Breathe in, breathe out. Photo: Shutterstock.

The Inertia

I’m not going to lie, as much as I love the ocean, I started surfing to get the attention of a girl. I know I’m not the only person to have done that, even if I am part of the small minority who would admit it.

I’m also not lying when I say  that it was only a few days in that I started falling in love…with surfing, not the girl. It only took a few sessions to see surfing as a lifestyle more than a sport; a lifestyle that I could see myself enjoying for the rest of my life. I was 21 at the time.

Weeks went by, my skills improved accordingly and the buzz and excitement that I got from surfing was higher than ever. I’m still not the most skilled surfer today, but even from that beginning, I’ve always been one of the happiest surfers. It was about two years in that I started taking surfing more seriously, taking on heavier surf along Portugal’s shores.

It was during this time that, although I was used to the wipe outs and washing machine tumbles in the summer, the strength and power of the winter months proved to be ruthless. And on one rainy November day, I was handed my absolute worst wipeout. The struggle was real, and like many of us have experienced once or twice, the thought I might die did cross my mind. I’d always heard that most people in water accidents die quicker by panicking than if they remained calm. I can’t quite remember how I was able to exit the water. I remember being exhausted and nauseated and took me a while to fully recover. That was the last day I surfed for a very long time, and as I used to say, I was “jinxed” on that day.

At this time my personal life was a mess and even though surfing was my escape, I wasn’t actually surfing at all. The idea of getting back to the water terrified me. Months went by without surfing and my head and heart filled up, constantly ready to burst. It was at this time when I felt like I could take it any longer, that I stumbled upon meditation. With plenty of hesitation, I decided to give myself a break and commit at least 10 minutes to thinking about absolutely nothing. The challenge was to set aside 10 minutes for 10 days.

There is a common misconception that meditation is a very difficult and spiritual experience that requires a lot of your time. The truth is with even just 10 minutes a day you will start feeling small and subtle changes.

I kept going after those first ten days. Slowly, I started to feel better. The problems around me were still there but the way I reacted to them became different. I started to feel that need to surf again, so one day I finally grabbed my gear and headed to the beach, not caring what the forecast had in store. I was a bit anxious when I arrived. It was kind of stormy and windy and it took me a minute to understood what was I doing there and how will I surf in those conditions. I went to the water and felt so uncomfortable. In that moment some little voice inside me

I was a bit anxious when I arrived at the beach that day. It was kind of stormy and windy, and it took me a minute to remember what I was doing on a surfboard. When I got into the water, I felt uncomfortable. In that moment some little voice inside me said, “just breathe, you got this.” In the lineup, I tried something I’d never tried while surfing before. Focusing on my breath, on the single moment, on how grateful I was to be surfing, on the way that the waves caressed my skin, and every sensation that came with surfing. My mind was calm and peaceful but sharper than ever. I waited for a wave and then waited some more, as the good waves were scarce that day. When one finally arrived, I positioned myself and paddled as hard as I could. Right there in that moment, when the wave pulls us in, I got nervous and started to recall that last wipeout. Feelings of insecurity rushed over me, but in that moment I remembered the meditation training I had been doing in all my time away from surfing.

I didn’t do anything special on that wave. But that moment between going and panicking all over again had set me free. The body may be well prepared to surf, but if the mind isn’t trained as well it’s just a soulless machine and surfing becomes a soulless endeavor. Surf needs soul. Surf fills our soul.

It took me two years, but I did find my soul again.


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