Type in “Surfing and life lessons” and you’ll be practically knocked off your seat with the sheer amount of articles and blog posts dedicated to the subject.
Surfing, it seems, has become more than just a radical pastime or action sport… it’s also become a way of life.
Across the world, from Australia to Indonesia, Austria to Canada and beyond, surfers are finding out that time in the water gives them more than just toned arms and adrenaline rushes.
It also provides ample opportunities to socialise, exercise and express ourselves.
Most of all though, it teaches us something that’s desperately needed in a world that seems to be constantly on the go.
The art of slowing down and enjoying the moment.
The importance of living in the present
Present moment awareness is a scientific concept that has been around for centuries, but only recently have we begun to fully understand its benefits.
But in a world where being busy is often seen as a badge of honour, how do we actually slow down and enjoy the moment?
This is where surfing comes in.
Surfing puts us in direct contact with Mother Nature and its many random, uncontrollable and unbelievable elements.
And while that can seem somewhat intimidating, it also shapes us in the following ways.
Photos by Tommy Pierucki – Lombok, January 2024
You can’t control the waves, but you can control how you ride them
This might come as a surprise to many, but we can’t control the size or quality of the waves when we go surfing.
In reality, there are multiple factors that come into play when determining how good a particular wave may be.
From the angle of the swell to the shape of the seafloor and wind direction, we have zero say in how the waves will look day-to-day.
But rather than getting frustrated by this lack of control, we surfers learn to embrace it.
And we discover that worrying about whether they’ll be good or not, while an inherent part of being a surfer, really has no effect on reality.
Instead of focusing on what we can’t influence, we adapt.
We use larger boards when it’s small.
We take a more playful approach when the conditions aren’t perfect.
And we learn to be content with whatever the ocean throws our way.
Taking this approach onto land allows us to make the most out of every situation.
And instead of wasting time on trying to change what we cannot, we stress less and simply enjoy the moment.
It’s good to be bored
As you’ll quickly discover as a surfer, there’s a lot of downtime.
There can be days, months or even years (yikes!) when you won’t have the opportunity to catch a wave.
But during these seemingly boring moments, we can find beauty in the simplicity of just being.
You can let your thoughts run.
See what bubbles to the surface.
Begin to realise how boredom is a luxury, not a negative.
Before long, you’ll be grateful for these quiet times and even start to crave them.
At the very least, being bored is an excellent opportunity to let your body recuperate.
At most, it’ll unlock your creative potential and force you to consider how slowing down is actually beneficial for your mind.
Photo by Tommy Pierucki – Lombok, January 2024
(The joy of) slow motion wipeouts
Taxes and wiping out as a surfer are two of life’s certainties.
Unlike taxes though, wiping out on a surfboard can actually be enjoyable.
Sure, it can be scary at first when you’re being tossed around by the waves… but once you learn to relax and go with the flow, it becomes exhilarating.
Think about it.
You’re underwater but not in any real danger, rolling, turning and twisting with the wave.
Nothing brings your mind and body into razor sharp focus than a wipeout.
In that moment, there’s literally nothing else that matters except relaxing and calmly making your way to the surface.
Of course, it may take one, two or even one hundred wipeouts before you realise that it can be enjoyable.
But when that moment comes, you’ll learn to let go of any fear or anxiety associated with wiping out.
And isn’t ‘letting go’ the key to slowing down and enjoying the moment, both in surfing and in life?
The waiting game
Sitting in the lineup and waiting for wave after wave can be an exercise in patience.
But as they say, good things come to those who wait.
When you’re sitting on your board, watching the horizon for potential waves, you have no choice but to slow down and be present.
You start to notice things that you may have missed otherwise.
The colour of the sky
The sound of waves breaking over the sand.
The feeling of the tropical sun warming your skin.
This waiting game teaches us to appreciate the present moment and to not always be in a rush for what’s next.
Then, when a wave actually does come your way, you’ll be present and able to enjoy it to the fullest.
Bicep curls for your brain
Being a surfer means you’ll be constantly zooming in and out of focus.
By that, we mean that those long moments of waiting and observing your surroundings will be punctuated by intense bursts of energy when a wave finally does come your way.
This is a similar concept to meditation, where we focus on our breath and then bring that focus back to the present moment when our minds inevitably wander.
This act of refocusing helps us better control our thoughts and emotions.
And while we’re hesitant to call surfing a form of active meditation, there’s no doubt that it can have similar beneficial effects on our mental wellbeing.
When you step foot in Xanadu, the first thing you’ll be introduced to (willingly or not) is the enchanting concept of island time.
Life here in Lombok moves at a leisurely pace, which can be difficult to adjust to at first for those used to the hustle and bustle of day-to-day life.
Occasionally, we find ourselves waiting for the ebb and flow of the tide, but it’s during these pauses that you can indulge in a cup of coffee and savour the breathtaking surroundings or blissful holiday atmosphere.
Before long it’ll dawn on you: there’s simply no need to hurry.
Take your time, relish every experience and enjoy the moment.
It might just be the most valuable lesson that surfing teaches us.