I have no doubt that growing up salty made me into one tough cookie. My mom taught me how to surf as soon as I mastered the doggie-paddle, and I’ve been in love with the sport ever since. The lessons I’ve learned as a girl in the water have carried through to my life on dry land. As the height of my body has increased and the height of my board has decreased, I like to think that I’ve become a dedicated, mindful, adventurous woman due in no small part to my relationship with the ocean. So here are five reasons why I think all the teenie wahines out there should hop on (a) board:
1. Surfing has taught me what it’s like to take a set to the head. Every surfer girl has felt the wrath of an eight-wave mega-set while trapped on the inside. I can recall being thrown to the shore, the water styling my hair into dreadlocks, and praying that the full moon doesn’t show after the next duck dive. (Hats off to whoever invented the drawstring bikini bottom). I’ve been in this predicament more times than I am willing to admit. But as much as I wanted to bag it and catch one in, I didn’t quit. Surfer girls know to never give up in the face of even the largest obstacle. And so they learn to keep moving forward.
2. Surfing has taught me to paddle-battle the boys. And win. So the boy to my left thinks he has priority when I’m deeper in the pocket? No sir. Surfer girls know that the best waves don’t come easily. From a young age, I learned to go stroke-for-stroke with wannabe-Rick-Kanes.
3. Surfing has taught me not to be afraid to take big drops. It’s always better to send it. This is the motto I try to live by, whether I’m staring down the face of a bomb or staring at a job application. I learned about bravery and fear when I started surfing powerful hurricane swells that roll into Florida each fall. Those humbling sessions have cultivated a bravery that I keep in every facet of my life. I’ve learned that the airdrop might lead to a Kookslams-worthy wipeout. But if I stay grounded and trust myself, that shaky landing just might result in the ride of a lifetime.
4. Surfing has taught me the importance of living in the moment. I’ve learned to savor every wave like it’s my last. I don’t worry about how to execute that next bottom turn, nor do I fret the previous fumble on a pop-up; Instead, I focus on the bliss of wave-sliding. The feeling I get when gliding down the face of a peeling-left-hander slows down time and speeds up my heart. Sometimes, I find myself dragging my hand along a glassy wave face for no other reason than to simply stay in that specific moment for as long as possible. By not focusing on the past or the future, I can appreciate the present moment. Live now, ladies.
5. Surfing has taught me to respect our environment. I’ve learned that currents are strong; I’ve learned to spot rip tides that could suck me out into the sea. I understand that I’m a guest entering someone else’s home. As a 9-year-old, a shark actually took a nibble from my right thigh. Originally, I worried that this experience might emotionally scar me for life, because it certainly did on a physical level. But my attack did not result in fear. Rather, it forced me to develop a heightened consciousness of the power vested in the sea. Surfers have the opportunity to connect with the earth on a deeper level than most. We’re able to develop a respect for their environment as deep as the ocean, itself.
So stay grounded, girls…And shred on.