Surfing Philosophy for the working professional – Balancing, Boardroom and Beyond.
Guest Article - Ishani Chaudhary
Here's a sneak peek into my regular workday - get up before the sun, rush to the hospital, plan and fix fractures, consult and take care of patients, read and review medical literature to keep updated, present work at conferences.
To take a break from this stressful routine, I call my friends to meet up for movies or dinner and find they’re equally drowned in zoom calls, meetings, closing sales, targets, presentations, projects, and endless deadlines. So I usually end up watching something online till we can party it out on the weekend.
I’ve tried shuffling up routines with some hobbies, yoga and meditation, myriad sports at various amateur and competitive levels. It's a stressful life coupled with recreation that leaves me feeling more drained with a hole in my pocket. Rinse and repeat the drudgery.
But 11 years ago, I had a Eureka! the moment when I found a new recreational activity - Surfing.
In a loose, forward-facing semi-squat on the board, am riding down a wave with some cool breeze. I jump off the board at the end, half a minute later into the ocean. Thrilled by the last wave, I turn around enthused and paddle back deeper for more. While I wait in anticipation for the next set of waves, bobbing up and down the board, a golden sun dips into the sea on the horizon!
Without an active attempt to calm my mind or meditate, I find an instant change within. The thrill of catching and riding waves coupled with a sense of gratitude for the ocean and nature. I feel enthused and refreshed yet relaxed just within 15 minutes of entering the ocean- a sweet mix of endorphins, muscle soreness, and bliss!
For those new to surfing - it’s a sport where one needs a board and ocean or river waves and gets propelled/glides down the face of the wave. I must warn you before you start though - too much surfing can leave you with a healthy glowing sunkissed skin and a certain happy feeling called ‘the surf stoke’
Ever since I got introduced to surfing 11 years ago, I’ve had at least one surfcation a year - a couple of days of surfing, either solo or with family or with friends.
I’ve enjoyed longboard surfing at almost all the surfing beaches in India and with getaways to Hawaii, Australia, Costa Rica, Sri Lanka, Bali, and Portugal.
My favorite location to surf has been closer to home, at Mantra Surf Club in Mulki, Karnataka. A unique pristine surf culture that they have cultivated and propagated along with their warm hospitality has kept me coming back for more over the last decade.
Another Eureka! moment - these surf-escapades transformed me into a more efficient professional once I returned to work. I finally found some good balance between the board and the boardroom.
Sharing some lessons I learned from surfing that pour over into daily and professional life -
1.Surfing teaches you to fall first
Then fall a hundred times over on the cushion of ocean waters.
Humans have such an innate fear of falling. It’s a deeply ingrained fear we harbor right from childhood while learning to ride a bicycle. Surfing as a sport takes away that fear. Every successfully ridden wave and unsuccessful one for that matter ends in a fall.
You learn to fall, tumble, and laugh at yourself as you do. Surprisingly, this also takes away a certain fear of failing along with falling.
2.Surfing makes you fluid.
Ironically, no other sport teaches you to play- every sport focuses on perfection in strokes, improving timings and stats, scoring a goal or a basket to beat the opponent or win the game or race. Surfing, however, allows you to be creative with the board and play with the waves. It’s a lot more like a painting. There isn’t a right way to paint. Whatever you create or however you surf is your art, your wave. This takes away the compulsive performance pressure that often takes you away from the joy of doing an activity, which surfing helps you reconnect with. Surfing molds you out of the rigid confines of structure, schedules, and rules of our workplaces and the compulsive need to do things in a particular way. Like the nature of the sport, it makes you fluid.
3.Surfing teaches you strategy
Every surfer knows how to stand back and spend a couple of moments observing the ocean to find the right spot and swell, which areas to enter the sea from, and which areas to avoid to be able to surf the best waves. One can apply a similar strategy of situation assessment in work and before you dive right in.
4.Surfing teaches you to position, paddle, and pop-up.
One needs to swim out to a spot in the sea where the waves break and find the most appropriate position, then paddle hard like one’s life depends on it and pop up at the right time when the wave propels you to be able to catch and ride it and enjoy the adrenaline. Much like one needs to look out, plan, and position oneself and then put in the required work at the right time for a given project to be able to enjoy the adrenaline of good results. Remember the surf mantra - position, paddle, paddle, paddle, and pop-up!
5.Surfing teaches you about opportunities
When it comes to opportunities it’s been drilled into us - capitalize on each and every opportunity else it’s a lost cause, closed-door, etc. This thinking instead of motivating us to do better puts us into a scarcity mentality and makes us scramble desperately adding unnecessary stress and disappointment in case we do happen to miss an opportunity or not utilize it completely ( we’re only human).
When you surf you realize if you miss a good wave, sometimes a great wave either due to timing or sometimes because you couldn’t paddle or position well or merely because of how the wave formed. But you know there is always another wave coming. This by far is my biggest lesson from surfing - Never show your back to the ocean and keep your eyes on the waves. Opportunities are like waves, if one is gone, there’s sure as hell another one coming by. One needs to endeavor to catch and ride the next wave better.
6. And finally - the biggest surfing secret!
Now the masterpiece - the secret to getting better at surfing, wait for it, is by surfing more! You surf better by catching the wave, paddling back for more, modifying your technique for the next wave, and getting some more waves to practice on. This is true for any skill at work or in life.
Now enough reading about it! It's your time to enjoy share the surf stoke and the balance that it creates in your work-life.
I'll see you in the waters, practicing my surf skills and picking up some more philosophy!