“Knowing is not enough, we must apply. Willing is not enough, we must do.”
― Bruce Lee
One of my favorite films of all time is the surfing documentary Riding Giants. Even if you’re not particularly into documentary films, or surfing, I can almost guarantee that this movie will leave you feeling motivated to head outdoors and make the most out of life. Made by skateboarding superstar and filmmaker Stacy Peralta, Riding Giants takes us through the history of surfing, from its beginnings in skateboarding to where the industry is now. With a killer soundtrack, spectacular shots of Hawaiian waves, and vintage surfing footage, the film still leaves me awed every time.
But even aside from the breathtaking cinematography, the reason I’m so passionate about Riding Giants has more to do with the philosophies behind surfing. There are many life lessons we can take away from watching these adventurous souls ride incredible waves as they hang ten under the sparkling sun.
Dedication, determination, connection, and acceptance are the attitudes that I see most prevalently in surf culture. When we are out there in the middle of the ocean with only a board, our lives are at the mercy of mother nature. Accepting the risk involved in both surfing and life can be freeing and give us courage to try new things.
Waiting for the perfect wave to come, and relishing the time on the water spent in this state, are both good examples of the benefits of going with the flow. When we’re open to these experiences, we can also remember to appreciate the times when we seem to be just hanging out. It’s like that old saying: life is what happens when you’re busy making plans. Surfing is what happens when you’re busy waiting for the next wave.
It’s all in the small things; the mundane bits in life that become beautiful when we stop to recognize their importance.
Most people who are into surfing understand how vital time spent reclining in the sun is. They use it to mentally prepare for their day’s work of getting to know the ocean, and to center themselves spiritually.
I’m not suggesting that we all quit our jobs and live on the beach. But, when we place more value on our time spent relaxing, everyone benefits. The idea of scheduling in time to do nothing might seem unproductive, but I truly believe that giving our brains and hearts a chance to decompress actually helps us to do more, better.
Letting ourselves day-dream also means we have more time to contemplate our passions. It’s how we can develop our relationship with ourselves, stay present, and meditate on what dreams we want to accomplish.
Ever since the ostentatious 80′s saw us spending heaps of money on items we didn’t need, the concept of living simply has grown more and more appealing. Some people take it all the way, selling everything they own and heading off to travel the world, while others jump on board with the slow-food movement, or growing their own produce. Whatever works for us as individuals is, as always, the way to move forward.
Surfing is known to inspire living with very little: a board, a swimsuit, and not much else is needed for a full day at the beach. We don’t need to bring anything else when we have glorious Mother Nature in front of us. This is a good lesson for our materialistic culture: when we’re fulfilled by nature, healthy relationships, and passionate work, we truly don’t feel the need for extra, unnecessary items in our lives.
Letting go of material goods that are just taking up space leaves us with room for so much more. When I gave away and sold most of my belongings last year to set out with my backpack, I didn’t have any idea that I’d spend the next year traveling around to countries like Egypt and Uganda. The experience was liberating, but also incredibly terrifying at times. Making sure that I worked along the way, since I didn’t have much money, added some extra challenges to the usual ones involved in solo female travel. But I wouldn’t change any of it for the world — the lessons I learned have been priceless. Meeting my needs through the emotional connections I make, and following through on my passions has been really rewarding.
It also showed me first-hand how relative our concepts of ‘a lot’ and ‘a little’ are, when it comes to the simple life. My view of living simply is not likely to be the same as that of someone from a village, or someone who grew up very wealthy. But it’s in the overall learning process that we find value, as opposed to the differences between our definitions.
It is not a daily increase, but a daily decrease. Hack away at the inessentials.
― Bruce Lee
This topic is relevant to everyone, no matter what our lifestyles are. I’m constantly on the lookout for ways to better distribute my time between self-care, work, hobbies, and relationships. In order to stand up and balance on a board while surfing, regular practice is critical. I’ve tried surfing, and it is no easy feat! What is beautiful is that when we do, we’re riding atop water in constant flow: a perfect metaphor for life.
Balance can be challenging, since our lives are ever-changing; our needs are constantly shifting from one day to the next, and life throws us for loops we just don’t see coming.
Surfing encourages us to revel in the efforts of our practice. To get out into the ocean, under the sun, and just try. And then try some more. Applying this to our everyday lives can encourage us to enjoy the ride of it all, and relish the small, daily rituals of practice.
“I think when a surfer becomes a surfer, it’s almost like an obligation to be an environmentalist at the same time”
– Kelly Slater
When you spend so much time and energy out there in the ocean, your connection with nature becomes enormously enhanced. One of the best ways we can learn to have stronger values when it comes to our environment is by improving our relationship with it. This means spending quality time outside with our oceans, seas, and streams; and sitting in solitude with our mountains, forests, and fields. Quality one-on-one time with nature gives us such a stronger appreciation for all that it gives to us.
It’s not necessary to join a surf club in order to improve our relationship with our environment; something as simple as purchasing an all-natural Soma water filter can help better our relationship with the earth, with the added bonus of keeping us healthily hydrated. When we nurture our connection with water — our life source — in these small ways, we are setting ourselves up for fulfillment on a larger scale.
Be one with the universe
This is one of the teachings of many ancient traditions, such as yoga. We cultivate a special relationship with nature and water when we surf — or when we do anything outdoors that we’re passionate about and committed to.
In order to stay balanced on our boards, mental stillness is key. Like meditation, surfing encourages us to let go of the idle chatter in our heads and come back to our breath. And we don’t need to be surfers to achieve this! There are many ways to practice stillness and feel one with our earth: meditation, a warm bath, a nature walk, or gentle stretching can all help us reach a similar place inside ourselves.
You can’t stop the waves, but you can learn to surf
– John Kabat-Zinn