cruel. Every day is different. As surfers, we say “Any day you can get in the ocean is a good day.” But that’s not always true. Sure, if you have no job, no kids, no responsibilities, then go ahead and sit in the ocean when it’s flat or when it’s blown out. I prefer to tell myself that surfing is there for me, when I need it. Having multiple passions helps. I’d like to have everything wrapped up in this one, but then I’d be setting myself up for disappointment and less fun. When my expectations are lowest I tend to have the best outcomes. Don’t confuse this with not trying. There’s a difference between intention and expectation. It’s a matter of putting your heart into your best effort and that being enough. The results are irrelevant.

10. Love The Ocean Unconditionally
There’s one thing you can count on with surfing and it’s that the ocean will always be changing. There’s no controlling it. Accept it for the joys and sorrows it brings as well as the success and failure it teaches you. You are the only person you can control. Be happy for who you are and what you can do and accept the forces that are greater than you. You, just like the ocean, are full of potential and only you can tap into that vortex of invincibility.


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