A surfsister’s story of how surf therapy helped in her recovery from Bulimia to a deeper honor and respect for Her body: mother ocean’s and her own.
Surf has taught me: (1) learning happens in stages, you have to be patient with yourself. (2) The more inside your head you are and the less you trust your gut, the more likely you are to screw up the decision. (3) Fear and doubting yourself are usually the biggest reasons for failure and not your actual abilities. (4) It is nice to just sit and watch the ocean, enjoy the times when you are forced to relax.
Why do you surf? I feel strong when I surf, even when I wipe out (a lot). Surfing is a metaphor for my life. When I’m in the water I am reminded what I have control over and what is completely out of my control, except how I choose to react or deal with it. When my circle of control is tight, I am more aware of my reactions.
Who taught you and/or how did you learn to surf? My stepdad took me tanker surfing when I was 8. It was the most thrilling thing I had ever done! I wore a bulky life jacket but it didn’t stop me from keeping a laser focus on the long left I was riding.
What do you do for self love? When I feel like I deserve it, which has been very little lately, I surf, dive, climb and travel. I also interact with friends much more.
What lessons has Mother Ocean taught you while surfing that pertain to your life on land? I am a very tiny part of a massive energetic force.
Why is it important to you that women surf? The more people that look like you doing an activity, the more you have a sense of belonging.
Have you ever struggled with any mental health issues and if so how has surfing and the ocean helped you along the journey? I dealt with severe depression in college and was ok for over two decades. Recently, it has returned along with family issues that require my full, non-depressed attention. The ocean is my refuge. When I can’t manage to talk to anyone, I can be in the ocean and for at least a few hours, feel a sense of well-being. I even feel happy! Depression robs you of the joy you felt in activities, but the ocean almost always has a way of making me smile.
What have you learned about fear from surfing and the ocean? I think way too much about what other people think of me when I surf. It’s ridiculous, but it is one of the few times I am self conscious of my performance.
If you could go back and visit the you that was just learning to surf what would you tell her? It’s going to get more difficult before it levels out…be nice to yourself.
Written by Groundswell Participant Summer 2018 (age 45, surf home California)
WHY DO YOU SURF?
I surf because I love being on my feet on the water. I love being in the ocean. I love the popup and the feeling of gliding from my prone position to a standing posture…and feeling the balance of my body on the moving waves…I surf because I love the coast, the sun, the sand, the beach, the sea….all things ‘surfy’ (the style), and all things athletic and flowy. Surfing also, most importantly, gives me a space in which to find my solitude, my Self, and my connection to nature. It also provides a way for me to escape from the work and relentless chatter in my brain, from the hustle and bustle of life, and from the over-inhabited land I reside on. I get to reconnect with my thoughts, observe without being in a rush, sit listless and do ‘nothing’, and feel my own waves and surges of daringness, risk-taking, thrill, and adrenaline. Or I might prefer to soak in the peacefulness of just floating…letting the water carry me and succumbing to that control over me. I am a partner with the ocean – at times I run the show, at times she does. We both make plans how to interact – but sometimes Mother Ocean surprises me!
HOW DID YOU LEARN TO SURF?
My friend Jean-Marc from Paris taught me to surf. He was here as a visiting post-doc in San Diego, while I lived in the San Francisco Bay area. I’d come down to visit him and my favourite city, San Diego, and he would take me over to Pacific Beach to surf. He would also take me to his workplace at the Salk and we would stand on the cliff overlooking Black’s Beach, and watch the waves, the surfers, the horizon, etc.…and learn.
Then when I finally moved down to San Diego, another friend from Israel took me with his 8-foot longboard, to Moonlight beach for a number of Dawn patrols…we surfed, and I got seasick, hit in the forehead numerous times with his heavy, powerful board, and held under water and scrubbed ‘washing machine’ style. I kept powering out back into the lineup though…flopping over waves, ploughing through the whitewash, and bravely facing yet another beating!! Who knew what I’d get each time…but I was tough, or so I thought – and wanted to show him that I wasn’t a quitter. I wasn’t going to let powerful waves stop me! I was stopped a good number of times, however! And I learned to respect the waves. I passed on that ‘respect’ vibe when I moved back to Israel and noticed that nobody there was respectful of the waves. They were crashing into one another all the time, and attempting very dangerous tricks on steep, close-out waves, mostly getting hurt or injuring others. People were not friendly in the water at all…even though they were friends on land. It was a high-intensity place and very high-strung people cutting each other off, dropping in all over the place, and boards breaking all around. I struggled and prompted people to ‘share the laidback stoke’ of a southern California surf mentality…I explained to people how a longboard was a bliss-stick…not something to laugh at. How you could find your footing, how you could really feel the waves, and not have to be a show-off on a shortboard (especially when there were rarely waves to surf on!!) Over time, I guess people caught on.
WHAT IS SELF LOVE TO YOU?
Self-love for me is when I stop what I’m doing, including ‘worrying’, ‘planning’ and ‘preparing’ for things…and allow time and space for my brain to be un-taxed. I walk slowly, get my gear together and forget all else. I get in my car and drive to Torrey Pines beach and choose to surf, SUP, or hike.
I also love to volunteer with people who don’t have many opportunities to just ‘grab your board, get in the car, and head to the beach’ because of other heavy responsibilities and realities that they are dealing with. I love to offer them that peaceful semblance that I create for myself, and show them the opening to the doorway to comfort, i.e. the beach…and into the ocean we go…
I also LOVE to do yoga, hot or Bikram style, or Iyengar, or flow….and often I do a good service to my body when I just relax into a Restorative class and not worry about learning, or trying, or pushing, or any efforts of the mind or body at all.
Mother Ocean is just that for me: A mother. A place I go when I need support. An entity I connect with when I need to get back in touch with who I really am. When I need to remember what really matters in life and tune out what is just messy shit flying at me, getting in the way. I have learned that it’s important as all hell to respect Nature in EVERY way possible…not killing anything (not mosquitos that bug you nor spiders that scare you), not relying on another’s life to sustain yours (not eating animals, nor endorsing a cruel and horrific animal-product industry), not taking beautiful days for granted, not being angry when the weather is not quite what you wanted…Mother Ocean is the reminder of all those things for me. She is my brain, my heart, my (protective) skin, and my nutrition.
WHY IS IT IMPORTANT FOR WOMEN TO BE IN THE WAVES?
Women – need to have the ability to surf for a few reasons. One – why not?? There are no sports that are ‘men’s only’ sports. In fact, nothing is ‘men only’ in this world. Women are just humans of a different gender. All humans have equal rights. Rights to play and enjoy, rights to be strong and educated. Rights to challenge their fears, their capacities and their limitations. So women, just like men, should take part in surfing.
Two – surfing is a great exercise for the entire body – makes you strong all over! And makes you strong inside – able to distinguish when to charge forward and when to hang back. When to allow the water to overturn you, and when to fight it. Breathing is enhanced, circulation increased, especially in colder waters like San Diego…and our skin benefits from salt water bathing!
Three – it’s good to surf with someone, or a group – safer. So, this is a great way for women to bond together. However, I really do believe in surfing together with our brothers. Some of them are older than we are and can offer sage advice. Others are younger and don’t behave as responsibly (as we’d like) so we learn from them to challenge our patience, acceptance, and maybe even partake in things we would have deemed too risky…only to perhaps find that we have increased our abilities somewhat for having tried to keep up with a stronger, more energetic surfer…. that is how we grow!! But back to women surfing together – if that is what they choose to do – then what better place to have a chit-chat about life than sitting on your board, bobbing up and down as you wait for waves to come….and then encouraging one another to catch them and ‘get a good one!’ when they do. High fives and admiration, common caring for each other’s safety – feels like family!! -
WHAT HAS SURFING MOTHER OCEAN"S WAVES TAUGHT YOU?
Growing up not being good enough for the standards set (I’m a bit of a gypsy, a creative, a dreamer, and a beach bum – as opposed to a doctor/lawyer/accountant/actuary that was expected of me), I turned into a loner as the only way to salvage my inner self and desires and not get swallowed up by the ‘status quo’, or the ‘expected way of living’ that was thrust upon me. I was not and still am not recognized for my own path, my creative projects, my sense of what a good life is, or my preferences in mentalities and community. Of course this still makes me sad, and sometimes that sadness becomes overwhelming in the form of depressive symptoms – don’t want to get out of bed, losing interest in life, and feeling down on myself. I often revert to the patterns developed over time to combat this – the chase for being loved, the need for inclusion and closeness, and the feeling of desperation. The believe that I’m an unacceptable and unlovable outcast haunt me at least weekly!!
But in a surf group, such as the one I’ve experienced with Groundswell, I must say that those desperate urgent and frantic needs have dissipated. I want to feel included and loved, but in this group, I do not feel I have to pry it open from some tightly shut individual. I am celebrated for who I am…helping me to remember that wow, I’m made of a lot of good stuff! I openly shared my inside emotions, thoughts, and life bits, and was thoroughly accepted, loved, and welcomed warmly each time I showed up. I think we ladies in this group are magically touched by the ocean... and with that magic, we are able to embrace one another and recognize each other’s specialness. We have a gift, bestowed upon us as individuals, and that gift is highly charged when we are together in a group. I think that gift is the Ocean…I think it’s our ability to have opened our souls, found the desire for the ocean, and then went and connected with her (mother ocean). And after doing that, we are free, grounded, and alive! Forever…
Blog interview with: Anna Weltman, Age: 51. from Ottawa, Canada
After 4 days of paddling out at a localized left point break in the north of Peru I learned something I never thought i’d learn from mother ocean...
I need to be more selfish!
Culturally, growing up for me, the word “Selfish” was a negative word that paired with being egotistical, cocky, proud, hoarding all for yourself, leaving none for others. If you were selfish you didn’t share your toys or halloween candy and you’d end up playing by yourself and you’d have no friends. However Osho, in Love, Friendship and Loneliness, pairs selfishness with self love. “If you are selfish, If you love yourself...you will be delightfully surprised. Self love means the self disappears”.
He compares loving yourself to loving your house; “If you don’t love your house, you will not clean it. If you don’t love your house you will not paint it or surround it with a beautiful garden and a lotus pond. If you love yourself you will create a garden around yourself. You will try to bring out all your potential that is in you to be expressed. If you love yourself you can not stop showering yourself and nourishing yourself” (p 28 Osho)
This is the selfishness, the self love, that Mother Ocean gently reminded me of today in the waves....
Sitting at the point, set after set of beautiful glassy lefts rolling through, I paddle for each wave but see someone else going for it as well so I back off. 3 people take off on her pristine surface painting strokes across her canvas, it's breathtaking....But that person is never me. I am never the one dancing with the wave. Why do I always let the others have her, never allowing my potential to be expressed and enjoyed as well.
Another set rolls through and I am in the golden spot, I paddle with intention in each stroke, I feel the momentum and energy of Mother Ocean pulling me into her crest, begging me to dance with her. I look around and see another guy just ahead of me wanting the wave too, I have the right of way, but I pull out, I PULLED OUT!!??!? My buddy in the water with me looks at me like I was crazy! With hands in the air, “Que pasando?! That was your wave!”. “But he had it too”, I replied. “So?!?....You deserve a wave too!”
Thats when it clicked...
hell yeah I do! I deserve a wave too!!! I do deserve to be happy too! I deserve to have my voice heard too! I do deserve to be loved too! I do deserve to have a garden with a lotus pond surrounding me, I am worthy!!!!
I started paying attention to the conversations that played in my mind as each set rolled through;
“Im totally in the spot this is gonna be the one! he looks pretty pumped for it too though, this wave will make him happy, I’ll just let him have it, i’m content just being out here so its all good. Plus if I go for it and wipe out or look like a kook its super embarrassing and the beautiful wave wasn’t enjoyed to its maximum and everyone will be pissed that the wave was ruined”
“Seriously?!?”, I glared inside at myself and said, “you can’t ruin a wave! it’s stunning with or with out you on it! Even a good wipeout gives humbling beauty and respect to the wave...Plus, just as you said... there will always be another wave, so why not go for this one that you are in the spot for and let the other guy have the next one rather than always the opposite, others first you second."
I notice this pattern popping up in my love relationships, friendships, work place, at meetings and conferences...I tell myself that it is more important that the other person is happy, succeeds, finds love, makes that work connection, shares their ideas, or gets the wave over myself. I tell myself that I don’t need a wave, success, happiness, or a love to be truly happy...which is true. For “Love does not need anything else....Love is the only true freedom from attachment, cause when you love there is nothing else” (Oshoa) I have a good practice of detachment, almost too good, so good that I am keeping the world from the gifts that are me! When I hold back from my full expression of self, when I pull out from a blissful glassy canvas of a wave, I miss out, and the world misses out on a gift only I can give...me! Being selfish in the water isn’t being a wave hog, disrespectful, or dropping in on everyone like the locals do here. Being selfish is recognizing that you belong here too, you have a voice that must be heard! That this ocean, these waves, this life is for you to enjoy as well. And it's vital that you do speak your voice and dance on that wave...the world needs you!
When we allow ourselves to fully enjoy a wave and express ourselves freely, we remind ourselves, the world, men and women now and to come that we, women, belong here too!
“You are here for just a few years. Enjoy, Delight, be happy, dance, love..and out of your love and dancing, out of your deep selfishness will start an overflowing of energy that you won’t be able to not share with others” -Oshoa
My husband and I made a pact that we would include her in our travels and that we would not slow down our exploration of the world.
You are loved just for being who you are, just for existing. You don’t have to do anything to earn it. Your shortcomings, your lack of self-esteem, physical perfection, or social and economic success — none of that matters. No one can take this love away from you, and it will always be here.