Everyone wipes out from time to time. In surfing, and in life, we all fall down. Some people do it a lot. Some, barely ever. But one thing’s for sure: every time we eat shit, we learn something. If we’re paying attention, anyway. Theoretically, this should make us better at not eating shit. Not that getting better is everything, but when we avoid potential failure, we also avoid learning and progressing. Getting comfortable on a personal plateau of safety means we aren’t taking chances, pushing ourselves, or testing our limits, preventing us from discovering even more joy. Here are six reasons why I love wiping out on the reg.
1. When you squander an opportunity that you have taken from others and fall down like an asshole in front of them, you have to learn to deal with a significant amount of shame. We’ve all been that guy or gal who has called everyone off of a peak and blown it for whatever reason. Then we have had to face not only our own self-loathing, but the hateful, shameful vibes from those who we prevented from having an awesome time. We’ve all gotten cocky and tried to lay into a turn harder than usual early on a wave and sacrificed a longer ride to look like a selfish dick instead. Paddling around hot with shame is a wonderful exercise. It helps remind you that you are just a little kook sack of shit. This can either motivate you to do better next time, or quit surfing altogether and catapult you into the depths of depression. Dealing with depression is something everyone should have to do from time to time. Life is sad. But also, with you not out there blowing everyone else’s good time anymore, the break is just a little less crowded, and everyone else gets to have a little better of a time, so you can feel good about what you’ve done–if only between bouts of crying and drawing the shades.
2. It is fun. Wiping out on a wave can be such an exciting, pleasurable experience if you just embrace it. I remember quite fondly a wipeout I had at Ocean Beach in 2011. It was a powerful day, I hit some sweet chop, fell off the front of my board on a speedy section, and got to body surf the gaping barrel a few moments before the lip sent my board right into my face, splitting it open as I was hurled over the falls and drilled onto the sandbar. I eventually made it to shore to discover there was an impressive hole under my eye leaking quite a bit of blood. This led me to the emergency room where I had a plastic surgeon put my face back together, and then I got prescribed Vicodin! Pain killers are super fun, and I never would have gotten them if I hadn’t fallen.
3. Wiping out keeps the ego in check. As I’ve previously written, surfing can inflate or deflate the ego, often both in the same session. As useful as a healthy, inflated ego can be, nothing puts things in perspective like having it totally popped. You realize we’re just hairless apes giving something real silly a go. Then you have fewer fucks to give the next time around. Approaching situations devoid of fucks makes you go harder, take bigger risks, and be fearless which is unequivocally wonderful… unless you have kids and people that depend on you being alive and able to provide for them regularly.
4. You can’t get to the top if you haven’t spent time at the bottom. A good top turn is set up by a good bottom turn. If you haven’t fallen flat on your face, dealt with it, learned the lesson and picked yourself back up, you’ll never be as successful or confident as you could be. If not in reality, at least by comparison to when you were at rock bottom. When we fall and fail, it’s never as scary, bad, or painful as we were worried it would be. Well, sometimes it is. Sometimes it’s much, much worse and we never get back up again. And we’re ruined for good. But I’m talking about when it’s just kind of bad. We dust off, and realize that we’re stronger than we gave ourselves credit for. This gives us the confidence to achieve what we set out to. Swagger to crack that lip, approach that ten, stand up to our boss. Again, this is barring those really bad falls, failures and terrible situations that just take the wind out of our sails for life and leave us withered shells of our former selves.
5. When we eat shit, other people feel better and more successful by comparison. It’s good to build people up. We’re all connected! If you can’t be great, be terrible so that those around you can appear great.
6. When we cease to risk failure, we become stale and boring. And God kills us when we’re boring. So keep the stoke, and yourself alive. Go for that giant air reverse into the flats. What’s the worst that could happen? You could break your femur and internally bleed out before you get to a hospital? The nose of your board could jam right up in your guiche and sever your balls from your body? Well, if you live, chances are you’ll have learned immensely from it, and you’ll likely get some sort of prescription pain killer. And isn’t that why we all surf in the first place? To feel good?
So go out there and take chances. Try something new. Commit. Really go for it and don’t be afraid to fail brilliantly! What’s the worst that could happen? You could die, or become permanently scarred, physically and emotionally, perhaps ruining your family for your own selfish pursuits, yes. But you could also become great, discover more joy, and succeed to heights that you never even thought possible. You’ve got to be willing to lose it all, mon frere.