The Hardest part of Learning to Surf


The hardest part of learning to surf was not paddling, learning to read the waves, catching waves, balancing or popping up. It was not building strength or working through fear. 

The hardest part of learning to surf is looking like an idiot.

It’s like learning how to walk. Except I’m not a cute stumbling little baby, I’m a grown ass woman flailing around like one.

Nothing has brought me face to face with me ego quite the way learning to surf has, because my ego doesn’t like looking bad. It squeezes me and tries to talk me out of embarrassing myself. 

I think it’s pretty fair to say that people have more fun doing things they’re good at, and it takes a long time to learn to surf. It’s not something that happens overnight, and for me it’s not something that even happened over months.

I remember one day, in my first few months, where the waves were big and I was out there trying. I was struggling, wiping out, and feeling frustrated. After one particularly humiliating fall I surfaced to make eye contact with one of the local surfers who was smiling at me and laughing. A wave came crashing on me then, and ready to give up, I bodysurfed it back to shore where I sat at the water's edge with my board crying tears of anger and frustration.

I was furious that he had been laughing at my wipeout, and because it was easier to be angry than it was to be humiliated.

One of the locals I had been talking to before I went in the water came up and sat beside me. Naturally, he asked what was wrong. I proceeded to explain about the guy who'd been laughing at me, and instead of side with me, or point out how I was assuming his expression had anything to do with me at all, he said “maybe you SHOULD laugh at yourself.”

The comment rocked me. I burst out laughing through my tears. He was absolutely right. I was taking myself way too seriously. 

My ego was hurt, I was not.

I was letting my ego run my show and I was suffering because of it. Waking up out of the squeeze of the ego is not easy because it will kick and scream and do anything for you to avoid noticing it is in charge—after what I wants, or in opposition to what it doesn’t—but once you do it is a great relief.

As it was for me that day.