Exactly one year ago, I made the wildest decision of my life. I learned to surf. Maybe learned is a bad word; learned implies wholly mastering a skill. And if I’ve learned anything in my one year of surfing, it’s that surfing is not just something you “learn…”
While I was shopping for my first wetsuit at ZJ Boarding House in Santa Monica, a store employee said: “It’ll be about a year before you can finally say, ‘I got this,’ and you feel completely comfortable out there.” It’s been a year. I don’t feel like I got this. I don’t feel like I’ll ever fully “got this” the way Stephanie Gilmore, Tyler Wright, or Carissa Moore do. But getting there has been the most painfully rewarding experience of my entire life.
Surfing teaches you a lot about yourself. When I was an assistant to an actor, he told me that I would never be successful in this business because I was too scared of the unknown; my inherent fear of failure was holding me back. I swallowed his criticism and accepted that I was too weak to succeed in that role.
What was I afraid of? The stakes were low. Worst case scenario, I would lose my job. In surfing, the worst case scenario is death. Yet we get out in the water every day. Not because we’re being forced to or because we’re making money for each hour we’re catching waves. None of that matters. One of the most common questions surfers get is, “Aren’t you afraid of sharks?” No. There’s no time to think about that. The pleasure we get out of catching one wave is too great to think of the grim possibilities. Incredible things can happen when the fear leaves you.
Surfing is “The Secret.” I know that makes me sound like a wannabe Bodhi, but with surfing it’s true that positive thinking creates life-changing results. My most memorable waves (and I can count them on both hands) have been the ones that peaked up behind me unexpectedly–the ones that forced me to act. I HAD TO catch those waves or risk getting obliterated. I WANTED TO catch those waves because it meant getting a ride all the way back to the safe sand and being able to finish my ceviche. I’m not saying that we can do anything we set our minds to. That would be a wonderful lie. But we are capable of doing incredible things in our efforts.
Above all, surfing has taught me a lot about love. It’s written: “love is patient.” Yet I get mad when the boy I’m dating hasn’t texted back after 5 minutes. “Love is kind…(it) always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres…” (1 Corinthians 13: 4-7). I’m young. I haven’t dated much but I didn’t believe a love like the one described above existed until I spent some time in the ocean.
Patience–without it, surfing wouldn’t exist. Nobody “gets it” on the first day. But a year later, my love for the sport keeps me patient even in the midst of failure.
Perseverance–if we time our entry wrong, we have to deal with duck-diving or turtle-rolling through turbulent walls of energy until we finally make it to the outside. Our muscles burn in atrophy, but we ignore the pain and look past it. We might go for nine waves before we catch the 10th. It might start to rain, but it doesn’t matter. We tell ourselves it feels good.
Hope–what keeps us going. We trust that our best wave is still ahead of us. We hope that we’re given the years to become stronger. There are no guarantees, just like there aren’t guarantees with religion or romance. Hope is not a tangible belief, but it makes us be better in ways that material things can’t. I could never seriously date another surfer (though they’re nice to look at) because they already have that kind of love for the ocean. And we all know that the ocean will never leave us.
On our anniversary, I get to reflect on the good (and sometimes horrible) times we’ve had as I look forward to a future full of exponential growth. The journey never ends. There are always new boards, new breaks, or new buddies to enjoy out on the water. It’s changed my life and I’m so thankful that I decided to pick up the phone and call Aloha Brothers Surf Lessons that fateful March 21. It’s given me the greatest thing I’ve ever known.