Saturday, March 31, 2012

Are We Becoming Blazé About Surfing?

When I was paddling out this afternoon, I noticed a tiny kid, maybe 4-5 years of age, raging away, and jumping on his board at the sight of every wave that came close. It was amazing to see this young boy pop up again within a matter of seconds, eagerly awaiting the next big wave. He was just fearless. He didn’t see the “Beach Closed” or “Strong current” signs. He didn’t feel the strength of the swell that would make him reconsider entering the water. He was just there; in passion and power for his beloved sport.
I remember when I first started surfing. Every small rise in the ocean was a wave to me, and every wave was worth catching and fighting for. High tide, low tide, I would proudly paddle out, stopping only once I had aligned myself with the line up. When I popped up and sat back on my board, and caught my breath, looking out into the distance, I finally felt I was a surfer. There were days when I would fight the white wash for hours, only just to realise I would not join the line up that day. Whatever weather, whatever tide or current, I was enthusiastic, ready and full of confidence. The main goal was to stand up and ride the waves. And I knew a lot of hard work would go into making that moment true.
I guess the knowledge of waves, as I deem it “waveology” kind of kills that enthusiasm for surfing. You learn where to surf out, avoiding the whitewash, and so align yourself quicker with the lineup. Then you learn to ‘feel’ when to stand up to get the most from your wave. Then one day ‘ta-da’ you put some pressure onto your back foot, and you find you’re turning (tricks!). One packed and crowded day on the waves, you discover two things; a massive wave coming towards you, and YOU are the first in the line up. This is your moment. This is your time to give it all that you got, knowing full well there are a dozen other surfers watching and judging you; wipeout or victory?

And so, it’s very easy to become a bit blazé about surfing. Avoiding the days when the surf is small, deciding ‘nahhh’ on in between days, and saying ‘hell no!!’ on dumpy or killer high days. You kind of set into your groove of what YOUR ideal wave is and wait for it. Just wait. As you know, surf waits for no one, and easily weeks can go past without your swell. Even when the conditions look right, we find reasons to say no to the call of the sea; big night, sore muscles, ‘not feeling it’, or a lot of paddle that’s not worth the surf. We get down to that one point in time; surfing becomes only the moment we stand on the board until we fall or get off. We shrink the whole experience to a few seconds. We even dream of someone jetskiing us out, paddling for us and even standing us up on the board, so we can enjoy those few moments of “yeeeehhaaaaa”...
Do we forget the experiences that have lead us to our moments of surfing glory?

So next time when you contemplate whether to surf or not, wetsuit or not, here or there…basically, next time you get about as annoying as a bride trying on her wedding gown…take a look at the young kid ploughing the surf. Or the happy tourists proudly posing with their rented Styrofoam boards and making exaggerated surfing gestures. Remember that once upon a time that was you, and feel that passion for surfing! Feel the wipeouts, the constant paddling, the disappointment of flat days, the rogue boards, the collisions… It’s all surfing. To compare surfing to sex, remember: the climax is as enjoyable as the foreplay, for without the foreplay it would not be!

Written by Copyright © SoulSurfer 31 March 2012 at 7.44pm

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Pain – finding strength in the weakest point

Today my yoga teacher gave a very good take on pain and discomfort. She said that every one of in our practice will come across a pose that is difficult and makes us feel uncomfortable. We usually react in one of two ways; we give up on the pose, thinking it’s not worth it, or we try hard to distract ourselves from the pain we experience. Every pose in yoga is about softening (stretching) and strengthening at the same time. As our bodies vary so much, we all have our stronger and weaker points. The challenge of yoga is taking the time and patience to develop and strengthen the weaker points; the challenge being we can never master the art completely.
My teacher said: “Can you just stay in this pose, feeling the discomfort and pain, and choosing simply to observe, without reacting?”

It made me think a lot about life and our own “pains”; both physical and emotional. I had had pains in my joints for a long time, which I choose to ignore and distract myself from. Instead of being kind to my body, and working on strengthening and stretching the short muscles, I pretend the problem is not there, despite the fact my body is literally aching for a solution. Of course, going to yoga and stretching the affected areas is no easy task, but I try to stick with it and breathe life into every breath as I work towards ease. As the surrounding areas are strengthened, I start to feel I can enjoy the hectic sport schedule I had before.

But what about in life? Do we acknowledge and notice pain when it comes in our life? Or do we just recognise its effects and choose to ignore? Pain is a feeling that truly brings us right into our body and mind, and senses, makes us see things very clearly. Pain occurs when the surrounding areas of our life do not support our goal. When something has broken down, has become weak and no longer can cooperate. It’s like running a two-legged race with someone; if they fall, it’s terrible hard to drag them along with you and continue to the finish line.
I think a lot of times, pain signals to us that there will be something we have to soften or strengthen, and that the process won’t be easy. And sticking through a point of pain, without reacting to it, is difficult. And uncomfortable. Sometimes we just want to soldier on and “harden the f**k up”. But pain always has a purpose and is an opportunity to strengthen those weak areas and make them strong, so we are one with our purpose. Pain is an uncomfortable, yet valuable teacher.

The worst kind of pain is probably emotional. It can manifest into physical pain, but by then you probably have numbed out to it. There are times in life when we have to acknowledge our weakness; cry, get angry, feel depressed, shout out – just persevere through the weakest part, to feel a sense of freedom that comes from being strong enough to face it. Once you work through a weakness to its end, it can only become a point of strength. You have “been there, done that” and seen that even in the darkest hour, you made it through.

Yoga teachers always call their craft a ‘practice’ – because you always practice on strengthening and softening, and you need to be in continuous ‘practice’ to get better. Life does not stop after one painful event, and you never master it, as you cannot yoga. Life is about being in continuous practice to be a better and stronger you – pain is just that teacher.

Written by Copyright © SoulSurfer 24 March at 7.12pm