28 Aug Why learning to surf is the best decision you’ll ever make
Surfing has guided every big life decision I’ve made since my very first one: choosing a university. It was a toss-up between Nottingham – great nightlife, buzzing city – and Exeter – beautiful part of the country, close to the coast. I chose Exeter. I was never a city girl, despite growing up just north of London, in a landlocked town far from the ocean. None of my friends or family surfed, there were no surf mags lying around or boards strapped to the roof of cars in my town. But somewhere along my teenage years, I somehow got it into my head that I just had to learn to surf… And so when it came to making that first big life decision, I made it based on the promise of a thriving uni surf club and weekends spent in the waves!
Looking back, everything that I have experienced since then – all the waves, travels and life-changing encounters – comes back to that decision. For surfing, I drove hours and hours on winter weekends between uni lectures and deadlines. For surfing, I moved abroad alone aged 20, and then again at 23, not knowing a soul but knowing there would be waves. For surfing, I have sacrificed home comforts and security, pushed myself outside of my comfort zone and tested my limits. And what has surfing given me in return? Almost a decade of worldwide travel, salt-stained memories and friends for life, heart-opening waves and endless joy.
So take it from me, surfing will change your life in the most beautiful and unexpected ways if you fully open yourself up to it. And if you need more convincing, here is a non-exhaustive list of reasons to learn to surf!
You’ll travel the world
If you haven’t caught the travel bug already, then surfing is bound to do it. There are waves to be surfed on every continent, giving you the bucketlist of a lifetime to fuel your wanderlust! From iconic spots in Europe and Australia to remote corners of Africa and far-flung islands in Indonesia, the search for waves can take you to some of the most beautiful places on earth, and you’ll get to learn new languages and experience local cultures along the way.
If you’re worried about travelling alone, W+W specialise in surf trips all over the world for solo travellers, suited to all abilities. Check them out here for more information on what we offer.
You’ll make life-long friendships
And where there are waves, there are friends waiting to be made! Some of my deepest friendships were made in the water. You skip all the small talk and go straight into the deep stuff, and by the end of the week (which is sometimes all you have together when you meet whilst travelling!) you struggle to remember a time when they weren’t part of your life.
You’ll become part of a worldwide community
Surfing is the reason why I can rock up to any surf destination without knowing anyone and trust that I’ll probably have a place to stay and a friendly face to show me the way–even if it’s a friend of a friend of a friend! The surf community is a wonderful thing. Once you start surfing, wherever you go in the world, you’ll realise that you’re never alone. Someone you met at a surf camp in Portugal might pop up again in the lineup in Morocco, then years later you’ll bump into them on a beach in Sri Lanka. The more I travel the smaller the world seems as I find myself bumping into the same familiar faces wherever I go.
You’ll become more confident
Although there’s nothing more humbling than a hectic hold down (you can always rely on the ocean to teach you a lesson in humility!), learning to surf has shaped me into a more confident woman. There are always going to be blocks you come up against: fear, frustration, confusion, exhaustion! But with each wall you break down, your self-confidence and appreciation for yourself get a little boost.
You’ll find unique work opportunities
From teaching English at a language school in Biarritz and writing for a surf magazine in Cornwall, to hosting guests at a surf house in Morocco and teaching yoga at surf camps abroad, my love of surfing has led me to some of my favourite work experiences so far. If you love surfing, there are loads of work opportunities to fuel (and fund!) that passion. You could work as a lifeguard and spend your days at the beach, or become a surf coach and travel the world!
You’ll feel amazing in your body
Whilst surfing is a great full-body workout (boosting heart health, strengthening muscles and burning calories), time spent in the ocean also benefits your body on a deeper physiological level. Being immersed in water can shift your body into the ‘rest and digest’ state as it triggers the parasympathetic nervous system, lowering your heart rate and blood pressure whilst stimulating digestion and balancing hormones. The result? Feeling totally blissed-out and relaxed.
You’ll find peace of mind
There’s a reason why surf therapy is becoming more popular. Beyond the physical benefits of surfing, it can do wonders for your mental health as well. When you’re riding a wave, it’s impossible to think about anything else. It forces you to be fully present, sometimes leading you into a flow state of mind. Studies show that it can even help people suffering from depression, anxiety and PTSD by giving them positive experiences in the water, boosting their self-esteem and increasing their capacity to feel joy.
You’ll feel a natural high
Not just a salty spin-off of runner’s high, surfer’s stoke is a real, chemical process that happens in your body when you ride a wave! Paddling for a wave puts you into a high-adrenaline state as you prepare to stand up, the aerobic exercise flooding your body with endorphins and the ‘feel-good’ hormone dopamine, while riding a wave drops you into a Zen-like focus where you are fully present in the moment. It’s this unique combination that gives you that addictive surf-stoned feeling!
You’ll feel emotionally balanced
Nothing clears my mind like a good surf, and I’m convinced that surfing is good for the soul too. There’s something inherently healing about being in the ocean. Like when the morning off-shore winds whip seaspray into my face, waking me up in the best way. Or when the waves wash over me at sunset, cleansing me of the day gone by. And when I finally find my way back to the ocean after a long stint away, it feels like I can breathe again. In the waves, I find myself again. I am myself again.
And so my first decision I ever made as an independent adult ended up being the best decision I would ever make – to answer the call of the ocean and jump into the waves. Who knows, maybe it will be the best decision you’ll ever make too?