In complete honesty, I have yet to encounter few challenges that compare to taking off my wetsuit for the first time. Taking off a wetsuit is like suffocating in the venomous black depths of some horrible creature that clings to you and refuses to relent. Some would say I’m crazy for embracing that pain, waking up with the moon as my only light, dragging a piece of foam bigger than me through sand, and joyously sprinting into freezing water, but there is nothing I would rather do than surf. Learning to surf has been one of the most rewarding accomplishments in my life, in part because it has dealt me some of my largest failures. And that’s why I love it so much because every failure that’s tempted me to hang my board up forever has also taught me an invaluable lesson.
Perhaps the greatest lesson I have learned from surfing is that control is just an illusion. There is no time I find this more evident than when I fall off my surfboard into the merciless ocean where seemingly ceaseless waves come and threaten to drown me under their mighty weight and power. As I am tossed and thrown about in the water I know that things are completely out of my control. I cannot fight the ocean. I cannot influence whether the waves will spare me as I come up for breath or if I will be pushed back down underwater by a larger swell to repeat my fate. Battling the immense ocean is useless, and trying to operate under the illusion of control is a waste of energy. The only real thing I have control over is whether or not I get back up.
Surfing has also taught me that determination is a valuable asset in life, that even when it seems as though I’m beat, that the last wave has won, I have to get back up. This verity I have taken and applied to every aspect of my life. I am resolved to never accept no for an answer when my cause is just, to fight any odds thrown in my face, and to achieve my goals whenever possible. Determination breeds success, and I am determined to be successful.
From surfing, I have learned that life is full of waiting, and I must be patient. As I sit with my legs dangling in the rhythmic water I can feel the small waves shift beneath me. Much of my time surfing is spent like this, waiting in the water between sets, with my back to the shore anxiously searching the horizon for the slightest hint of a swell big enough to surf. Surfing is all about patience. I have to often wait, and then let the first wave that comes go by, knowing that a bigger one is just on the horizon.
Yet this concept took time to learn. Early in my surfing career, I would attack the first wave without the slightest hesitation, only to find myself forced to ride the white water into shore. As I began to paddle back out, I would see my fellow surfers, much more mature than I, catching the succeeding waves perfectly as I was left to enviously watch. After many failed attempts I learned to simply be patient. In life, good things come to those who wait and the best things in life take patience and hard work.
Surfing has taught me so much because I have been able to take my failures, my incapability to stand on a floating object in the water, and convert them into knowledge. Because of surfing I am patient, determined, and relaxed, knowing that some things are out of my hands, all because I put on my wetsuit, day in and day out, and run into the water I love.