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I'm an expert at something very important

Updated: Aug 18, 2022


In 2019 Josh set off on his surfing journey. One month into a three month trip to Australia he captured his reflections. Over three years later Josh is still surfing and has drastically improved getting the board in and out of his van. Thanks for sharing your journey with us Josh :) x


“Mate, you do know you’re going to be shit at surfing right?!”



Wise words from my ever-supportive friend of more than ten years when I told him I was heading to Australia to, among other things, try and learn. In fairness he’s seen me try a variety of other sporting activities and witnessed the results.


Well, I can now happily inform him by way of this scribble that one month in to my surfing journey, initially thought up as some metaphor for remembering resilience in life, I am an expert. At taking my surf board out of my van. And putting it back in again. Seriously, I can do it (most of the time) without even banging the board on the window. I’m pretty proud.


Over the last month I’ve bashed an older person walking their dog, got my leg rope stuck in a bush, dropped my board on my already purple foot (bruised from falling over on a hike), and hit myself in the head when being passed the board by a friend (to make it easier?). I’ve also accidentally pissed on my foot in the dark when camping in the bush, but that had nothing to do with the surf board. And that’s before I’ve even made it to the water. Big-wave surfer Laird Hamilton says we need to:


"Learn how to crash gracefully. We all crash.”

Well there’s a challenge right there, one I’ve sometimes nailed, and at other times not so much. But with surfing I’m getting ok at falling down, which is good because it happens a lot (I’m yet to have a big crash so we’ll see how that goes). And every now and then I can do it without smacking some other learner round the head with my board too. The more I crash the more I get used to being in the washing machine. I know I might never be comfy there, but I know I’ll eventually bob up to the surface coughing and splashing, give myself a talking to and paddle out and try again.


Up here on the East Coast, there’s sunshine and the water’s warmer. It’s a little easier to keep getting back in. Psychologist Angela Duckworth talks of “Grit” and the Japanese philosophy of Ikigai frames this as (loosely):


“fall seven, rise eight.”

And let’s be frank, that’s easier when it’s heaps of fun, and in an environment you enjoy. Scary, painful, ridiculously embarrassing, soothing, humbling, and every now and then magical, surfing is fucking brilliant.



Rutger Bregman in his book Utopia for Realists, talks of the great challenge of our age being self-involvement and narcissism (Bregman, 2018) . Surfing can be seen as an activity of self.


It seems to bring joy through feeling, through the total concentration on the nuanced tweaks required and the magic of a moment. And that moment isn’t always riding a wave. Sometimes it’s just sitting on your board, watching the waves, and being a bit peaceful (and trying to keep your balance!).


"And yet, while I’m new to this world, it’s already clear that this personal activity is made a richer experience through being in your own world while sharing the water with others, respecting their space (trying), experiencing and witnessing joy and pain, (everyone catches waves, and everyone spends time in the washing machine), learning, teaching, and enjoying the ride when it comes."

When it comes sometimes it’s just yours, and sometimes more than one soul shares it. So far it seems a pretty good balance check in Bregman’s proposed challenge of considering a healthier approach to self and empathy for others.


When we eventually get to his proposed 15hr work week, I reckon more people should surf. Life is a serious undertaking, for everyone.


Surfing reminds us it doesn’t have to be all the time. We can have a lighter touch to the adventure, especially as a big crash in surfing by all accounts really hurts, and is terrifying. But still people get up and go again, for the good bits.


In summary, so far my friend is pretty on the money. I’m not very “good” at surfing, but I’m better than I was when I started. Everyone in the water is after their own version of that thing, that “feeling”.


"Some days you get it, some you don’t."


Most people are constantly learning, making little adjustments, and trying to hold onto their board and not hit others when stacking it. Sometimes amid the panic of the fall, it’s just not possible, and trying to avoid crashing at all is futile. It hurts, sometimes a lot, but it’s part of the adventure. I guess we just have to learn to try and crash with as much grace as we can muster, panic less and go again. Which isn’t always easy.


All in, there’s some pretty good lessons sometimes hidden amongst the fun and chaos of accepting you don’t know what you’re doing. And sometimes there isn’t. Sometimes it’s just chaos. You just keep getting in the water. Maybe it’s not a bad metaphor for life after all."


Or maybe it’s just my sentimental take on things.


Just remember, if anyone wants lessons on how to get your board out of your van successfully, or on putting it back in, I’m your guy. I’m an expert at that. Ish.






Works Cited:

Bregman, R. (2018). Utopia for realists: And how we get there. London ; New York:

Bloomsbury.


Duckworth, A. (2016). Grit: The power of passion and perseverance. New York:

Scribner/Simon and Schuster.


Hamilton, L. (2019, May 23). Oprah's Master Class: The Podcast. Laird Hamilton. (O. Winfrey, Interviewer).


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