TO SURF BETTER: MEDITATE!
By Denise Calfo
When we think about how to surf better, we’re often focused on training the body – improving our technique and skills, getting physically stronger, and more flexible.
But what are you doing to train your mind that will help you surf better?
In an enlightening interview, two surfer-meditation teachers talk about how meditation can help us surf better, and enjoy it more, by shifting our relationship with the wave, the ocean, and our own progression.
MEET CHRISTIAN BEVACQUA AND MICHAEL OLVERA
Surfers, meditators, and just like us.
Throughout the 1990s, Christian worked on Wall Street, and was also a successful musician. Then in early 2006, Christian learned Vedic Meditation from Thom Knoles, the world’s foremost instructor of Vedic Meditation outside of India. Inspired, Christian soon became a teacher. He has been teaching Vedic Meditation full time for the past 10 years. He finds true joy in teaching this knowledge and building a healthful, vibrant, and conscious community. Christian started surfing about 7 years ago.
Michael came into meditation after many years of panic attacks and carrying the stress of a high level job in retail management. In 2014, he was introduced to Vedic Meditation and began to experience relief and a sense of well-being. All areas of his life began to improve and like Christian, he was inspired to become a teacher. Michael became a Vedic Meditation teacher in 2018. He has been surfing for almost 10 years.
Here’s our conversation.
MEDITATION AND OUR RELATIONSHIP TO THE WAVE
As you guys know, I began surfing and meditating a few years ago. I didn’t intentionally start both at the same time. They were just two things I wanted to do. But I realized over time that I was experiencing the benefits of meditation in my surfing. And now I want to understand that connection better. As surfers and meditators yourselves, when you think about how meditation helps our surfing, what comes to mind?
Well, let’s take the intermediate surfer. This person has some instruction and some knowledge, but no idea where they are going to end up on any given wave. “Will I fall off? Am I going to surf out and over the wave too soon? Or am I going to ride this for 15 or 20 seconds?”
You have to train yourself to let go of trying to control the whole experience.
In surfing, what you are looking to achieve is a certain balance and flow in the moment. And that’s one of the things I think meditation helps bring. It trains the mind into the present moment instead of speculating “oh no, did I just drop in on that guy? Or, what am I going to do next? What’s going to happen?”
With the help of meditation, you can slow the whole thing down and connect to the present moment. Balance is the key to it. And balance only exists in the present moment.
How does meditation help you to let go, and to stay in moment?
That’s going to be based on type of meditation you practice.
In our Vedic meditation practice, one of the benefits is releasing stress. When we are too stressed, our mind is overactive. We are speculating about the future, regretting the past. In our daily meditation practice we are practicing quieting our mind. This enables our body to let go of stress, and ultimately helps us experience a quieter mind outside of meditation. We become less reactive to a situation and more accepting of our situation.
It’s a training process for the mind, to go inward and to access a level that is, in terms of mental activity, very de-excited, and then you can bring that into your surfing.
Before I started meditating, I was more reactive and trying to judge every scenario. “What’s going to happen?”
Before meditation, did you tend to overthink the wave that was coming?
Oh, yes, overthinking everything. “Is this guy going to catch this wave? Which way is he going to go? Am I too far back on my board or too far forward? Should I go left? Should I wait for the next wave?” Everything.
So NOW what happens when you see a wave coming?
There is more of an inner calmness.
And an intuition that just makes you go. You are not actually making decisions. You aren’t trying to evaluate the pros and cons. You just go with it.
And I end up having a better experience, not just on the wave, but also in general.
MEDITATION AND OUR RELATIONSHIP TO THE OCEAN
Meditation helps us operate from a finer level of feeling and that finer level of feeling is what is in tune with nature.
Mastery is to be able to harness that, for the joy of the ride. We are harnessing it with a skill that enables us to go with the flow of it vs. being in opposition to the flow. Because when you are in opposition to the flow of the ocean, guess what’s going to happen? Guess who’s going to win….
You can look at it, as, instead of you exerting supremacy over the ocean, you are much more in harmony with it.
Your surfing style is going to be a lot more fluid.
Before meditation you might think of your relationship with the ocean as trying to GET something from it, an experience, but now, it’s like “I’m going out into the ocean to express my inner joy” and therefore that relationship shifts. Instead of me trying to gain something, it’s me bringing something to that relationship.
You see a lot of surfers out there who get really frustrated and angry. They are looking to gain something from the relationship. But what are they bringing to the relationship?
MEDITATION AND OUR RELATIONSHIP TO OUR OWN PROGRESSION
What about progression? We want to get better at surfing, but it can be frustrating, and we may compare ourselves to others. How can meditation help with this desire and tension around progression?
For me, I’m less stressed, so I’m not comparing myself to others as much. So there’s more enjoyment. I’m not worrying about “the others.” How I’m doing and the things I need to improve on – I am better able to accept that.
Self-acceptance is the key there.
You do want to improve and progress and that’s natural. But one of the things from having a daily mediation practice is you learn self-acceptance.
What we teach is that meditation is about surrender and letting go and what that means in meditation is – sometimes you go deep in meditation, and sometimes you don’t. But it’s all good, because there’s benefit to both of those outcomes of meditation. And that is a training process for the water, and life, in general.
Yeah, you are learning to let go of a specific outcome.
How else does meditation help with progression?
Meditation makes the entire functioning of the body more efficient.
People who meditate have a faster recovery time from injury, faster recovery from muscle fatigue, you return to a steady respiratory state faster after the sprint of paddling for a wave, and it also reduces your overall resting basal metabolic rate. And from a calm body, you get a calm mind.
Frustration was one of my biggest things. But it goes away, with meditation.
And what’s left is enjoyment. You embrace the things you need to grow into. It’s like you enjoy the journey more.
Yeah, that’s it. Meditation helps you enjoy the journey more.
To learn more about Vedic Meditation, take a look here: https://www.michaelolverameditation.com, and there are many great websites you can find by “googling” Vedic Meditation, that explain the method and benefits . When you are ready to learn, contact the author, Denise Calfo at firstname.lastname@example.org and she’ll connect you to a Vedic Meditation teacher near you.