Surfing and emotions: riding waves of joy and sorrow

December 27, 2021 | Surfing
Surfing: a healing therapy for troubled souls | Photo: Shutterstock

Surfing is a really important facet of my life. It's one of several, but one with a golden share.

It doesn't shape my lifestyle or my essence, but it inspires, heals me, and connects me with Nature whenever I sit and wait for a wave.

And if there's a cliché that has always been around but perfectly summarizes the whole experience is this one: "only a surfer knows the feeling."

Life is a collection of ups and downs, steep ascending and descending hills, peaks, and deep valleys.

We're invited to ride all the joys and sorrows until our journey comes to an end. Life is a miracle, even though we rarely realize how valuable it is.

Some of us struggle to figure out how to go through and survive these daily rollercoasters and end up in a spiral of negativeness, stress, hate, depression, loneliness, and isolation.

Surfing has always been here for me. It's been a reciprocal unconditional love.

Whether I'm happy and grateful for what I've got or slightly blue, there's always a wave coming in on a sunny, cloudy, or rainy day.

So far, these words sound like thousands of reflections already poured into articles on the magical effects of surfing in our personas.

Ocean: a rollercoaster of waves and emotions | Photo: Shutterstock

A Medicine for the Soul?

But here's a twist.

I had to reach my 40s to comprehend why I couldn't - and I didn't want to - put on a wetsuit and paddle out on particularly rough days for me.

Throughout life, in a way or another, we all undergo challenging times - the physical loss of relatives and friends, an emotional breakdown, a broken heart, a depression, a health issue, an unrequited love, or a professional letdown.

Luckily, I've just experienced mild symptoms of the above. Nothing particularly traumatic.

However, whenever I had my darker periods, the call to surf never quite materialized. And for years - if not decades - I wondered why.

Why don't I grab my favorite board on a sunny summer day and catch a few waves just to try and clear my head?

I am down or unhappy, and I rationally know that that post-surf lively feeling powered by my body's endorphins could help me get up on my feet again.

I've known this forever; I've learned it thousands of times before.

But instead, I chose to stay away from the ocean, from my surfboards, dry wetsuit, and the scent of my favorite surf wax.

Why couldn't I cope with sadness and my favorite pastime? Why didn't I let surfing help me as it does for so many people?

Why can't I trust the therapeutic power of wave riding to rise and smile again? Why wasn't I doing the opposite of what I've been preaching for years?

I had to go through several lows to unveil my mind's mysterious behavior.

Why do I tend to run away from surfing when my heart is broken, and I'm still searching for my natural headspace?

Wave riding: only a surfer knows the feeling | Photo: Shutterstock

Matching Weather and Mood

The answer, my friends, arrived in one of the hardest periods of my life.

When sadness and loneliness took over my persona, I adopted all tactics and strategies to keep a distance from the ocean for a while.

And then I had the epiphany that unlocked the enigma.

The explanation for why I didn't want to surf followed an initial and rather unusual brain reaction.

After a series of similar and statistically relevant events, I noticed that, when I was down, I felt less pain and sorrow on cloudy and rainy days.

But why?

I realized that the more the weather matched my inner state of mind, the less difficult it was to get through the day.

And when the skies were blue, and the sun shone on a transparent sea, the contrast with my mindset and emotional status quo would be dramatic and bitter.

In other words, I'd rather be surrounded by things and elements that did not remind me of my personal struggles than with the opposite environment.

Nature: could the ocean, blue skies and the beach be too beautiful to enjoy? | Photo: Shutterstock

Yin and Yang

And then, I realized that surfing was "too good" for me when I wasn't feeling okay.

Surfing was - and is - something that I had crystallized in my mind as a synonym of a joyful, balanced mindset.

I also reached another conclusion.

My inner self was not - or at least it is not yet - compatible with the Chinese philosophical concept of yin and yang, "negative-positive" or "dark-light."

I realized I couldn't be with something I cherish so much with low spirits. It feels like I am betraying surfing and that it inevitably deserves the best of me.

From a psychological perspective, I might be wrong, but the truth is that it's an automatic reaction and something I don't have control of.

Are you not feeling good? Don't go surfing.

It's a paradox and a contradiction, I know, but it is something I guess I'll need to live with.

Unless and until something - or someone - triggers a different chemical reaction in my brain, and my neurotransmitters begin carrying new messages from neurons to the body as a whole.

It took me a while to solve this conundrum.

I am only happy surfing when I'm content and untroubled, and I tend to run away from it when I'm downhearted.

Life really is a miracle worth living.


Words by Luís MP | Founder of SurferToday.com

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