Martial arts is a combination of body and mind training, and I’d like to argue that surfing is an art form that has many similarities to martial arts. It embodies a set of principles and lessons that we surfers have been learning from the sea like a student does from her karate master.
I have been one of those receiving lessons at sea. Surfing has shaped me, providing with advice and lectures while pushing my body to its limits. It has been my “Kung-Fu”, instructing me on areas I could never imagine, and today I’m sharing with you four of those fields that I and all surfers learn about in between waves.
It Is Spiritual
We have all felt special on a surfboard, and words are not enough to describe what we have experienced. When trying to explain it to our non-surfer friends we end up sounding a bit dorky or childish since our sentences contain a lot of wishy-washy and seemingly unconnected concepts.
But we are sure that it has happened and will continue materializing as long as we can replicate the conditions. And that’s a problem because we are not really sure what has to arise in order to experience it again. It occurs when it is least expected: for some this could be while having the ride of their lives and for others when waiting for the next set.
It is an entity, a being that shows up and helps us merge with the environment making us one. Slowly the self starts to vanish as if we are not an individual anymore, but part of a beautiful cloth of beings. Losing one’s identity might seem terrifying, but wholeness takes its place, which is a much nicer feeling.
This profound connection we feel on a regular basis make us remove the ego and see with a wider perspective our place on earth and in life.
It Teaches Resiliency
This trait is associated with a flexible and growth mindset. Friends, family, and self help books praise the capacity to endure setbacks for long periods of time. Apparently those who are able to continue doing an activity, and deal with roadblocks along the way, are on the right track for success (whatever that means for them).
And there’s no better way to learn how to cope with obstacles than trying to paddle out on a day we are barely in shape for. There, we have to face an uncertain number of obstacles, pushing our bodies and minds to the limit, and truly believing we can make it. If we are able to use all the courage available and tell ourselves “you can make it,” we will be shaping our brains and molding it to a yes, I can mindset.
Those moments when we are almost out of breath after a thousand wipeouts, looking up to the wave that’s about to break over our heads, we have the opportunity to turn around. We can opt not to face the challenge nature is offering us and go back to our comfort zone. But we usually take that chance to improve and grow, because we have learned that holding on is part of the fun.
It Teaches Accountability
There’s a saying between Saholin Monks: “everything you don’t prepare for is your fault”. It might seem radical because there are things we cannot control, and therefore it might be unfair to blame ourselves for events out of our reach. There are catastrophes, accidents and disasters that just happen and swallow us. How can that be our fault?
The key part of that saying is: “you don’t prepare for”. Waves have taught us all that we must be prepared for an adversity all the time. Sudden tide changes, an unexpected rip current or a harder wipeout will eventually happen and even though we are not responsible for the event itself we should have the appropriate strategy to deal with it.
Surf puts us on situations we do not like, nor want, but are necessary. In order to have fun, we must accept and embrace risk as a tandem, they are both linked in some sort of machiavellian way. We have fun in raw nature, in a dangerous place where some people drown, just because we’ve learnt that we have to be accountable about our own actions.
Each day I go to the beach, I learn, and hope to keep doing it for the rest of my life. It’s been my martial art, my haven and life training camp. If you have learned a valuable lesson while surfing, felt connected or at peace, please feel free to share your feelings on the comment section below.
If you haven’t tried surfing yet, I hope you’re right now heading to your local surf school.