I’ve always thought surfing is a reflection of who you are ~ Kelly Slater
It’s 6AM and I’m sitting on a deck, over looking some of the best waves in Southern Africa. The graceful swell of the oceans pulse looks slow and infinite. The outline of surfers interrupt the organised chaos that ripples across the water while the waves crash to the lonely aubade’s sung by the sea birds.
To the outside world, riding waves and chasing barrels at 6AM in the morning, seems glamorous. But I’m in Jeffrey’s Bay, and surfing is more than just a sport for the adventurous and adrenaline-obsessed, it’s at the very centre of life.
It’s hard not to fall in love with the way surf culture entangles itself into everyday life here. That feeling of dried out hair, the subtle taste of sea salt on your lips, the cold water rejuvenating your body and the perfect wave rejuvenating your soul, all bound together with a noticeable tacenda that follows surfers around like a shadow.
It’s inspiring when you think about the inherit values of surfing, even though I still feel like an outsider here, the culture itself has spoken loudly:
“This is who we are and this is who we will always be. Forever searching for a few golden moments that define the very seconds of life and shape the days into a enjoyable existence”
The swell has picked up now, and I cannot help but notice the sound of the ocean. As the waves crash with a peaceful, mellifluous growl, its hard not to feel a sense of nostalgia and inspiration.
This house and it’s paralian owner are world famous. Almost every room contains a surfboard: a museum of accomplishments. Photographs of surf legends cover the walls as if they were her own children and the ocean view is merely the foundation of it all.
Surfers, local and international alike, run in slow motion through the bohemian style garden for direct access to the waves. A right of passage earned by the many years of loyalty and respect that this matriarch has endowed upon the town for decades. Enveloped in surf history, here are 5 lessons I’ve learned:
1. Life, like the ocean is unpredictable.
A morning ago, I was sitting under an umbrella when a friend arrived back from a surf. He’d been up since 5:30AM, eyeing out the swell. He mentioned to me that he had just surfed some of the best waves of his life.
I found that to be a rather profound statement. Here he was, gleaming with utter happiness, bordering on ineffability, and all he had done was wake up and walk down to the beach. Some surfers, he said, spent months of planning to live through what he had just experienced.
As I write, the torsos of surfers are pulled into the oceans gravity, patiently waiting. There is no pattern or rhythm to the waves that push through. It’s pure, universal law and I’d like to believe that the surfers surrender themselves to it while on the hunt for wave nirvana.
You cannot stop the waves, but you can learn to surf ~ Jon Kabat-Zinn
Life is so unpredictable, with no pattern or reasoning. If you can accept the fact that no matter what happens when you paddle out, you can only do your best to ride the waves, then you may find yourself feeling simply at peace.
2. There will come a time when you bail, and you will bail hard.
Every avid surfer has bailed hard. Stories of the kind are told like camp fire ghost tales, with a flare of the dramatic and enough intensity to keep you on the edge of your seat. From being hauled over jagged rocks to being stabbed by coral, chased by sharks or stung by jellyfish, surfing comes with risk.
Waves are not measured in feet and inches, they are measured in increments of fear ~ Buzzy Trent
Like life, every wave has many stages of formation. The suspense of the ever mounting build up of swell to the crescendo just before it breaks. The curtain of aqua-coloured water that creates the ethereal home for so many surfers and the rapid torrent of white water when it can no longer sustain its form.
Perhaps the most interesting part of a wave is its very last moments before the water is pulled back into the depths. The harmless lapping of beach sand, like a giant dog drinking water from its bowl. It caresses the shore and brings with it no harm or danger.
I suppose what I take out of this is that every wave starts out formidable, and has the potential to cause real damage, yet it always ends as a gentle soaking of sea sand, not matter what.
In life, no matter how rough life gets, every situation will get better and become more gentle and then slowly but surely fade away.
3. Be consistent, no matter the conditions.
One value that stands out to me the most is consistency. Every surfer in the water gets up early, checks the forecast, puts their wet suit on and dives into the water. Then they wait for the right wave, and paddle hard. Sometimes they get lucky. Sometimes they don’t. Consistency is key.
If in doubt, paddle out. ~ Nat Young
How much of your life can you say that about? Regardless of the outcome? How often would you or do you, commit to situations in your life that you can’t see the outcome of? Food for thought.
4. Respect those who paved the way.
As important as it is in surfing as it is in life, respecting those who came before you and what they built is one of the corner stones of human existence.
Younger generations tend not to think too deeply about concepts like legacy. They expect respect, even though they haven’t earned it. Be it ego or entitlement, it’s important to learn from fellow surfers and the waves themselves.
In life, whatever your given talent or career, learn from those who came before you, respect what they did and endeavour to put your own mark on the world you find yourself in.
We’re all equal before a wave ~ Laird Hamilton
5. Push beyond your fear
I’ve watched countless surfers take on some gnarly looking waves. Waves that are powerful and pushing onto a reef. Regardless of what danger lurks in the deep, surfing comes with a good dose of fear.
Surfers have learnt to overcome fear (to a degree) – and as a reward they stand a chance of experiencing a few exhilarating moments while they master their wave. Feet slip, rocks appear, sharks are spotted and boards snap in half, yet they control their fear and are rewarded for doing so.
What so many of us struggle to do in life, is push through our fear. We let our fear keep us on the shore, rather than push us to paddle out in conditions that scare us. Yes, we can go out and something bad can happen but we can also paddle out and be rewarded. More times than not, its the latter.
I would really appreciate your thoughts and opinions on my latest article. Please leave comments below or feel free to get in touch with me on Twitter: @dainemawer