Riding the Waves…Sort of.

“Look up, just look out and take it in. If you look down, you’re going to nose dive every time.”

“You got it, just stand up.”

“You could have saved that wave, you didn’t have to bail, you just got to calm down and find your balance next time.”

“Getting to your feet is the hardest part, after that you just have to stand and enjoy.” 

There’s a bang, loud, kind of like someone dropped a stack of books in the other room. Deep breath. Strong hands keep the board steady as I try not to grip the rails too hard. Gentle rush of water, gentle push, and then you hear yells of “Pop up! Pop up!”

It was like a dream, the pop up was easy enough, and then over confidence took over, balance lost that fight, and the water, while a very nice 75-80 degrees, did slap me back into reality with a sinus flush.

I’m on vacation, why did I wake up at 5:45 to come and put myself through this pain? The answer is that it was totally worth it. Surf lessons at Typhoon Lagoon, home of one of the world’s largest wave pools, was a great highlight of a much needed vacation in Disney World.

The above statements from the three amazing instructors were what made the early morning without a Bloody Mary in hand worth it. Bailey, Kyle, and James (please give them raises or something, because they are truly amazing).

I live in SoCal, and have had many a convo with the stereotypical surfer philosopher, young and old; but until that lesson, I had never got the frame of mind that surfing is a metaphor for life. The above quotes are actual advice that I was getting about my stance on the board, not about my life, but I thought I was getting a session with three life coaches. 

The water was warm, the hard work was being done for me, because Kyle and James were treading water, holding my board steady, putting the leash on me, and pushing me in the wave at the opportune moment. How they had the energy to do it, I don’t know, let alone still be encouraging and enthusiastic in their want for me to stand up and experience the sport that they so love.

I get it now. It is about the harmony, the balance, and most importantly, trusting yourself to have the instinct to work with your surroundings. Surfing does not feel like stand up paddle boarding, it does not feel like boogie boarding, or a combination of the two, as I was expecting it to. It is its own beautiful beast, that challenges you to stand up for yourself, but rewards you with the feeling not of conquering nature, but melting in with it. It fills you with an ecstatic peace that is obviously hard to describe, seeing as I am doing a poor job of it.

In the time it took for the wave machine to suck in enough water for the waves, James and Kyle would mostly let you be at peace, after they gave you pointers of course. At the time I thought it was because they were probably focusing on holding the board, and not feeling the pain of constantly treading water; but now that I think about it, they probably wanted us all to feel the peace of being on the water with your thoughts. Might just be me, but I was absorbing their advice, trying to fuse it in my brain, so that I could essentially forget it, and let my body do what it so naturally wanted to do, balance with nature (or at least the simulated nature of the wave).

They reminded me to look up, that I had my feet under me, so why not trust myself and stand? There was a part of me (the part that wanted the bar stand to be open when we were done with our lesson), that wanted to say, “Hey, life is hard, and complicated, it’s not that easy!” Then there was a part of me that wanted to say, “Stop saying everything I need to hear, I’m on vacation!”

My surfing friends will be glad to hear that I no longer think they are trying to fit into a stereotype when I say that surfing truly is a metaphor. It taught me to look up, I need to stop focusing so hard on what I’m supposed to be doing in the future, I need to look up and take control of my present. My feet are under me, which is apparently the hardest part, so I need to buck up and stand.

Big wave, every time. I was raised in a “go big or go home” family, and I wasn’t going to disappoint. Plus, I know enough to realize the small wave would take more body control…Injury Girl was one of my first nicknames, control does not come naturally. With each wave I got another phrase that reminded me of life, that wasn’t the intent, I know, but it was the result.

Look up.

Trust that you got this.

Stand up.

Balance before you freak out.

Most importantly: Stand up and enjoy.

Otherwise, what’s the point?