Alright, so it’s been a few weeks… er… months, since I last posted. But what do you expect? I’ve been a busy woman. I traveled to Laos, the Philippines, back to Japan, and then I returned home to the United States. There’s lots to fill in but I’ll get to that later.
A few months ago, I had the opportunity to travel to a small surf town in the Philippines. A friend that I met while traveling in India had generously invited me to stay with him in La Union, where I could learn how to surf and bartend at the hostel, Flotsam and Jetsam, where he worked.
I’ve only been surfing once while on the coast of Oregon. The waves were tiny and of course, I had to wear a wet suit because the water was freezing.
Conversely, La Union is a famous surf destination for foreigners and locals alike, looking for a relaxing weekend away from the congestion of Manila.
Lying flat on my board, I waited expectantly for the next wave to come in from somewhere in the depths of the ocean. The warm water gently rolled over my body as my surf instructor, Jericho, stood next to the board, patiently peering out at sea. The waves came in so infrequently that I started to become disheartened. Am I wasting my time here? Will I get my money’s worth (11 dollars for the rental and an hour of private instruction)? When am I going to get to ride the next wave?
Observing my frustration, Jericho very calmly and very gently told me to “wait” and then he turned back towards the horizon.
I resigned myself to trust Jericho and then relaxed into my board. The waves lazily lapping at my toes while I waited and watched.
Then it came.
Even I could tell that it was going to be a good wave.“Ready?” Jericho asked. I nodded. My muscles began to tense as I prepared to paddle and spring up onto my board.
Before I knew it, I was off. I felt the board catch the wave and I popped up like pro… or it was more like an awkward board kerfuffle, with elbows and knees flailing in the water. Either way, I was up!
…and then very quickly, I was down.
I thought for sure that I would be an expert surfer and I would be the amazing anomaly that not only got up on the first try, but that smoothly sailed into the shoreline, looking poised and perfect on my board.
I was not.
Frustrated and embarrassed, I paddled back to Jericho, who was still ever-so-calmly standing in the shallow waters, waiting for me. A slew of questions flew out of my mouth at him. Did I wipe out too hard? How was my foot placement? Was I on the right section of the board? Were my knees bent far enough? Too far? What were my hands supposed to do? What did I do wrong? How can I improve?
He peered at me and smoothly said one word: “balance.”
Hmm. Ok… thanks Jericho. I know that you’re supposed to balance on the board. Isn’t that the whole point? Sighing, I flopped around on the board and re-positioned myself in preparation for the next wave.
We waited for the next good wave to roll in. My mind was racing with the steps that I needed to go through to get up (and stay up) on my board.
The wave came, I got a push from Jericho, and I was up!
And then down again. Poo. This happened a lot. And every time I questioned Jericho about my technique or which wave to ride, he would say the same two words to me:
I closed my eyes, took a deep breath, and obeyed.
Jericho’s eyes scanning the horizon caught sight of a beauty. The wave was perfect and it would be mine to ride.
I waited patiently for it to roll in.
Instead of thinking about placement, knee angles, and positioning of my body, I cleared my mind and breathed.
My board caught the wave, I popped up, and I rode it all the way in. No overthinking, no critical thoughts about how I looked or how my legs were placed. Just balance.
It was amazing.
Surfing has such an incredible parallel to the struggles that I was facing in life. My trip around the world was coming to an end and I didn’t know what I would be doing upon my return to my “real life” in America. Would I go to grad school? Start a new career? Stay with my existing career? Move across the country… across the world? What about my relationship (or lack thereof)? Would I be single forever?
Stop overthinking, stop questioning, and just wait. The perfect wave will come, and when it does, just let it ride and balance.