I have the incredible privilege to enjoy 9 days here on beautiful Waikiki beach in Honolulu, HI. More than the sun and the sites, I love being in the ocean. The blue-green water is clear and comforting.
Growing up in the bay area, I spent most of my weekends in Santa Cruz and the surrounding environs. Swimming, surfing and boogie boarding were second nature to me, my family and friends.
When I was 17, I moved away from the coast and, since then, have only made it back to the beach a few times each year. I’ve been to beaches in Washington, Oregon, California and Mexico, but nothing prepared me for Hawai’i.
Last year, I came to the Hawai’ian Islands for the first time in my life and got a chance to experience the ocean as I had never seen it before. The waves of Poʻipū beach on the island of Kauai were unlike any I had ever surfed. On my second day out, I caught a late breaking wave too close to shore and landed hard in the sand, separating my shoulder and suffering a pretty bad concussion.
I didn’t know at the time how significant that accident, and my reaction to it, would be to the story of my personal revolution. The pain in my shoulder and neck resulting from the injuries I suffered still affect me to this day. My physical fitness routine (which I talk about in greater depth here) has been drastically altered. It also caused me to reevaluate my priorities and decide what I am willing to sacrifice for what I want in life.
Here are 7 lessons that have I learned from my time in the ocean:
1. Before you dive in, sit on the beach and watch what the locals do
While this seems like common sense, we often times want to run with an idea while our inspiration is still fresh. It is best to observe other people currently operating in your sphere of interest to get a feel for best practices so as to avoid having to re-invent the wheel that everyone else is already using.
2. Check for rocks as you head out to the spot
After you’ve gotten a feel for who is doing what in the field you are exploring, watch your step as you head out. Coral and sharp rocks lurk hidden under the beautiful water, waiting to shred your skin. You can avoid them by carefully choosing your your path out to the spot.
3. Wait for YOUR wave
When you’ve made it out to the spot and you are among the crowd waiting for the next swell, you pick your wave and ride it. To be more precise, don’t start paddling just because everyone else is. And don’t stop just because someone else is paddling to catch the same wave. You are all out in the water now…these waves belong to everyone.
4. Don’t surf too big for your board
There is no limit to size of wave you can ride or the extent to which you can take any endeavor. But before you start getting towed into 25 foot tall waves by a jet ski, test your surf legs on some 3 and 6 foot swells.
5. Don’t let your fear stop you from getting back out there
You are going to wipe out. The bigger the waves you ride, the harder the falls and the more treacherous the rip tides. Learning how to bail out safely is as important as learning how to get up on your feet.
The fastest way to escape a rip tide is to stop trying to get out; if you relax and let the wave roll past, you will pop right up to the surface in just a few seconds.
Don’t hang on to bad waves. There will be plenty more to come, but only if you survive this one.
6. There are plenty of beaches to surf
When you go to Waikiki beach, at any given time, you will be competing for waves with 30 or so other surfers, many of whom surf that spot nearly every day of their life. Trying to break into a crowded spot can be difficult and discouraging, especially if you are a novice among masters. There are plenty of other beaches at which you can develop your own style in a less crowded spot at your own pace.
7. The Surf Gods favor those that come early and often
The water is less crowded and the surf is more desirable in the morning. The daily ritual of putting on your wetsuit and trekking to your spot takes discipline who’s reward is skill. You are most creative and receptive to new ideas in the morning. When you develop the habit of investing time in your chosen field daily, before anything else, you will be more focused and refining your skill will come more easily.
What beaches are you surfing?