Family / Parenting

Four Lessons I Learned While Surfing

269

Look Up, Commit, Surrender, Smile

As we approached the surf shack, my eight-year-old son B looked over his shoulder at the ocean and said, “I can’t wait to wipe out!”

“That’s a great attitude,” I chuckled.

After a fifteen-minute, on-land surf lesson, B waded into the water with his cousin M and two instructors: one who would launch their boards toward the curling waves, and one who would catch them at the ends of their rides, so they wouldn’t fall into the razor-sharp coral hiding in the shallows near shore.

Somehow, I was not thinking about what the coral could do to B’s body, not thinking about my shark anxiety or the fact that I had just signed away the surf school’s liability for my kid’s safety. Somehow, I was taking my seat on the beach, along with ten other family members, excited to watch the show.

And what a show. My kid who had never, until this point, voluntarily participated in an athletic activity stood up on his first wave. Not only that, he felt confident enough to goof off on the board: flicking Gangnam Style wrists, folding his arms over his chest, holding his hands on his hips.

When B marched out of the water, triumphant, after his final ride, I was fired up, ready to try surfing myself.

Approaching my own lesson, I thought I would learn a little about surfing, maybe stand up on a wave or two. Instead, I learned a series of instructions that would help me meet many of life’s challenges.

1) Look Up

During my on-land lesson, I heard this advice about seven hundred times: look up.

Don’t look at your feet. Don’t look at the board. Look at the horizon. Focus on your goal.

Out in the ocean, when my instructor launched my board into my first wave, I stood up for a second then tumbled into the water. Paddling back to my instructor, I said, “The last thing I saw was my feet.”

“You looked down,” he nodded. “You need to look out there,” he pointed toward the palm trees, the sand, my family cheering for me on the beach.

Next wave, I focused on the horizon as I glided almost all the way to shore, until I realized the voice yelling, “Fall back! Fall Back!” was my second instructor, warning me to fall off the board now, or risk crashing into the aforementioned razor-sharp coral.

2) Commit

“This takes a bit of faith, doesn’t it?” I asked my instructor as we waited for my next wave to swell. I mean, I don’t usually propel myself forward at such high speed without looking down every now and again and I certainly don’t “fall back” just because some stranger in a wetsuit tells me to.

“You gotta commit,” he said.

Commit to finding your balance, to riding that wave as far as it will take you.

3) Surrender

In order to commit, you’ve got to surrender everything else.

All that stuff I would usually worry about: Are my feet in the right place? Is my butt sticking out? Am I going to crash into coral when I fall? I had to surrender all that worrying, in order to find my balance and surf toward my goal.

4) Wipe Out Smiling

This last bit I learned from my son. Every time that kid fell off his board, he wiped out smiling. So I did too.

Whether I’m trying a new activity, starting a new writing project, or entering a new phase of my life, I want to remember this: I am human. I am going to make mistakes. When I wipe out, instead of falling into self-criticism or embarrassment or some other metaphorical bed of razor-sharp coral, why not wipe out smiling?

It’s way more fun.

038

Don’t Stop Believin’

PHOTO CREDITS: CHERYL DUMESNIL

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3 Comments

  1. I need to print this out and tack it up so I can refer to it throughout the day. Thank you, Cheryl!

  2. Honestly, I think I need to do that, too. So easy to forget these steps. I remember and forget and remember several times a day, especially in times of big change.

  3. Paul Dumesnil says:

    Thanks Cheryl for reminding me to look up (especially when It feels like I’m “wiping out”). A very timely reminder along with some great memories!

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