These days the wind has blown me East, all the way from sunny California to the southernmost point of Portugal. Sagres (pronounced Sagresh). A small surf town of about 3,000 inhabitants that buzzes with wave chasers the whole summer…
I landed a job here teaching yoga and doing photography for a surf school (Wave Sensations) and I feel as though I am truly living the dream. Before I arrived, I remember sitting in the San Francisco airport with tears welling up in my eyes with anxiety, apprehension and a bit of fear. What was I doing? Would it all be okay? Should I just stay where it’s safe and know where I stand? I knew deep down inside there was no way I would turn back, I was going forward and had come too far to turn around, but I still felt the feelings.
About three solid weeks into it all, my perspective on life has once again changed. What I want changed, how I want to live changed, but my love for yoga as well as surf have not. Rather they have grown to new levels, and the relationship I have with them in my life is none less than an incredibly deep love affair.
When I am on the beach taking pictures of people, they always assume I have surfed in California. The truth is I have only been surfing about a total of 8 or so days. I had no experience before coming here and although I had heard so much about how surf and yoga go hand in hand, I knew I wouldn’t fully understand until I experienced it for myself.
The first few days of my beginner stage, which I am still fully in, I didn’t really get it. I thought maybe I didn’t really like surfing. I couldn’t really get why people loved it so much. I would catch a ride on some foamy white water and coast into the shore but I just didn’t really get it… Until…the day I got it. When the waves are breaking really close to or on the shore it’s called a shore break, and can be very hard to surf on as a beginner. Therefore, the only option is to go out back behind the where the wave breaks. On this day, I was forced to go out back and found myself overjoyed just at the feeling of laying on my board paddling out onto the ocean. I felt like a real surfer.
I paddled and paddled and after feeling exhausted, maneuvering through the waves to get over them before getting trampled by them, I sat on my board and floated. With a hundred other surfers sitting on and waiting for the perfect wave, I soaked it in. Here. I am. In Portugal. Catching waves. The sun was shining on my face and the swell began to approach. I knew soon I would lay back down on my board and paddle for my life to catch the flow, to be in sync with the wave and to become a part of it.
And so it was. I caught that wave and although I didn’t stand up, I cruised through from way out back and took the most amazing ride on that wave until I landed on the shore and I thought to myself…my God. This. Is. Why. They. Surf. This feeling. This is it. From then I wanted to surf as often as I could. I was so excited to try again, to keep pushing to get better and to advance, as I always have in everything I have done.
Today, I caught a real wave. One that wasn’t just foam. One that was still clean. One that I stood up on and rode. I floated on my board, caught air and landed, then cruised into the shore flawlessly. I felt above all proud, but I also felt powerful, strong, amazing, and in love… In love with the ocean, with the waves… I knew my life would change forever. I knew my life had already been changed.
Just as in yoga, surfing allows you to get to know yourself better. How do you respond when a huge wave rolls in? Do you panic, do you calmly find a way around, under or out of it? Do you come back to the shore defeated? What about when you get washer machined to the point that you panic and think you may drown? (This happened to me recently!) Do you go back in? Do you let that fear, that ONE experience stop you from continuing to go at it?
The same thing happens in yoga. Just how we learn about ourselves on the mat, we learn about ourselves on a surfboard. How you show up to your mat or to your board, is how you show up in life.
I write this more as an ode to surfing, a love letter if you will. Perhaps a memoir that I can look back on one day and remember when I fell oh so deeply in love with the ocean. The day I never looked at the ocean the same again… It reminds me of the day I took my first hot yoga class. The way I felt a pure bliss as I stood there on my mat sweating profusely, releasing all expectations, and just being. It was the day I fell in love with yoga and realized it was so much deeper than a stretch. The time when I realized this was something I wanted for the rest of my life, that it would become a part of who I am.
And so it was, my love affair with surf and yoga began and continued, and the journey was one both told and untold…One that was witnessed by the sun, the sand, the sea. One that was witnessed by my mat and my board. One that was experienced wherever I was and gave me a rose colored lens for my eyes to look through. And life was just never the same…