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A life lesson learned from surfing: Keep Paddling.

Photo by  Sam Wermut  on  Unsplash

Photo by Sam Wermut on Unsplash

A life lesson learned from surfing: Keep Paddling.

On a recent surfing trip to Puerto Rico the greatest lesson I learned, was to keep paddling.

  • Just keep paddling.

  • Dead simple.

  • It’s much harder to do.

You grab your board, put the leash on. Watch your friends hop in and paddle out.

Let the fight begin. As you make your way out through crashing waves which is set on dragging you back to shore. You see the reef just below you through the crystal clear water. You start worrying about getting cut up on the rocks. Images flash of you hitting your head on coral. You remember the other riders tell you to fall flat. But you wonder, what does that mean? What if I freak out and fall wrong? Fall flat. Just fall flat.

  • Don’t worry, just keep paddling.

  • Breathe.

  • Paddle.

In the middle of paddling out, waves are crashing on you, you don’t know how to duck dive, as you’ve seen in the movies. There's no time for a tutorial or youtube video at the moment. You’ve got a 9-foot long board built to float a horse and waves dragging you to shore.

  • You got it, you start to figure it out.

  • Lean back, to keep the water out of your mouth.

  • Paddle. Breathe. Fluid strokes and just keep paddling.

As the current pushes you back to shore, and you navigate between other riders, you realize your shoulders, lats, and lungs are burning. You’re exhausted. You glance up, and you’re not near the others waiting for a set. There's a break in the wave, you take a deep breath in and keep paddling. By this point, you’re so tired from paddling out. You got to put your head down, maybe put your feet up to reduce your drag. Again, you've seen it done in the movies.

  • Just a little bit further.

  • Keep paddling.

  • Almost there.

Alas, you’ve finally paddled out, you can sit with the other riders. You start anticipating the next set. You take time to catch your breath and let your arms recover. Once you settle in, you look around at the natural beauty and find the shoreline and feel pleased. You’re doing it!

You're enjoying the battle.

As you sit, you pay close attention to the other riders around you. You watch them paddle to catch a wave. You become more aware that you don’t want to hit anyone and nervously look behind you to make sure your line is clear.

The next order of business, catching a wave. The real reason you've paddled out. To ride the wave, you have to catch it. To ride it, you’ve got to paddling even more.

One of your friends points out a set, it appears you’re in position. It’s time.

They yell your name, and yell; "Paddle, paddle, paddle. You got it." You lay down, point your board at the shore and start paddling.

In a flash, are you laying on the board the right way? Are you too far forward, or back? Is that guy/girl getting the wave next to you? What’s the rule for who gets the wave, again?

  • You’ve got to focus. You've got to paddle.

  • Don’t think, just paddle.

  • Deep Breathe.

  • Keep Paddling.

  • Dig Deep, Paddle some more.

You feel the wave starting to develop its face as it pulls you towards the peak. A few more paddles and you realize you missed it.

Dang, it. You let out a heavy groan.
Ugh! You turn back around, catch your breath, rest your arms again.
There will be more waves.
You can’t get ahead of yourself.
After a few failed attempts, you get everything just right.

Friends point, yell, paddle. You know this routine by now. You're ready, no one is around you. It's your wave. While paddling, the wave starts pushing you. Almost in a blur, you stand up. You catch the wave and your line is good. You’ve paddled hard. You hold out your hands to balance, like in the movies. You bend down to touch the water.

Unsure of how to fall and end the ride. You just fall flat. After getting back on your board, you feel the adrenaline pulsing through your veins. You look back at your friends. Elated, but also with the reality of having to paddle.

The act of surfing is exhausting, thrilling and at times scary.

Just remember in life and surfing, sometimes the simplest thing is what you have to do. Just keep paddling, writing, working. Whatever your verb is.

Travis Dykes1 Comment