Born on a farm in Iowa, I knew very early on that the lifestyle there didn’t really work for me. Deep down, I always knew I was a surfer at heart. When I was 7 years old, I began an obsession with Hawaii and surfing, and had an unyielding desire to be near the ocean. I went to Florida and New Jersey with my family and friends from time to time, and I would stay in the ocean for hours. I wanted nothing more than to be near the beach and have saltwater on my skin.
I’ve learned that the universe provides for you if your will is in alignment with Her plan, so 10 years later, I found myself in Maui. I was the stereotypical blonde haole (foreigner), fresh off the boat and somewhat naïve. All I wanted was to learn how to surf. It didn’t take long for a few enthusiastic boys to volunteer their time to take me out on some waves, but surfing, like so many things in life, isn’t something anyone else can do for you or even really teach you. You just have to paddle out, “get cracks,” do your best to be mindful, and be open to the hard and beautiful lessons that will most definitely come your way. If you love surfing, you will become addicted to it and never want to give it up. It truly becomes a lifestyle where you are up with the sun, tempted to skip work when there is a swell, and where you find yourself focused on self-care when you just have to surf in the morning.
Very recently, the ending of a relationship broke my heart and brought me to my knees for the first time in my life. I couldn’t make sense of what had happened, and the pain was intense. To cope, I felt like I could either crawl under the covers, eat ice cream and binge-watch TV, or I could surf. Thankfully for my soul, I chose the latter. Instead of showing up for my ex, I chose to show up for myself. Instead of committing to him, I committed to myself. Even on days when it was freezing cold, the river was running, and the “strong current” signs were up, I did it; I got in the water, focused on my breath and rode the waves. I dedicated myself to this for 40 straight days. Does my heart still hurt? Yes, but slowly, day by day, I’m coming back to myself. I feel stronger and more confident, and happy that I have my practice. Surfing, like any mindful-based practice is just one way to reconnect to the self.
My situation is not altogether unique and similar emotional heartbreak can follow with the death of a loved one, the loss of a job, or the disappointment of an unattained life goal. The lessons that I learned from surfing (or more likely that I remembered, because everything we know is already inside of us) can apply to many impactful life events. When reading the word “surf”, replace it with what resonates with you. Find a practice, commit to it, and the steadiness and ease will eventually start to come.
My relationship with surfing is similar to my relationship with yoga; it is a long-term love affair that has its ups and downs. Sometimes it’s strong and in the flow, and other times it’s weak and neglected, but either way, it’s a long-term commitment. Surfing truly is a well from which you can always draw, and I feel so lucky to be able to do that whenever the waves call.
The Top 20 Things I Learned from Surfing for 40 Days Straight:
- If you love something, just commit to it even if some days it’s small, big, fun, messy, clean, dirty, cold, or warm; it can’t always be good.
- Don’t leave good waves for other waves.
- There’s always time to surf; it’s a matter of priority and creativity.
- Surfing is a practice and the more you pay attention, the easier and more fun it gets.
- Even if you thought you lost the love for it, it’s possible you didn’t. Just go get wet; you might be pleasantly surprised.
I’ve learned that there is always another wave coming. Translated that means there is always tomorrow. No matter how badly you get caught inside, if you can just hang in there and keep paddling, the set is going to pass and there will be a lull afterwards. So don’t give up, just take your pounding, wait until the set passes, then make your move.”
~ Gerry Lopez
- Sometimes you’re up and sometimes you’re down. It’s all temporary so just ride the wave.
- Paddle hard for the first one but if you miss it, you will either be perfectly positioned for a second chance or a beating; either one could happen.
- Getting cracked up sucks, but don’t let fear stop you from charging another wave.
- Surfing is like true love: it’s the ultimate feeling but not without some work along the way.
- Being a chick in the water has its advantages.
Surfing frees everything up, it’s just the best soul fix. Life should be stress-free, and that’s what surfing is all about. It’s something you do in your sleep, with your eyes closed; it’s something you’ll constantly embrace and be passionate about, and whatever it takes, you’re gonna do it, because nothing else in the world can give you that kind of self-esteem.”
~ Rell Sunn
- Morning surf is the best surf.
- Ignore silly boys, they only want one thing: more waves.
- Smile! It gets you a hell of a lot more waves. (Oh, and so do Brazilian bottoms.)
- Surfing everyday kind of gives you “man shoulders”, but oh well; I’d rather be strong than perfect.
- Saltwater therapy is necessary.
Surfing is all about uncertainty. That feeling of taking a risk, that leap of faith every time I jump into the ocean, that paddle out among things unseen — all of these make surfing very special.”
~ Shaun Tomson
- Go sit with the big boys even if you don’t belong, because they’re going to miss half the waves anyway and then you score.
- When you get pinned, hit rock bottom and can’t breathe for what feels like a lifetime, don’t panic! Just push off and eventually you’ll surface again.
- Don’t let a past fear of breaking your back stop you from getting more confident and even stronger.
- Sometimes the best rides are unexpected.
- Forty days is what it takes to make a habit; not 20, not 30. There is something magical about forty. Apparently, the Bible was on to something.
More Info: Molly Masaoka is a yogi, surfer, mom, and the owner of Yoga Centered, an award-winning yoga studio and clothing boutique on the Big Island of Hawaii. Her studio offers 35 classes per week–plus online classes or students based all around the world. She leads a 200-hour yoga teacher training program in Hawaii once a year, as well as retreats to recharge your body, mind, and spirit. When she’s not in the studio, she’s usually on the sand or in the waves. @yogacentered