3 Things Surfing Teaches You About Life:

I was surprised to find that much of my time has been focusing on managing and exploring the balance of my day to day life, instead of spending my time focusing outwards on the cultures, religions and customs of others. I’ve explored how to feel at home in a new space when you’re changing locations monthly, how to re-commit to your needs and wants, practicing how to let go of things that no longer serve you, and a bit more focus on staying minimal to maximize our experiences, which I’d love to explore further this year.

But lately, I find myself craving a bit more of a spiritual experience. While some people meditate every morning, or attend church services in every country, I wasn’t giving myself time to explore these options, and I haven’t quite figured out where to fit in yet, or how.

But, I realized, I have been creating my own kind of weekly ritual that has been replacing my typical yoga or meeting for worship (I was raised Quaker, by the way). A ritual I originally thought was just play and physical challenge. However, its also something that is teaching me the benefits of choosing the right thing, commitment to your goals and confidence in my own path.

Here are 3 things that surfing is reminding me to practice in my own life:

1. How To Anticipate and Identify The Opportunities You Should Take:

This is a big one. I thought that getting into surfing was about getting into great shape, challenging myself to get really good at a certain ‘move’, and to repeat that over and over ad infinitum on all the gnarly waves that came at me, Brah…

Which, honestly, was pretty much why I had an aversion to the sport (or all sports, really) to begin with. But, really, surfing, besides giving me a reason to get up early and spend time in beautiful places, is teaching me how to choose where to spend my energy and time.

Much of the past few months has been learning how to position myself on the board, how to make it through the rough swells, and to look into the horizon to anticipate what is coming. Spending your time floating, reading the waves and identifying which swells will turn into opportunities is incredibly important. Do your research, and you’ll set yourself up for a better session.

Pro tip: Its a bit easier if like in other activities, if you have a mentor to watch. These days we’re surfing in Rabat, Morocco with the Ouyadaya Surf Club, and we’ve been told to watch one of our incredibly talented surf instructors (though he does more surfing than instructing!): When he seems excited and is ready to paddle out, we know a set is coming in.

Use other’s expertise to your advantage: Find those around you operating in your space, and use their knowledge, attention and history to identify when opportunities are arriving. Just don’t forget to honor their journey and choices and get out of their way.

2. The Importance Of Riding The Waves Meant For You:

Stick with me here, but this is probably my favorite. After countless hours of crashing around in the swell, I realize there are many ways I feel like I’m failing. Usually, this is because I’m actually trying to ride a wave meant for someone else.

Its all too enticing to see someone else a few yards away, setting themselves up and riding the perfect wave, and too often I think “Oh shit! I should get that one too!”

But, half the time I’m falling off my board and missing their wave anyway, because I haven’t given myself adequate time time to set myself up properly, or because I haven’t paddled hard enough, because I’ve waited too long to make the decision to take the wave in the first place!

In surfing, it doesn’t pay to be indecisive. Fully committing to, and sticking with onedecision can be much less time consuming, much more fun, and much less physical work than trying to imitate others and jump into everything at the last minute.

The days that I leave surfing exhausted, are the days I realize I’m not practicing being selective in my choices. You’ll just end up frustrated and tired, working hard to catch waves that others have properly set themselves up for, and you’re left wondering what you’re doing wrong.

Instead, waiting for the waves that come to you, where you are in the water, will always serve you better than constantly trying to catch the waves that are better taken by others. Don’t worry, the only reason they’re getting their waves is because they’re practicing the same selective choices, at the spot in which they are in life.

Learning to honor and fully commit to your own life choices ultimately results in much more fun (and less work) than trying to constantly mimic others. And don’t worry about being left out. Watch the horizon, do your research, find your spot, and the right waveswill find you.

And, finally…

3. How To Be Present and Confident In Your Own Space:

FOMO is a real thing, and since you can never be everywhere at once, there is no way your life decisions will ever put you in all the same places for all the same opportunities as the person next to you. Don’t worry, because from time to time you might ride a wave in the same direction, and that can be both a challenge to honor their journey and yours without stealing anyone’s thunder. (But usually, it just ends up putting you both in silly positions, lots of improvisation and laughter).

Yes, there will be waves you catch that don’t take you as far as you’d like to go, or that others with more skill could take further. And, there will always be others who catch “your” wave perfectly from a different point in the beach.

But, know your own route. Celebrate your own achievements. And, while you’re at it, celebrate others too! As my old yoga instructor says, “Be happy for their happiness”, and then let it go, turn your attention inward and focus on your own path.

Beaches, like life, industry and career trajectories, are already crowded places, especially during good conditions.

Be confident enough to take up the space meant for you, and own it. Yes, this also means learning to navigate around, collaborate with and learn from the others in your space. But, don’t be afraid to wait your turn, and when it comes, give it what you’ve got.

If you set up properly and saved your energy for your own waves, you’ll go further. When your opportunities happen, let others who are less prepared rethink their trajectories –you’ll be ready.

“Comparison kills joy. Stay in your own lane” — Brene Brown (via Slack’s “load” screen).

Want to know my favorite places to surf in Portugal? Also: more on surf etiquette, if you’re interested!