Surfing: it adds meaning to life | Photo: Kudinov/Creative Commons

As surfers, we spend most of our days craving for waves.

Checking surf forecasts - God knows how many sites we visit - exchanging messages with other surf heads to get last minute reports, and looking for a time window when we can sneak a nice session in between our daily obligations.

There's this unknown force that drives our attention towards surf, with the promise of a session that would bring all those feelings and emotions from a certain special day back.

This force removes from our minds all the inconveniences we eventually have to face: stepping on a sea urchin, slipping on the rocks and breaking our ass, getting our (expensive) board broken in half, getting in an argument with some "nice" local.

Still, we see none of that as a deterrent, neither as bumps in the road.

The Questions

With all those elements against us, I have to ask you some questions: Why do you surf? Why do you put on that cold, damp wetsuit at 6 am?

Why are you looking to paddle until you are out of breath? Why are you willing to be thrown around in every possible direction while holding your breath for what seems like hours?

There might be several common answers to those questions: it's fun, it clears your mind, or that it's exciting.

All of them might be right, but I think they are incomplete, they are just partial or shallow answers that do not dig as deep as required to answer the ultimate "why."

I would say there's a deeper reason that justifies all the time and effort we put into surfing.


Surfing: the meaning of life can be found in a bottom-turn | Photo: Bixby/Creative Commons

The Answer

My answer would be a bit less common: surfing gives us meaning.

I'm not sure about the purpose of life itself, but I have found a way to give meaning to mine, through surfing.

It's uncertain for me if this life has a goal, something to be accomplished at the end like in a video game, so I've decided to focus on the experience between birth and death, leaving aside the why's on both ends: birth and death.

What if we remove the end goal of the equation and focus on what's in between, what life actually is? We should then focus on what we invest our time into, on the doing, and the experience we have during it.

And that's what I have been doing, using the work and research of those geniuses that have asked these very question before me.

I have been approaching life as an experience, where the key element has been looking for a way to find purpose while doing, for the sake of doing.

If life had no goal (or if I'm not taking it into consideration), I should find at least a way to feel satisfied with it, whatever that means to me.

Therefore, how I invest my time is the most important aspect. And this is where surf enters the scene: I've been surfing my entire life and feeling accomplished with every single session as if I've been doing exactly what I should have.

There have been several moments of spirituality, realization, and selflessness, and it's not just a matter of luck or coincidence that they happened while surfing.

Like most of the greats state, I too believe that the meaning of life is found while doing, executing, perfecting towards mastery, and not sipping piña colada on the beach.

In other words, it is not the sliding down the wave that makes surfing great, but all the work we had to put into getting to that single wave. It's the effort towards perfecting this "art" that makes it worth it.

Early on, surfing became this great tool to understand this maxim: the goal of a meaningful activity is the activity itself. You as a surfer know that there's no point in surfing but... surfing.

Wave after wave, we spend countless hours at sea with no goal in mind, rather than surfing better, faster, and bigger waves, looking for that fulfilling sensation each time.

Surfers: they are satisfaction seekers | Photo: Shutterstock

Surfers: The Masters of Life Satisfaction

We are masters of what's known as autotelic experiences, seeking activities with no other goal but the activity itself.

These are activities prone to make you experience the flow state - an altered state of mind that's known as the mother of life satisfaction.

So every day we go out to the beach, we are filling the glass of life satisfaction, building up life meaning and training our minds to enjoy the present moment.

Several studies have stated that people who experience these states on a regular basis are among those with higher life satisfaction levels.

This means that we, as surfers, have been getting high doses of life satisfaction with every single wave we have surfed. We have found a key element to our lives, investing our time in what really matters.

The surfing community has been seen as a group of lazy beach bums and salty heads that go crazy for some moving bodies of water for too long.

Now I can tell you that we have been searching for meaning in every single session and that we are the luckiest people on earth each time we ride another one.

We are seekers.

We are looking for flow - performing a seemingly pointless activity that provides meaning just because we are doing it.

Surf has been a major source of life satisfaction for all surfers, and we should preach it.


Words by Ardiel Gonzalez, surfer and freelance blogger for BookSurfCamps.