As an undergrad at UCSD, I always wanted to learn how to surf but I was too chicken, so I boogie-boarded instead. For those of you who don't know what boogie-boarding is, it's like surfing, but instead of standing up to ride a wave, you ride it on your belly on a smaller-sized board. I relished boogie-boarding in college, and soon spent as many warm afternoons out in the water as I could, making sure I always had my boogie board, beach chair, and beach towel in the trunk of my car ready to go.
Earlier this year, I finally overcame my fear and decided to learn how to surf in Honolulu. The waves were calm, my instructor was encouraging and kind, and I was able to stand up every single time I set out on a wave. My instructor even commented on how well I was doing in comparison to the Japanese dudes whose six packs could not keep them on their surf boards for very long (!). I would show off even more by sharing pics of me standing on the board and riding waves all the way into shore, but I have yet to find a computer/laptop that has CD capability! Surfing then made me realize how similar surfing was to life:
Fast forward to my second surf lesson in San Diego just last week. I was super excited to get back in the water and surf again. This time, I fell off my board almost every single time, and my instructor was not as supportive or enthusiastic at all.
"I am afraid," I lamented to my instructor who was half listening, half spacing out.
"Well, what are you afraid of?" He asked, somewhat interested in the answer but not really.
"I dunno...I guess falling into the water."
"Well, nothing bad will happen if you fall...it's just water."
I replayed his words in my mind. "It's just water. It's just water. It's just water." On my surf board, I waited for the wave behind me, the great unknown. As the wave got closer, my heart beat got louder and I could hear it out of my chest. I knew I would fall off the surf board again. I tried to cling to the side of the surf board, thus tipping myself up and falling into the depths of the ocean. I heard another surf instructor close by cheering for her students and wished my instructor would do the same for me.
I thought about more and different life lessons this time:
After my surf lesson, my instructor said, "It's not how you begin, it's how you finish. And you finished strong." He was referring to how I was able to catch some smaller waves towards the end of my session (before I hurt my ankle). Sigh.
After the lesson, I lay down on the grass staring out at the ocean beyond (totally disheveled). From afar, it seemed so peaceful and calm. Other surfers out on the water made surfing look so effortless as they glided on each wave. Perhaps there are things you can learn in every lesson no matter how much you get your ass kicked and no matter who your instructor is? Perhaps learning isn't always about staying on the board? And even though it may seem completely counterintuitive, letting go, will actually get you closer to where you need to be.