Learning to surf at thirty-something requires a willingness to sputter like a toddler in swimmies and a healthy dose of humiliation. It also demands mental toughness to defeat the wave’s wallopings. Now doesn’t this sound vaguely like life?
I thought I was reasonably ready for my first surf lesson. Yoga has improved my balance, and I did burpees to help prepare for changing stance from lying on the board to going vertical. Points for a good pupil, right?
But like so much in life, preparation can’t top hands-on experience.
With great anticipation, I plunged into St. Augustine’s waves. That’s when the words kill zone took on a whole new meaning. Forget getting on the board and trying to surf. First, I had to get past the barrage of breaking waves.
They pulled me back to shore, slammed on my head, turned the board against me and on top of me. Next, they dragged me under and left me gasping for air. Once past the breaking waves, I finally had a chance to try catching a wave. (Most of the credit for that happening goes to my friend, an incredibly patient teacher.) Success was exhilarating but often short-lived. More often than not, I toppled off the board and went back to fighting the kill zone again.
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After one particularly brutal beating, I retreated to shore with salt water burning in my ears, nose, eyes, and lungs. I felt like a failure.
I can’t get out there. I’m not strong enough. It’s too hard. I can’t do this.
The lies swirled in my head as my ears popped. My friend followed me to shore to make sure I was still alive and then sat quietly by my side.
“You can go back out,” I said and rubbed my temples. “Go have fun.”
“I’ll just wait here with you for a bit,” he said. “I know it can really get into your head.”
How did he know? I wanted to ask. Maybe because he’s been surfing for years and has had his share of hard knocks.
As we sat there in silence, my water-logged brain realized surfing is a lot like life:
- You need people to do life with who are a little farther down the road than you are.
- You’re going to feel defeated at times. Instead of believing lies that tell you you’re not enough, catch your breath and get your head back in the game.
- Falling doesn’t mean failure. Falling means you’re one less fall away to standing (success).
- If worthwhile things were easy, we’d all be doing them. Growth comes from overcoming challenges.
- Discouragement is normal. What we do with it determines if we stay down or get back up.
- God didn’t promise life would be easy or perfect. But he did promise that when we pass through the waters, he’ll go with us (Isaiah 43:2).
The rest of the day felt wobbly for me. I wish I could say I pummeled the waves into submission and owned the surfboard. But I did get back in the water, and despite all the beatings, I enjoyed the adventure. There will be a next time, and I will try again.