Riding a surfboard has been a lesson in remembering how to play. In forgetting about being the best or even good at something and just doing it because it’s fun.
Because I like it. Sometimes, I find myself doing an activity and focusing my energy on being the best. Or only liking something if other people tell me I’m good at it, therefore making the activity valuable, allowing other people to grant or deny value to my activities.
I’m a terrible surfer. I can barely stand up on the board, let alone jump in on a wave. Most of my days in the water entail me staring at waves, feeling fearful, hopping up on a board and then slamming face-first into the ocean. And then coming back up again. And paddling out. And trying again.
I surf because I love being in the ocean with no one around. I surf because it’s hard, and I want to get better. I surf because finally getting up and riding a wave makes every face-plant worthwhile.
When I think about what I love to do, I feel confused. I don’t come up with much. I love to cook. I’m a great cook. Maybe I love to cook because people love me to cook for them. Do I love to cook for myself? I love to run. I run every week. Maybe I run because I feel bad if I don’t. Maybe I run so that I can say, “I run.”
But with surfing, I do it for myself.
No one cares if I surf. No one benefits from me surfing, like they do if I cook them a meal. I don’t feel bad if I don’t surf. I just feel good if I do.
I feel scared, and then I take on a wave and I feel strong. I feel tired, and then I paddle my heart out and I feel energized. Last time I went surfing, I did a face dive into the water, just before a wave picked up my board up and brought it down on my back. I looked around, ready to feel embarrassed. But no one saw me. No one was there to judge me but me. Watching myself, I looked ridiculous. I laughed. Blew some water out of my nose. I grabbed my board, I dove back into the waves and I continued to play freely.
Natalia Rose works in healthcare. She loves to bike, and hang out with friends, family and herself.