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Step Into Liquid

The ocean awakens fear within us. Surfers confront this fear on a daily basis and become friends with it. 

 

 

I remember my first ever surfing experience like this: I came to Tofino with my family some years ago and we took a surf lesson. I was 13. I was a decent swimmer and not particularly afraid of ocean. The lesson was unreal fun. I remember looking up to my instructor and thinking that this was the coolest person on the planet. He taught us the fundamentals on the beach and most importantly made us feel really safe in the water. When he jumped into a wave in front of us and bodysurfed it, planing out in front of the wave, I absolutely lost it. Who is this water-human? How is he so in control amongst these waves?
 

I surfed with my brothers in the whitewash and remember getting the hang of it fairly quickly as many younguns do. Then I find myself being lead out into deeper water by the instructor. As I waded deeper my feet began to lose purchase, the sound of the whitewash faded in the distance and with it any sense of comfort or safety. As I looked seaward I saw dark green monsters looming.

 

That’s when I felt the fear. Of that first surf lesson, that feeling is what I recall more sharply than any other detail. That feeling is the fear of the ocean that gurgles in the belly and permeates throughout your entire being. 
My instructor saw this and reassured me. 
“See that wave? I want you to dive underneath it!” He said as he stood by my side and held my board.
I trusted this dude who only needed his body as a surfboard and quickly dove under the crashing wave. I was in the calm darkness just underneath the turbulence. I could hear it rushing above me. I surfaced moments later, remarkably unscathed. 
Having this experienced surfer guide me was what allowed me to be comfortable with my fear of the ocean, and push through it to catch the next wave. 


What I learnt from my first ever mentor in surfing, this random, radical instructor who inspired me, is that surfing is better when you go with friends. It is better when you admit your shortcomings, your lack of experience, and it is better when you ask for help. Taking a lesson won’t cure your fear of the ocean, it will instead give you the tools and the preparation to confront it.

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