The addictive love and hate relationship with surfing

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Surfing is very popular nowadays and many surfers talk about their love for the sport & surfing lifestyle. The positive and healthy image is enhanced by the surf brand’s marketing and social media. But what you hardly hear about are the hardships & struggles, and the times when surfers hate leaving the dry land at all. Like any other element of our life, things are not only black or white. And the sooner you realize it, the better your experience with surfing can be.

Another aspect is the addiction to our wave catching passion. If you surf or know some surfers, you may have heard it many times, how surfers are hooked for life, or that they are positively addicted, and so on. Over the years, I found out that many surfers recognize this, accept it, but hardly ever think about the actual reasons or consequences.

While most surfers just want to have fun, this attitude works well for beginners only. Regularly going for it without understanding all the aspects can lead to frustration in the water and on the beach.

But once we acknowledge all the reasons and consequences of the addictive love-hate nature of surfing, it will almost certainly help us to enjoy the ocean even more.

Here’s a quick list that may help:

What we love about surfing

  1. It is a fantastic outdoor activity
    People love outdoor activities because they bring them back to nature while they actually have to do some physical effort to get there. All of this is very rewarding for a modern-day city dweller.
  2. You get an incredible amount of energy from the sun & waves
    There are hardly any more powerful natural elements like the sunshine, the ocean & the wind. And we get to play in them which makes the benefits even greater.
  3. You’ll completely forget about daily life and troubles
    Focusing is so easy when you are on a wave: no phone, no boss, no money, relatives, or anything that may distract you from riding the best as you can. It may be considered as an active form of meditation.
  4. The waves are never the same
    Even with surf guides & surf forecasts, you never know what is actually going to look like when you step out of the car or walk down the beach. Even further, no two waves are completely the same. Surfing is the opposite of boring.
  5. It feels like it’s a common quest you’re working on with other surfers
    On the wave, (usually) you’re on your own. But on the land or even in the lineup, you still need to cooperate with your surf buddies, surf guides, shapers, drivers, instructors, photographers, and others on the elusive task of catching the perfect wave.
  6. The harder it is, the better the feeling
    Achieving something very hard brings us great joy, and surfing may be one of the hardest things invented purely for the joy that we can try to master. Even a short 1-2 second wave makes us happier than playing football for 90 minutes or watching a whole movie.
  7. Makes you humble and shapes your ego
    It takes a lot of patience and failure to become any good at surfing. And even when you already think you’re on it, the ocean gives you a slap or a beating. Only a humble surfer survives in big waves.
  8. We get to explore the world
    Surfing evolves around the constant search for better waves and this drives exploration. Every place has its own unique environment, history, and culture that may enhance our personality and understanding of the world.
Beautiful day somewhere in the Carribean

What we hate about surfing

  1. The waves are never perfect
    There is a natural imperfection in the ocean, that drives us to search for better & better waves. Even if we find that one perfect wave, it hardly ever lasts very long before it gets too crowded, too windy, too big or too small, maybe the tide comes up or down, or the place gets dangerous or polluted. And the search continues…
  2. It is tremendously hard
    Surfing requires many skills: you need to be physically strong, have good endurance, flexibility, reflexes, and fine balance while also be smart, conscious, and creative. Even with all of that, you still have to face the unpredictability and power of the ocean.
  3. All odds are against you
    Often, surfers can miss the good waves by a day or even a couple of hours. Or you end up on the wrong beach while it’s pumping on the other side of an island. It takes so much effort to be in the right place at the right moment in surfing. And then some locals steal all the waves, or you injure yourself on a sharp rock while paddling out… even the airlines try to break your boards all the time. Surfing life is tough.
  4. There’s always someone WAY better than you
    The difference between the pro surfers and ordinary humans is thousands of hours spent in the ocean. It takes everyday training since childhood to be like them and we may feel like complete kooks surfing next to them. But even the pros feel like that next to the few genii like Kelly Slater – who actually still thinks he has much to learn.
  5. It only takes a couple of seconds before it’s gone
    Most of the waves are fickle and very short. If we count just the time standing on a wave, the average surf session may be often under 1 minute. Hardly any surfer says he’s had enough waves after his session and it makes us constantly hungry for more.
  6. The progress is extremely slow
    While it started so well when you were a beginner, the intermediate to advanced level of surfing takes so much water time and practice. And you have to play with the conditions too, you can’t learn much if the waves are too big, too small, too crowded or too windy.
  7. There is no gain without a pain
    It’s a dangerous sport and injuries are often. Are all the scratches, bruises, scars, bumps & pains worth it? And then there is the expensive & tiresome traveling, waking up early for a dawn patrol session, and hustling with other surfers for waves. Not to mention encounters with dangerous marine life, overexposure to UV rays, or polluted waters.
  8. You need to face your fears
    It takes courage to go in and fight the waves. While statistically, it is not that deadly as other high-velocity sports, only a few other activities actually require you to fight the fear and various dangers so much like surfing. And all that without any protection.
Face your fear and paddle out?

Why it is so addictive

  1. The perfect wave is yet to be ridden
    Despite all previous experience, we believe there are perfect waves out there and we are addicted to the search. And when we get a glimpse of perfection, there may be some small factors that make it possible to be even better – like bigger waves, less crowd, or longer barrel time.
  2. There are always good waves somewhere
    With the internet, social media & other technologies, we’ve learned that every second that we spend out of the water, we are missing some really good waves. It’s very hard not to strive to get on that plane and surf the next perfect swell that everyone is hyping about on another side of the planet.
  3. I can do better on the next one
    Surfing makes us a perfectionist. Even if it feels so good on a fine wave, most surfers immediately know what could they have done better once they jump off. Later, you may learn a new skill, or get a better board and you want to surf the same waves with improved performance.
  4. You need more of that energy
    The natural high from the sun & the sea is so great, your body & mind will miss that very soon after your return back to the office or other indoor activities.
  5. Anything else is boring
    The science behind high dopamine & adrenaline activities is cruel. If you surf a lot, you may start to feel that life outside of the ocean is boring because you can’t get so much high elsewhere. This may even become dangerous and it takes a certain amount of mindfulness to overcome that.
  6. Real-life is much tougher
    In the water, nobody can tell you how to surf a wave and what’s good or bad at surfing. But in life, you have goals, deadlines, measurements, responsibilities, and other people’s expectations to live up to. This often makes us think about the escape back to the seas.
  7. There’s so much inspiration around
    Surfing has become a global lifestyle, you see it everywhere and the surf-related industries have strong marketing. You can never see all the pro surfing videos and all the traveling surfer’s vlogs. All the content makes you want to travel to the exotic surf spots, try new surfboards, or live in a van without anything to worry about. All you need is to win a lottery & quit your job.
  8. It’s a natural therapy
    Troubled people go to a psychologist, surfers go to the ocean. The sea clears your thoughts & soul, it is beneficial for your well being and your mind knows that. Every time you encounter some issues, you’d rather be surfing.
One more wave please!

So as you can see, surfing can be both beautiful & cruel. It is a wonderful activity, but anyone who wants to embrace it should be aware of the obstacles too. Once we learn to understand them, it will be easier to avoid or overcome the struggles.

…and then, every day in the ocean can be pure enjoyment, no matter the conditions, or the number of waves caught.

If you are interested in more details on how to enjoy every wave, feel free to read more of my articles, and don’t forget to subscribe so you won’t miss any of them.