As a child, I wanted to live in water, always looking for my next fix.
I was born in July under the water sign of Cancer, so my thirst for the deep blue came naturally. Further inspired by my parents’ love of water while growing up, I participated in any and all water related activities, such as the swim team, boogie boarding, sailing, and snorkeling.
In comparison to my lifelong love of water, my yoga practice is about 17 years old. The first seven years of my practice I spent solely dedicated to yoga and perfecting my craft.
But then, adventure came calling, and a part of my personal and practice evolution became discovering new ways of practicing yoga in outdoor environments. This led me back to water, where I discovered that surfing was my yoga.
I had tried surfing off and on over the years, but just like anything else, if you don’t practice it consistently, you don’t learn. Last year, I finally committed myself to being a great student and truly learning How to Surf. For me, surfing is like yoga because they share the following five things.
1. Being a Beginner
Practicing yoga and surfing are both best done with a beginner’s mind. With such a mindset comes inevitable enthusiasm as well as a certain curiosity for observing expert level practitioners around you.
2. Having a Teacher
When learning how to surf, much like in yoga, you hire an instructor who guides you, gives you advice, and nurtures your growth. Throughout the process, you are inspired by those with more knowledge and humbled by their receptivity to questions when you feel lost.
3. Being Part of a Community
Surfing is being inside an oneness: a discovery of collaboration between you, the ocean, and the other surfers. Together, you are creating something beautiful while maintaining your individual personality and contribution. There is an incredible graciousness in having a shared experience with others.
We are all cells in the same body of humanity. ~Peace Pilgrim
4. Cheering Each Other On: Empathetic Joy
Embracing either yoga or surfing means experiencing no comparison, or envy. Living the true meaning of empathetic joy means that when someone catches a great wave, you’re overcome with a sense of accomplishment for them.
While standing before the vast and majestic body of water you realize that waves are aplenty. This reduces scarcity mentality and promotes the abundance mentality. The ocean isn’t running out of waves, so there is no need to measure, compare, get jealous, or be competitive with others.
5. Trying and Failing Is Part of the Learning Process
In surfing, trial and error come naturally. Success is measured not by quantity but by quality.
Thus, catching just one out of 10 waves renders a successful day. Getting the one coveted and awesome wave out of a hundred makes for the best day ever. It works to reduce our overreliance on the crutch of perfectionism, as the only perfect wave becomes the one you catch.
And perhaps the greatest commonality between surfing and yoga is that in order to experience the momentary high of an aspirational pose, you need to put in hours, days, weeks, months, and years of often less than glamorous practice.
The main focus of what you are actually practicing is the goal of non-attachment. In both yoga and surfing, you spend time being in the poses and paddling—present each moment without any actual guarantee of riding the wave the way you see it in your mind’s eye.
The most important part of the experience is that it be enjoyable and inspiring. In yogic philosophy, this can be summarized as, “There is no Mukti without Bukti”, or ‘There is no freedom from unhappiness without play.’
And as surfing legend Duke Kahanamoku said, "The best surfer out there is the one having the most fun!"