I have what you’d call a Type A personality. I am a perfectionist. I have high, and sometimes unrealistic expectations for myself. I struggle with flexibility and change.
But surfing has helped me find balance.
When I was a young girl, I dreamed of having a successful career. I imagined walking down Wall Street in a suit with a briefcase and living in a modern high rise apartment overlooking the city. I never thought about my wedding day or raising my children. Every aspect of my life was meticulously planned decades beforehand. It wasn’t the prospective wealth that drove me, rather it was the accomplishment and the assurance that I could set and accomplish goals. There was no tolerance for failure or no margin for error or deviation in plans.
Then I married a surfer. That is when all plans started falling by the wayside at just 21 years old — the first of them being a move to the North Shore where we finished college and started our lives together.
Mike is the most type B, relaxed, go-with-the-flow person in the world. And here I was living with a man who planned his entire day around surfing. He ditched class constantly to go surf. He would glue shut and duct tape his reef cuts. He didn’t have to do lists posted all over our house. He worked in the middle of the night as a janitor so he didn’t have to “waste precious daylight hours” working. His life was defined by finding enjoyment, not by what I considered to be productive. I thought that he was an unmotivated burnout. Who had I married?
I started surfing a few months after I got married. It had always interested me and looked fun, but I had no idea that it would soon become my identity. As I surfed more and progressed, I started learning valuable life lessons. I learned I had to go with the flow. I learned to let things go and not feel the compulsion to control everything around me. I had to let things go and forgive myself and others for botching perfect waves, burning me, or even running into me. I learned to be more reactive and in tune with my surroundings. I quickly became addicted.
After the birth of our second child, we talked about how we could simplify our lives. We both worked great jobs that paid well. Not surprisingly, my husband offered to stay at home. It made more sense for me to stay at home, though, which was the exact opposite of what I had always dreamed of. I realized that no one can have it all. I couldn’t be the businesswoman I wanted to be without it adversely affecting my children, and I couldn’t give my kids the attention I wanted to give them without limiting my career potential. This decision was frightening. I soon realized I was in a fortunate position. I get to surf every day. I have a network of moms that surf together and watch each other’s kids to make sure everybody gets their share of waves. Now that I have no professional responsibilities, we can go on surf trips without notice. We no longer need to sync our work calendars and request time off. My life goal now is to enjoy the moment and especially my family.
Surfing has helped me unwind and go with the flow. I am truly happier staying at home with my kids. Yes, it is difficult and exhausting but it is also very rewarding. When people ask me about losing my entire income, I let them know that it is just money. When I reach retirement age or am on my deathbed, I am pretty confident that I will not be lamenting the extra money I could have had in my bank account. But I will be telling stories of being the only tourist in sight in Haiti, being the only woman in the water at J Bay, Cloudbreak, Hossegor and Mundaka, surfing all alone in Jamaica, hiking glaciers in New Zealand, watching my daughter stand up on her first wave in Sri Lanka, surfing with and hanging out with the surfing pioneers in Cuba, surfing empty lineups in the middle of nowhere in India, riding in a taxi in Colombia with a son of Pablo Escobar’s former employee and victim, and many more experiences and countries along the way.
Surfing has motivated me to stay in shape, travel, see the world, be more relaxed and do my own thing instead of what I thought was socially acceptable. I even see it rubbing off on some of my friends. Surfing saved me from running the rat race — which has no purpose or end — and helped me discover what truly makes me happy in life. Now some of my friends and family look at me the way I looked at my “unmotivated, burnout husband” all those years ago. I never imagined myself without a fast track career in my mid-thirties, but I also never imagined having been to and surfed over 30 countries (and every Hawaiian island) with my husband, and many of those with my kids. I never realized the beauty of teaching my kids to surf on a Tuesday at 11:00 when I could have easily been in an office instead. I never thought that I would have more bikinis than dress clothes. I realized it is better to let everyone else try to be the richest, smartest and most accomplished, and to let them keep up with each other while I focus on improving my surfing and having fun. This is the recipe I have found for personal success and happiness in my life. Maybe it doesn’t work for everyone, but it did for me.