This winter, my husband and I had a most excellent adventure, that included traveling to Australia and experiencing the wonders of the Sunshine Coast (it’s on the East coast of the country, between Brisbane and the Great Barrier Reef).  There the waters of the Coral Sea are amazing; clear, warm and welcoming.

I’m not much of a swimmer (the dog paddle is my go-to stroke), but that didn’t stop me from jumping in and enjoying the ocean.  Here’s what I learned – funny now that I look at it, surfing is a lot like life.

  1. Know the rules – for example: swim between the flags – avoid sunrise/sunset (the sharks are grocery shopping at those times).
  2. Respect – the ocean – that means being present & alert.  Don’t turn your back on the ocean – ever.
  3. Not all of the waves that come by are meant for bodysurfing.  It’s ok to let them go by.  There will be another one, in no time; one that’s even better.
  4. Timing is everything.  Too soon and you miss the peak, too late and, well, you miss the peak.
  5. It’s ok to not know how to do something well and still enjoy yourself.  Sometimes just being out there giving it your all is enough.  In fact, most times that is where the pleasure comes.
  6. Be open, watch and learn the ropes from the locals (plus see #1).
  7. If the perfect wave comes by and you miss it – that’s ok, there will be another one.
  8. If the perfect wave comes by and ‘dumps’ you onto the beach – that’s ok, pull your bathing suit bottoms up and get back in there.
  9. Let all that comparing and fear of looking like a goofball go.  Let it go. NO ONE (other than the lifeguard) is watching you.  They’re all out there looking for their perfect wave to surf on and trying to avoid getting ‘dumped’.
  10. If you find yourself ‘dumped’ by a wave, with your suit around your ankles, your mouth full of sea water and sand in your (parts)…. at that moment, you get to choose.  You can you can cry, you can wait for someone to notice and feel sorry for you, or you can pull your pants up, spit out the water, clear off the sand and get back out there.
  11. Some people are happy just watching from shore – and THAT IS OK.  Wave and smile.  Maybe they will be encouraged to try it simply by watching how much fun you’re having.
  12. Notice when it’s time to take a rest and do that.  You can always jump back in later.
  13. Don’t assume all ocean water is equal.  I have lived in Vancouver and have never swam in the water here (it’s waaay too cold for me).  The Coral Sea is many degrees warmer.  I wouldn’t have found that out without jumping in.
  14. Ocean water is incredibly buoyant.  Like, wow, at times I felt like I didn’t even have to try – it just held me up.
  15. The best surfing I did was when I was most relaxed.
  16. You can’t control the ocean – really.  You may think you can, but nope, you can’t.  It’s best to surrender that belief as soon as possible and move on.
  17. Sometimes the wave you thought would only be ‘meh’ is the one you enjoy bodysurfing the most, takes you you the farthest and is the easiest to ride.
  18. Sometimes the wave you thought would be perfect – isn’t.
  19. Wear water-proof sunscreen (minimum 30).
  20. Have FUN.  It really is up to you!
  21. It’s liberating to allow yourself ‘one more wave’.
  22. It’s ok to give yourself permission to feel like a kid and really enjoy yourself (see #21).
  23. It really doesn’t matter how anyone else is surfing – or what they’re doing….. you get to choose the wave….. you get to ride it (or not)……. you get to decide what you want to do & how to feel.
  24. When I relaxed and allowed the ocean to carry me, I had the most wonderful, joyful rides.
  25. When I tried to force it (ha ha), is when I most often found myself on my ass, getting dumped, spitting out salt water & frantically pulling my bathing suit back on.  Sometimes (dumb luck?) it worked and I did glide for a while, but most often I got schooled.
  26. You don’t have to be an olympic swimmer to really enjoy yourself in the water.  Be smart, surf with a friend, stay within the flags, be present and respectful of the ocean and start with what feels ok, right and safe.  Soon, you’ll find yourself with an enormous grin on your face saying – ‘ok, just one more wave!’.