Why surfing made me a better person

August 11, 2020 | Surfing
Surfing: making millions of lives better ever since | Photo: Shutterstock

The more you surf, the more you become a better person. Right? Well, at least, that's a valid assumption for most of the active surfers out there.

We all know that there's a moderate dose of hypocrisy in surfing, but that's part of life and who we are.

We shouldn't expect a greedy man to share all his waves with his fellow wave riders, but the sport can alter our behavior and habits over time.

Surfing is one of the few sports that depend on the course of Nature and natural events to be practiced and enjoyed to the fullest.

From the moment you ride your first wave to the day you realize it is something you can't live without, surfing is continuously shaping our personality.

Kelly Slater once said that he'd rather surf all by himself in a medium-quality peak than having to hustle for priority in a world-class wave.

If you think about it - and many surfers share the same opinion - that's something that truly speaks for the essence and spirit of the sport.

All in all, it's more about the 360-degree experience, the parallel variables, and the indirect effects, and less about the immediate accomplishment and bragging rights.

I took a moment to reflect on how surfing shaped the man, husband, father, and professional that I am today, and here's what I believe I have achieved.

Ocean waves: a therapy for the mind and soul | Photo: Shutterstock

1. Build Confidence

It's quite interesting to see that surfing simultaneously requires a minimum amount of confidence while also building it, like thin layers in our brains.

We do need to feel comfortable in the water, in small, medium, or big waves to embrace the sport of the kings.

But when we successfully ride a wave, an extra level of confidence is added to our mindset.

Confidence is an often underestimated variable that helps throughout the different stages of our lives as social and professional individuals.

2. Quit Smoking

I have smoked for a few good years. I started lighting up cigarettes around four years after riding my first wave.

I was probably 16. Although I was never a heavy smoker, I kept destroying my lungs for a decade.

Then, all of a sudden, I got back to surfing but was no longer able to paddle around in the line-up for an hour without feeling chest pain.

So I realized that I had to make a choice - nicotine or surfing.

I had to choose between an unhealthy addiction and a healthy habit, so I chose the latter. It was my "Trainspotting" moment.

Today, I'm proud of the decision I made more than ten years ago, and my paddling and breathing power have been restored and improved.

Surfing: a smoke-free sport | Photo: Shutterstock

3. Stay Grounded

One of the many lessons surfing teaches us that there are not many important things in life. And that's a very practical advantage.

The fact that we rely on Nature's power to fulfill our wave riding needs helps us put life's variables into perspective.

If we're not in control of what we cherish, we must accept what is given with humility, gratitude, and humbleness.

Surfing occasionally reveals hints and tips that keep us attached to the core values of life and everything surrounding us.

4. Challenge Ourselves

If a football player like Cristiano Ronaldo scores 50 goals per season, he and his squad know that he's one of the best in his field.

Surfing not only is not a team sport with clear quantitative goals, but it rarely has a precise goal for each session, unless you're a competitive athlete.

As a result, we surf because it feels good but also because we challenge ourselves constantly.

A surfer always chases a better and bigger wave, a more difficult and complicated trick of maneuver, and a long and perfect ride.

For recreational surfers, there always seems to be a wide range of challenges ahead of every time we paddle out under sunny, cloudy, or rainy skies.

Yes, we naturally compare to each other, but there's also an exciting comparison with our previous performances.

This is true at a recreational level, and it is something that somehow keeps us motivated to wake up on a cold winter morning and get to the water.

Surfing: a healthy physical activity and lifestyle | Photo: Shutterstock

5. Improve Health and Fitness Levels

Everything we do in the surf is healthy. The advantages and benefits are well-known and identical to swimming, the world's most complete sport.

There is no single active surfer who has not built a strong upper body and improved his or her lung capacity.

Surfing is also a great weapon against mental illness and bone health.

If you pay a regular visit to the ocean, you don't need a gym to stay in shape - waves will take good care of you.

Finally, there's nothing better than an intense surf session to help you sleep better at night.

6. Improve Eat and Drink Habits

Everything seems to be connected, and one thing will lead to another.

You will surf better if you eat and drink well, and you will become more aware of the food you choose after a nice afternoon in the waves.

Forget tight diets, ultra rigorous vegetarian/vegan programs, and radical changes in your daily food intake.

The balanced and healthy diet suggested by the World Health Organization (WHO) - which includes fruit, vegetables, legumes, nuts, whole grains, fish and white meat, and a pinch of salt - is all you need.

Surfing will do the rest.

Of course, you're allowed to have a beer and a glass of wine and taste healthy ice creams or black chocolate bars.

It's all about maintaining a stable and varied diet, avoid excess and processed foods and sugary drinks.

Enjoy your espresso - coffee is actually a great healthy beverage.

Surfers: different by Nature | Photo: Shutterstock

7. Environmental Awareness

Surfers are in constant connection with the oceans.

If there's one thing we all know is that the sea has slowly become a dumping ground.

Every year, trillions of pieces of plastic floating around and billions of gallons of runoff and other pollutants are discharged into the ocean.

Surfers are even prohibited from paddling out after it rains.

You don't need to be a radical environmentalist or activist to figure out what's been going and who's responsible for a global marine tragedy.

A surfer is or should become a guardian of this precious blue playground.

That is why we all need to do our part to protect our coastal treasures - pick up a few pieces of plastic on the beach after a session, participate in a beach cleanup, or get involved in a non-environmental surf organization.

In the end, we're making sure we will be able to surf through life and allow future generations to enjoy what we were given.

8. Knowledge of Weather and Ocean Patterns

Surf science is a surfer's creation.

It's an informal science that gathers knowledge from multiple fields of activity, including meteorology, oceanography, and physics.

Learning the origin of waves and winds, understanding how swells travel until they reach the shore, figuring out how bathymetry influences the quality of a surf break and grasping the basics of breaking waves are only a few examples of what we study when we surf.

When we read a surf report or predict a storm's behavior in the North Atlantic, we're also digging the fundamentals of coastal erosion and the formation of sand strips.

It's great to be an amateur surfer-scientist. It makes our lives better and also teaches how to protect natural resources and marine life.

9. Tolerance

Let's not lose hope on Humanity. There are good and bad people, and then some in between. But that is valid since day one.

If we accept that the waves aren't perfect or flat for weeks and there's nothing we can do about it, we can only chill out and wait for better times.

If someone drops in on us and we don't get an apology, is it worth getting into a fight or shouting insults? What will we get in return?

Interestingly, one of the few advantages of surfing in ultra crowded line-ups is actually training patience and tolerance.

Some of your fellow surfers will not follow the basic rules of surf etiquette, you will seldom be unfairly treated, and you won't surf more than a handful of waves in 60 minutes.

Tolerance is one of the most glorious virtues one can develop. It takes time, but it is a useful tool against discrimination, segregation, and inequality.

Remember this: in the end, we all become one with ourselves. All of us, without exception.

10. Respect and Admiration for Other Cultures

It's one of the greatest things about being a surfer - we're all chasing and searching for something new, uncharted, and idyllic.

Surfers are travelers by Nature - even if we only surf within a 50-mile range in 95 percent of the sessions.

Those who embark on a surf trip or travel the world hunting XXL swells know how important it is to respect the local traditions and cultures.

"In Rome, do as the Romans do."

But there's more to respecting foreign cultures. It is also part of our development as civilized human beings to discover and embrace what people, in different geographies, adopt as practices and rites.

Unlike medieval minds might, multiculturalism and cultural pluralism are what make Humanity a concept with a rich and vibrant future.


Words by Luís MP | Founder of SurferToday.com

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