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One Wave at a Time

September 14, 20235 min read

I love surfing. I love it more than anything else in the world. There is nothing like being in the ocean. Simply sitting there, on your board, moving with every ebb and every flow of the tides. 

I can honestly say that surfing changed my life and it has been one of the greatest teachers that I have ever known.

I never imagined that I would end up being a surfer. I had tried it a number of times in my life and I had always just gotten beaten up by the ocean. I grew up land-locked in rural NE Missouri with no major bodies of water in sight and had only seen the ocean a few times in my life until I was in my 20’s. 

8 Reasons

It’s survival. It’s surrender. It’s everything in one wave.

Because of this I have always considered that I have a significant disadvantage to those who grew up with the ocean nearby. These are people who surely have a certain intuition about the waves and the water and the rhythms of the tides that I didn’t have

But in my mid thirties in 2016 the timing for me and the ocean was finally right. I was living on the Island of Kauai attending massage school. I was devastated and heartbroken and was going through a divorce that I didn’t want. I had gotten married and gotten divorced in quick succession. 

For my classmates and I, getting in the water at the end of each day to decompress from the intensity of school became our ritual. At that time I was very insecure– my ex- husband had told me he married the “wrong wife,” and because of that, everything I had known was thrown into question. I was traumatized from the marriage / divorce fiasco and as a result, I  lacked confidence, direction, and self-esteem. 

Before this, I had never really known how to interact with the ocean. I generally won’t go in deeper than I can touch (even still), but somehow having a board – a vessel – has made all of the difference in the world. Each day, I would follow my friends out to the break. I’d hop onto a board and paddle my way past the intensity of the whitewater. 

I had no idea what I was doing. No one gave me any pointers or any tips. I think it took me months before I even stood up on a wave. Often I would fly face first off of the front of the board, but no matter how badly I would wipe-out I would always turn around, paddle back out, and go for more.

It was like this, day after day, week, after week, month after month. But somehow, despite the fact that I was mostly getting beaten up – the ocean got into me. It purified and cleansed me; it healed my heart. 

It taught me confidence that I would be okay in the world on my own. It taught me humility and that I can’t take things too seriously.  It taught me how to trust, to let go, and to surrender to the waves of life. It also taught me gratitude for being alive, every day, especially when the waves were tough and I would get beaten up. 

It taught me the true gifts of presence – like having “beginners mindset” all the time. Every moment is new; every moment is fresh. It’s practice in the art of staying in the moments as they come and go. Surfing invites presence– it actually demands the kind of presence that is hard to come by in any other situation. It’s a life-or-death kind of presence. You have to have eyes everywhere. You have to feel the waves, stop thinking, and move from impulse.

There is no time for pettiness in the ocean; there’s no time to obsess or get caught in loops of thoughts and waves of emotion. It’s survival. It’s surrender. It’s everything in one wave.

I truly believe that getting in the water, paddling out to the break and getting knocked around  by the ocean time and time again healed me that year. I remember sitting in the ocean, watching the sun go down many evenings, brought to tears by the beauty of the natural world and in awe of the mystery of all things. 

To me, surfing is as spiritual as any other practice–a way to commune with nature, with mystery; with something that is greater than ourselves. 

Fast forward 5 years and I’m still learning. I don’t currently live by the waves so I have to carve out time in my life to show up for this practice. I’m working to create a life where I can spend one one full season a year surfing. This year my practice time is for 3 weeks in Costa Rica. I’m reminded that surfing is an unprecedented challenge but full of so much reward. 

I still feel like I’m a beginner but I believe that with surfing – similar with yoga, there is no final destination to get to. It’s a process, it’s a practice where one learns lessons one wave at a time.

So, surfing is my medicine. It’s by far the hardest thing that I have ever tried to learn how to do and it is also the most humbling thing in the world. It’s not graceful, it’s not pretty. It continues to teach me all kinds of things every day. 

But poco a poco, every day, and every wave, in all things, I am getting better. 

Brockell Briddle

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