A state of intense happiness, sometimes more than is reasonable in a particular situation. This is how many dictionaries define the word ‘euphoria’. Ask any surfer why they surf, and what they feel while surfing and the chances are, that you will hear many different responses resembling that definition. There must be a reason, why so many people pursue this physically challenging sport, often frustrating, exhausting and sometimes even dangerous.
Most people who have tried it once, are hooked for life. If you are one of the lucky ones, born or living near the waves and the surf culture, that probably is your life already. If, like me, you have learned to surf as an adult, suddenly your life and holiday planning is often consumed by an itch of catching waves again. Your sun and sand holidays and pleasures of walking the streets of Rome or Barcelona, are replaced by chasing your next surf destination, which often is not as glamorous. Your five-star hotels are replaced by surf camps and hostels and you trade the comfort and pampering, for shared rooms, 6 AM wake up calls for sunrise surf, exhaustion, frustration, sunburn, blisters, bruises, scratches or worse, if you happen to hit the reef with your back or bum. Yet, instead of complaining, you come home happy, content and already planning your next surf trip.
Because regardless of all the frustrations, the fear and discomfort you will endure; the inner peace, the feeling of achievement; the mindlessness you experience waiting and riding waves, outweighs everything else.
I started surfing much later than most people, even though I had my first encounter in Bali many years ago, which didn’t end well. I hurt my leg after the first hour and defeated carried my massive board back to the rental place. I gave it another go years after and learned to surf in Lanzarote, where I had the time of my life and many blisters from a warm water and soft board combination. Since then, I traded the pleasures of beautiful hotels for less beautiful surf hostels, but in equally beautiful destinations.
My surf trips are like waves, some are disasters, some are amazing. Sometimes I’m ecstatic with the progress I’ve made, sometimes I’m the biggest kook out there. But it doesn’t matter, because now I’ve got the bug. Surfing may not have changed my life, but it has definitely opened my mind into many different dimensions. There are experiences I’ve had in life, that I wouldn’t have, if it wasn’t for surfing; people I wouldn’t have met and things I wouldn’t have known about myself. For instance, that I can hold my breath, for much longer than I thought…
If you haven’t tried surfing and think it’s as effortless as it looks, you couldn’t be further from the truth. It’s physically challenging and exhausting. Try to paddle a few days in a row, battle with waves to get out of the impact zone, or fall when you think you just caught the wave … Only to start the battle all over again to get back out there and do it again.
But when you get to ride that wave, you and your surfboard carried by the enormous energy of the water - the magic happens. The feeling you haven’t experienced before. It’s just you and the monster of a wave… or sometimes a little monster. At that moment of time, nothing else matters and nothing else exists. Your only focus is riding that wave. For the next 10-20 seconds… Because that’s how long it is likely to be. Your mind is free of every other thought or emotion and that is a definition of zen.
The time you spend in the water paddling, wrestling, surfing, or just sitting quietly on a flat surface of the ocean and waiting for waves, is the time, when nothing else matters or exists. Whatever problems, worries, insecurities you have, they are left at the shore. Or if you lucky, they are left far away - at home. Quite often you feel stocked long after your surf session ended and way too happy to think about anything else. All you are interested in, is sharing surf stories with your surf mates at dinner.
Surfing is challenging for your body, it’s a real cardiovascular exercise and you spend about 54% of your time paddling, 28% waiting for waves and only 8% surfing.
Sometimes it’s dangerous. There are rip currents, there is your surfboard which may land somewhere else than the water surface, there are rocks or reef, there are waves that look bigger when you are lying on the surfboard, then from the shore; and stronger, when they actually break over your head and heat you with their power. If you have been hit, or fallen and went down the whirlpool, you will have the powerful force testing your breath holding skills. At times, you may have a thought of your life coming to an end. Even if you are after only a four foot wave and your chances of survival are pretty high. You quickly start to appreciate the nature more. And you start to appreciate your fragility too.
Still, you are unfazed by any of this. You take the challenge, you learn, you adapt, and you know how to deal with it better next time. Because the joy of riding waves is bigger than the challenges you will face. And actually, depending on where you are in the world and what the nature has to offer, it’s not always as dramatic as that. There are places with an easy paddle and beautiful mellow waves breaking gently, where riding them feels like a fairy tale. Places with a crystal blue water, blue sky and a coconut the size of your head waiting for you when you finally had enough, and the skin starts peeling off your ears. It’s good to experience the good, the bad and the ugly, to fully appreciate the joy of surfing and all the different conditions the world’s oceans have to offer. Not only through surfing, but through travelling, blending and experiencing with local cultures and experiencing new things in life. Because you are likely to want to discover new destinations, each of them offering something different and unique.
Surfing is gaining popularity these days, some sources even state, that there are 35 million people around the world experiencing the joy of riding waves. If you have tried, you may have said it’s not for you. But more often, those who started surfing can’t imagine not to do it again. And it doesn’t matter if you are any good. Yes, it’s frustrating when you suck at it and see others doing better than you. Of course, you want to be better. But like yoga, surfing is not a competition. It takes years and many, many surf trips to be really good at it. Unless you are a surf babe or a surf dude born in Hawaii, Australia’s Gold Coast, Indonesia or any other surfable place in the world... Lucky you…
Otherwise, just give it a try and you may get hooked like 35 million of others.
“The best surfer out there is the one having the most fun.” – Phil Edwards
If you are a surfer reading this, I’d love to hear your thoughts, so please leave comments here, or on our social media @tribdapp. If you haven’t tried surfing yet, you might be tempted to try and see if what you have read here, resonates with you.
If like me, you love travel, surf and adventure and would like to meet other like-minded people for your next trip, download Tribd on iOS. Tribd helps you find travel buddies with similar travel plans and interests.
 The Sports Performance Research Institute New Zealand (SPRINZ)