Growing up in a coastal town in California, surfing was always a part of the local culture. However, I never thought it would end up having such a profound impact on my life. Here is my story of how surfing changed me both physically and mentally.
First Wipeout and New Determination
As a teenager, I had always enjoyed bodyboarding in the summer months but never had the courage to try standing up on a surfboard. One day, a group of friends convinced me to borrow a board and give it a go. Needless to say, my first attempt did not go well. I fell off the board within seconds of catching my first wave and got tumbled around by the whitewash.
Rather than get discouraged, that wipeout lit a fire inside me. I was determined to conquer the ocean and learn to ride those waves. From that day on, I committed to practicing surfing every chance I got, even when the conditions were far from ideal.
Building Strength and Balance
Through countless hours in the water over many months, I slowly started to improve. Paddling out through ocean swells built up my arm and core strength. Popping to my feet on the board and riding waves required tremendous balance, coordination and reflexes. Even when I fell, I was getting better atbody surfing the whitewash without eating sand.
Constantly working to tackle bigger waves and ride for longer periods really challenged my physical fitness. Surfing became my main form of exercise and I noticed myself getting leaner and more toned without even trying.
Gaining Confidence On and Off the Waves
As the months turned into years, I progressed from catching small breakers to regular sets. Tackling waves that previously seemed impossibly steep or fast gave me an enormous boost of confidence. I started to truly love the flow state surfing put me in and the adrenaline rush of bigger days.
That confidence I gained from pushing my surfing limits transferred into other areas of my life as well. I felt ready to take on new challenges at work and in my social life without as much fear of failure. The mental strength and resilience required for surfing big waves taught me I could handle whatever life threw my way both in and out of the water.
Finding Peace and Perspective
Perhaps the biggest change surfing brought was a new sense of inner calm and perspective. Paddling out beyond the break and floating on my board, I learned to fully embrace the meditation of waiting for waves. Surrounded by nothing but ocean as far as the eye could see, everyday worries and stresses seemed to fade into the background.
Even huge crowds in the water couldn’t ruin that feeling of solitude and connection to nature. Being at the mercy of Mother Nature’s power kept me grounded and reminded that what happens outside the water is relatively insignificant. That peace of mind surfing cultivated has benefited me enormously to this day.
Lifelong Passion and Community
More than a decade later and surfing is still a defining part of who I am. I’ve moved around for jobs but find myself drawn back to coastal towns for easy beach access. My boards and wetsuit come with me wherever life takes me.
The tight-knit surf community I’ve been part of for so long has become like an extended family. Some of my best friends I met from just happening to share waves together over the years. Even traveling to new surf spots, I find that universal ocean bond instantly connects me to locals and fellow surfers.
Reaping Physical and Mental Benefits
Now in my 30s, I surf more vigorously than ever to keep my body in shape for bigger days. Paddling out in all conditions has definitely kept me youthful and injury-free compared to friends who don’t exercise as regularly. The daily stress relief from surf sessions is invaluable for my mental wellbeing too.
More than just a hobby or pastime, surfing truly shifted my outlook and priorities in life. It’s hard to imagine who I would be today without discovering this passion that has brought me so much joy, challenge and self-improvement over the past two decades.
Q: How difficult is it for a beginner to learn to surf?
A: Learning the very basics of surfing like paddling, catching your first wave and popping up to your feet can be achieved within a few lessons and lots of practice. It typically takes regular surfing over the course of 6-12 months to become comfortable on small-medium surf. Mastering advanced maneuvers on bigger waves is a lifelong pursuit.
Q: What equipment do I need to get started surfing?
A: To start, all you need is a surfboard, wetsuit (for colder climates), rashguards and lessons. Soft-top beginner boards and shortboards are best. As you progress, you may want a variety of boards suited for different conditions. Leashes to tether boards are also essential for safety.
Q: How can you improve your surfing skills?
A: Take regular surf lessons from certified instructors to build proper technique. Video yourself surfing to analyze strengths and weaknesses. Practice everyday houseriding to gain stability. Surf various breaks to gain experience in different wave types. Work on strength and balance with yoga/core exercises off the water.
While I never could have predicted it, surfing truly shaped my life in the most positive way possible. It sparked a passion that has provided countless hours of joy, pushed me mentally and physically to become stronger, and connected me to a global community. Even today, simply being in the ocean rides waves away stress and centers me.
I hope sharing my story inspires others sitting on the fence to take that first plunge into surfing. Once you experience the flow of catching your first wave, I have no doubt it will be a drug you’ll be hooked on for life, changing you profoundly like it did me. The lessons surfing has taught me have proved invaluable in all aspects of my existence. To me, that makes the risks of every wipeout completely worthwhile.