Surfing Lessons: From the Edge of the Continent

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Squeezed into a damp wetsuit, I step into the Pacific with surfboard in tow.

It is Labour Day weekend 2015.

Goal: to try surfing for the first time.

Location: the wide beaches of beautiful Tofino, British Columbia.

. . . . . . . . 

A few months ago, my extremely fit nineteen-year-old brother had tried surfing with his buddy. They told me how hard it was to get up on the board. In light of their ripped muscles and skyhigh energy, expectations for myself are pretty low. Well, at least I’ll give it a try, right?

So, it turns out . . . I love it! I adore surfing!

I get up. I also get tumbled in the waves, drink more salt water than is recommended (ptew, ptew!), and get a nice little concussion on Day Four. #stillconcussed

(What I didn’t know about --- why had nobody told me!?!! --- is the HIGH you get after surfing. My mind vast and clear, body exhausted, peaceful, spirit floating. I close my eyes and see waves rolling toward me.)

Lounging at Rhino, our favourite Tofino café, after the first surf day, I enjoy the high and drink chai latte. Parallels between surfing and life pop into my mind. I scribble them on a scrap of paper, and share them with you now:

. . . . . . . .

You can pick up a new skill FAST if you're determined

I don't take a lesson. I check out a Youtube clip, ask some questions, get out there, watch others, and try it. (Lesson would’ve been good, but apparently I prefer to struggle).

I haven’t tried something so new and intensely challenging for a while; probably since learning to be a coach. (A similar experience, actually. Just less water.)

I’m out there and this huge wave of determination swells up in me. It says, “I don’t how to do this, but dangit, I’m gonna do it!!!!”

Determination over time = faithfulness. You can learn faithfulness in any situation, and apply it anywhere else. It arises from within once you’re in the midst of an intense challenge.

Don't wait for perfection: leap into your fear

 I catch a wave, get to my knees, crouching on the board, but wait to stand all the way up. I’m “not balanced enough” (perfectionism) or “I’ll crash if I stand” (fear), I tell myself.

Ten waves and a mouthful of ocean later, I get mad. I want to stand up. So I leap into it despite the not-perfect-enough-technique and fear-of-falling. Don't wait! 

I fall more. Way more. Tumble around in the whitewash.

But suddenly I get up. And again. I have a new normal: I get up. WHAT!? How?! YES!

Stop waiting, leap into the fear and imperfection, and find yourself on the other side.


Then learn to wait

From too much waiting out of fear and perfectionism, to not waiting enough.

What you learn really quickly is to wait for your wave. I wear myself out trying for every wave. Exhausting. I settle down and realize, oh, you just chill and float out here, waiting for your wave. Like every fifith or tenth one is about right to try. You try that fifth one and it may or may not work out, and then you wait again.

It hits me hard, right out in the water: I do this in my life. I expect every single thing to work out every time. That philosophy suddenly seems crazy.

What if I surf-approached my life instead? What if I expect that lots of things won’t work out, so I just let them float by. And when I try for that fifth or tenth or fifteenth one, when the conditions look right, I know it's just a try. It may not work out. That only some of the fifths will actually be the one where I get up and ride the wave. Dang.

Cut frustration: stop expecting everything to work out. Stop pushing. Stop controlling. Wait. And . . . be ready.

Be ready

My best bud gamely gets in the water with me even though the ocean and freezing water ain’t her jam. (Thanks, Dayn.)  

At first, she faces out to sea, waiting for a wave. By the time she realizes this is her wave, she’s gotta turn around and pick up speed. Not enough time.

I holler at her, “get ready, get ready!!” You gotta get ready when you see that wave forming twenty feet away.

Waiting isn’t doing nothing; get ready so when your wave comes, you ride that beast all the way in.

Get Help When Needed

 There comes a point where I’m getting up regularly, but too wobbly to stay up for more than 2-5 seconds. I know in my gut that I need some technique and coaching to get to the next level.

A couple of Dutch guys drift to shore with me to show what they’d learned in their surfing class. I practice on my board, on the sand. Again. Again.

This is Humility 101 at a time when you wanna be super cool like the other surfer dudes and chicks. And you’re already one-down because you don’t have blond wavy hair streaming over your wetsuit --- you’re wearing the wetsuit hood because otherwise your head will freeze and you’ll get a headache that’ll last hours and you’ll have to quit for the day. OKAY! Practicing technique on the beach. Telling the world, “in case you didn’t already know from my mediocre surfing that I’m a newbie, here’s your proof!”

But it was precisely what I needed.

So, trust your gut. When you need outside help, ask for it, and get it.  

And embrace humility: be a beginner flopping around on shore, so you can go kick it in the water, where it really counts.

Beached for practice!


Hey there! Yep, you. 

As you’re reading this, what comes to your mind? What’s something you know you want to try, or get to the next level in?

And what do you need?

Some gritty determination and faithfulness to stick to it?  Courage to leap right into your fear and imperfection?  Patience to wait for your chance and not waste strength on distractions? Confidence that it’s worth it to prepare yourself, to be ready, even though it looks like 'doing nothing'?  Wisdom to trust your gut?  Humility to get help when you need it?

What challenge lies before you that you wanna commit to tackling?

Post in the comments to hold yourself to your commitment. I'll celebrate every small victory with you. YOU CAN DO THIS! 

with love,

your Coach Corr

Hey you! You can do this! Dive in? (At Rhino Cafe)

P. S. Here’s my bottom line for surfing and for life: Be clumsy, look silly, as long as you give ’er! TRY! You will break through to the next thing. And it will be awesome!

When you surf this far north, you bundle up! Wetsuit, booties, gloves & hood~!

When you surf this far north, you bundle up! Wetsuit, booties, gloves & hood~!