Surfing is a great sport. For the pretty obvious reason that it is an amazing feeling to ride waves. It is fun to hang out at beautiful beaches in sunny weather, occasionally hopping into the water for a decent adrenalin kick. Watch surfers coming out of the water, and you see them smiling, bursting with contentment and self-confidence. Yet, there’s more to this sport. While living my own surfing adventures I’ve noticed that, when working on their bottom turn, surfers actually develop traits that make them better humans. Read on.
1. We love this world
Being surfers, we know that we are doing well on this planet. Not an absurd idea to have, if you’re regularly sitting next to friends or people you just met on the beach, watching picture-perfect barrels rolling smoothly toward shore before crashing over squashy white sand… We are eternally grateful for this. Especially because it usually takes a decent effort to get to these marvelous places. We travel for hours on bumpy roads, ask locals for help, look for the hidden spots. Wanderlust is our second name. We live the search. What we find, we appreciate, what’s new to us, we’re open towards. To travel like a surfer means to dive into this planet and its diversity of places, culture and people.
2. We are environmental activists
We not only love this world, but we are ambassadors for our environment. As a surfer, you get a different awareness of pollution when walking on a beach becomes an obstacle course around large piles of plastic litter. We know our climate is changing, when the rainy season starts earlier and earlier every year. It is therefore intuitive for us to challenge all our actions and make them more sustainable. Environmentalism is embedded in our habits. We don’t destroy what we came to enjoy. And we spread the word.
3. We seize the moment
Just imagine travelling for thousands of kilometers to go surfing. The Airbnb is rented, the surf board strapped to the roof rack of your car and your skin is bathed in sunscreen – you are ready to hit the waves. Except, there are no waves. The water surface is dead flat, sometimes for your whole vacation. Surfing is a lot about waiting. For the swell or for catching a wave at the right point. We spend hours waiting for seconds of actual surfing. Surfers are forced to make the most out of really short intervals of time. We live for the moment and in the here and now. We keep our eyes open and let the smallest things make our lives extraordinary.
4. We show respect
Surfers are respectful people. Surfing has line-up rules that control who gets a wave. It’s always the surfer with the best position. That’s fair. Earn your spot and respect the pros. We respect beginners, too, though. In the end, they make the very same efforts and deserve only the nicest waves. Even a total rookie, squeezed into worn-out neoprene, half kneeing on, half falling from a large soft top, coughing and spitting salty water… will get to hear “great job” later over a beer at sunset.
Our respect also extends to nature. It is simply always stronger than us. Waves are stronger, currents are, too, and believe me, I was full of respect when I met a crocodile recently… We are constantly reminded of nature’s strengths. Over-exuberance on seeing amazing waves has left me washed to shore in search of parts of my bikini.
Why is this a valuable life lesson? We recognize others’ achievements and that is the foundation of coexistence. We recognize a challenge as a challenge, and respect it. That does not mean we don’t tackle it but, as surfers, we know that failure can come around just with the next set of waves.
5. We are humble
Pay attention to the words of a surfer coming out of the water: “I was lucky” or “the waves were good today” are frequent statements. In fact, we are constantly confronted with our disabilities, we often fail and fall over. Ever heard of the ‘washing machine’? Sounds cozy, uh? Well, this is how we call it when a wave breaks on us in a way that we stay under water for seconds. Damn long seconds. But that’s how surfing builds up humbleness. Surfers lightheadedly admit they are life-long learners. For me, it is a piece of cake to accept that I am only just beginning to develop my surfing skills. Likewise, many surfers you talk to seem to downplay their abilities in riding waves. Even Kelly Slater says surfing is “a life-long journey”. Take that. Kelly is an artist in the waves and a god in this sport. Yet he knows that there is always a bigger wave coming up.
Surfing is a great sport with a lot more to it than having tanned skin, being laid-back and knowing the names of 37 Indonesian islands by heart. I can only recommend that you give it a try and let nature overwhelm you with its beauty, but also with its power. Dive not only into crystalline water, but also into failure. Be more grateful and show respect. Go on a surf trip and embark on a thrilling journey to become a better human.