board in sunset on water

Learning to Surf, Learning to Live Pura Vida


“I suck at this!” she said, and trudged through the loose sand with evident frustration. Her boyfriend had just told me he was very tired, but he had fun…

I am pretty sure she was actually unsually good at surfing for someone on her first day. She just set the bar really high and refused to move it.  I am sure she had a good a time in her fashion. But Laird Hamilton says the best surfer in the world today is…whoever is having the most fun.

I am inclined to agree that if it’s not the only component of how we rank our own surfing abilities, it should be a major one. This is supposed to be fun. If it is not, you are doing it wrong. If you are like me, there a lot of other areas of your life where this insight may extend.

We talked a little about the idea of getting mad at yourself when you make mistakes and the guy said if you are just doing it for fun, it doesnt really make sense to get mad. I would add if you are attached to the idea of getting better, or perhaps even striving to be excellent, then it really doesn’ t make sense to get mad.

I read some stuff about sports psychology a while ago and I started trying to watch my mind. I noticed that when I got upset or frustrated about making a mistake,  which was often, I was less lucid and more likely to make another mistake.

Conversely, I noticed that when I felt grateful to be surfing or kayaking that is when I would get the best waves and perform my best. Now I try to train myself to have a more constructive response to making a mistake.  I have settled on a four step process that I use sometimes and a one step process that I really like.

Step one, I notice if I am mad and think about how silly that is. It is just plain kooky to be upset. So I quickly remember I am surfing (or writing cascading style sheets. yay ! or whatever I have chosen ) and be happy about that. Quick because…

Step Two. YIKES ! Maybe step one should have been assess the situation for imminent danger ! Well, if I am about to eat it, at least I can do it with style and a smile, and maybe my lucidity can help me get out of trouble. For instance,  sometimes I can notice I am mad and clear my head while I swim to the surface so I get there ready to greet trouble with a smile.

Step three. When there is time, analyze the events leading up to the outcome that I was upset about. What mistakes did I make? Was there a pattern leading up to the mistake? After considering these questions, I assess whether I can create an opportunity to repeat the events leading up to the mistake and correct it.

Step four: Either repeat the scenario and correct the mistake, or if that is not possible, visualize the scenario and visualize correcting the mistake.

The one step process doesnt have the benefits of breaking down technique and weak point training, but it is good for getting back into flow from a mental state of frustration.

One step – Be deeply and sincerely grateful that I am surfing.

To me, that makes more sense than thinking about how mad I am that I made a mistake.

Pura Vida.