“Sometimes, it is enough to just sit at the beach and look at the waves, thinking nothing …” My friend Christine is absolutely right. We should not always assess and interpret everything. Celebrating the happiness of being is easy near the magnificent surf beaches of Portugal – and yet a challenge for the daily lives we lead.
“Waves are energy that travel across the sea. They often race for hundreds or thousands of kilometres before breaking ashore at a certain spot and time. This is the moment we have all been waiting for as surfers.”
Marco, our surf teacher at the MellowMove surf camp near the famous surfing hotspot of Ericeira, directs his voice with a steady sense of passion. I listen to him, fascinated. We are part of a lesson called “wave theory” on the second day of our three-day surf camp at Portugal’s spectacular West Coast. Shifting my body, I can already feel the oncoming muscle ache of our first day surfing at Praia Azul. “Circular swells”, “white water waves” & “nosedive” are only a few words among the new vocabulary we get to live by and train each day. Dear me! If after surfing all you do is “looking at the waves thinking nothing”, then you are certainly on the right track. It is us travel writers who then start to become philosophical, thinking in terms of “what the waves actually teach us”. So here are my conclusions about life, the universe and … surfing for you to enjoy!
1. Over time, you will cut out all the unnecessary baggage weighing you down.
Such as – shoes. Or handbags. Not mentioning make-up or jewellery. There is a moment when BEING is all that counts: Feeling the salt prickling on your skin, sharpening the focus of all your senses, realizing your strength when lifting your surfboard up in the crashing waves. The board is well over two metres long, hence huge for little people like myself! However, and thanks to its particular fabric, it is also quite light.
It is a beautiful feeling learning how to surf. Your focus becomes clear, there is only one thing on your mind – moving in and with the waves – and despite all the excitement we show as “first-timers”, a sense of inner peace warmly wraps us up almost immediately.
2. “With a little help from my friends”: Social interaction is what we need to grow as human beings.
During surfing, just as in real life, you need a mentor. Someone you can trust. Who has the right thing to say to you, at the right time. Who is there to guide you, to support you, to believe in you and to give you the power to grow. Marco and Gery are such people, my surfing teachers during this short time at the MellowMove surf camp. They and their fellow colleagues are here to live their dream – and they are all from Austria originally! A funny detail really, to be taught surfing by your fellow citizens from a landlocked country in Central Europe. 😀 However, there is something about learning a new skill in your own mother tongue, facilitating the experience in many ways.
3. If you get stuck in a rut, change.
Day two. Muscle ache takes over. I feel like not being able to lift up anything, let alone battling the waves trying to surf on them with my surfboard. So what to do? The advice is as simple as it is obvious: Walk out of your “rut”, leave the churning waves, go back to the beach, take a literal deep breath and try again. This may sound simple and rather obvious in hindsight, but sometimes it is hard to fight the ambition to succeed immediately. “This has to work“, we then say and continue our struggle. However, all it takes is to step back, change from one current to the other – and everything becomes so much easier, literally. Surfing clears up your mind and lifts up your soul. A liberating feeling!
4. It is all about the right moment!
The right moment (or wave) is there to come. Yes! Once it has arrived, you must embrace it – both as a surfer as well as in life. So how do you know the right wave has come?
I believe “the right wave” is a mirror of your own beliefs, the summary of your expectations and experiences in this one particular moment in life. Being ready also means to let go and allowing yourself to be: At the end, all that counts is how you experience the wave. No other criteria will ever be truly applicable to your individual experience of the wave, or life in general.
5. Steer clear of comparisons. They are a guarantee of unhappiness.
These are perhaps some of the greatest words of wisdom – and they never go out of fashion! Always try and remember this:
There will always be someone who is better, faster, more efficient, more beautiful or more intelligent than you. The only thing that counts is YOU! It is your contribution to the world, your love for the people around you, your laughter, your passion and the happiness you share that counts. This is our first and foremost influence, perhaps the only one we really have.
So be yourself, and step back from ugly comparisons. (“I am so bad at this. The other boys in my group already manage to stand up on their surfboards. …”.) I might never see those other boys again. However, speaking only for myself, I am actually quite proud. This is how it should be: Long live surfing, even if you have minor troubles at the start!
6. Celebrate the happiness of achievement.
This is such an important point, dear readers. I hope you can all relate to it. Those moments when happiness just overwhelms you, making you want to dance with joy. “Yesss … I made it! I actually managed to stand up on the surf board … surfing my first wave!!!” Pride and happiness floods through your body: All of a sudden, the water is not so cold any more, the waves are not so difficult to master, and the joy for the achievements of the others become more heartfelt and genuine. It is so important in life, I believe, to celebrate those moments in the happiness of achievement. No matter what the situation is: Go on and celebrate – at all times!
7. Sometimes, we will have to step back in order to move forward!
The second day at the surf camp near Ericeira is hard for me. I simply cannot manage to “get up” and surf my first white water wave properly. I feel I lack all the strength and … What am I doing wrong? I am not that bad at it, after all? Well, my dear readers. At this point, reconsider. Step back. Literally: Go back up the beach. Talk to your mentor. Find the weak spot. Train the mistake. And go on doing it again. During this process, point number 8 comes in to help …
8. Laugh. A lot. About yourself and with others.
This thing called humour. I believe that humour, smiling and laughing are some of the most natural and most important expressions between two people, bridging the gap between cultures and also between different viewpoints. Those who are aware of their surroundings, have emotional intelligence and empathy and are naturally caring are in my opinion successful people. Laughing is what follows as a natural consequence. It is such a refreshing quality to have.
9. Mastering your art takes time.
The thing about patience. And our obsession with perfection. “If it does not work out immediately, I get frustrated and want to quit.” Who of you has not had this thought before? If you add a screaming body and painful muscles to the equation, surfing does actually take its toll on you as a first-timer. It is really quite demanding, physically and also mentally I would say. But it is also so beautiful and exhilarating. !! I love it.
“What you can see here are years and years of training. You are all just starting, so be proud of what you have already achieved so far!” Our surf teachers talk to us about motivation at MellowMove surf camp, looking out to sea at the more experienced pro-surfers. They are right. And yet, we dream away with them … They instill the motivation to come back for more, and keep surfing.
10. Last but not least, take this for the true meaning of luxury.
Being able to feel your body. Sleep well. Eat with your full appetite (and without remorse nor thinking about the calories). Play cards with your friends. Tell jokes and laugh with them. See the sun rise in the morning, and set in the evening …
… do you want me to continue? The sweet scent of fresh sun screen on your skin. Enjoying the first ice cream of the season. Feeling pride rushing up as a wave, rippling through your entire body and breaking into a beautiful smile on your face. Hugging your loved one(s). Sharing the moment.
MellowMove surf camp here in Portugal is an experience for all the senses. The lifestyle we experienced is so chilled out and relaxed, yet surfing as a sport is centre stage here: Each year in September, the Austrian Surf Championships are being held here, our surf teacher Gery being the national long board champion. Wohoo! I really want to come back soon, as I have liked it so much. Next time for a week perhaps, despite aching muscles and working hard against the waves. Because once you reach that point of naturally moving with and not against the waves, it all becomes clear and easy you see. Just as in real life. 😀