Paddling for Position

playa guiones

When most people think about surfing, they think about riding a wave. But surfing is more than just standing up on a surfboard and maybe doing some cool turns and maneuvers. You can have all the technical skills in the world — paddling, standing up, turns — but if you don’t actually put yourself in a position to catch a wave, it doesn’t matter. You’re just stuck out in the middle of the ocean.

The thing is, the whole week while we were in Costa Rica, I didn’t really put myself in a position to catch clean, green (i.e. unbroken) waves, which is kind of ironic since Playa Guiones is a bit of a surfers paradise with consistent surf year-round. I mean, the waves just keep coming and coming.

I paddled out the back (past the point where the waves break) twice. The first time, I caught a fun ride. The second time, a bigger set came in and I got pummeled and pushed back. The rest of the time I stayed closer to shore and caught whitewater waves.

paddle out

I was really mad at myself and frustrated the whole week. There were many times when there would be a lull in the waves, making it pretty clear paddle out, yet I hesitated. And it’s really hard to paddle out without being totally committed.

Instead, I was willing to get pounded in the whitewater for over an hour. But mostly, I felt really really stuck and I didn’t know how to get unstuck.

I could have easily made the excuse that I was being cautious because of my knee. But I realized pretty early on that my unwillingness to paddle out had nothing to do with my injury or fear of re-injury.

I had mentally psyched myself out, probably even before we arrived in Costa Rica. It was a combination of not wanting to turtle roll and my fear of the ocean.

surfboard sunset

The thing is that it’s not just with surfing. It’s about most things in life — putting yourself in the right position. You could sit and hope that maybe life and the Universe will serve you up a nice little wave right to you but that happens maybe 0.0001% of the time.

Sometimes, no matter how hard you try, the stars aren’t aligned. When it does seem and feel overwhelming dark, how do you get unstuck?

Only in the darkness can you see the stars. – Martin Luther King Jr. 

5 ways to move forward when you feel stuck

Here are five ways to get unstuck and find the bright spots:

1. Stop fighting it and accept it. 
I believe that things work in cycles. Some days and weeks are up and some are down. That’s just the way that it goes. Rather than continue to fight, accept that it might be one of those down days/weeks.

2. Work on the basics and rebuild your foundation.
While you might not be putting yourself out there right now or taking risks, it’s a great time to work on the basics and make sure you have a solid foundation. For example, I spent the week working on my surfing skills, mainly my pop-up and stance, so that when I do paddle out, I will have those moved ingrained in my muscle memory. Same thing goes for any other sport or career or life goals – work on the basics so that when the time does come, it will be second nature.

3. Look inward.
It’s easy to blame the conditions or the circumstances for your bad performance or lack of success in [insert life/career/athletic goal here]. But the truth is, oftentimes it’s something inside of you that is holding you back. That’s what I realized out in the water. It was my own fear and lack of confidence that was holding me back. Take a look inwards and see what’s holding you back and what does that tell you about yourself? That’s often where the richest lessons are.

4. Find a work around.
Maybe your approaching a situation head-on when it might be easier to attack it from the side. Is there another way to lead you to your goal? While I splashed around in the whitewater, I would find that there would a small unbroken wave that would sneak in once in a while. I just had to work my way over to catch it.

5. Start fresh again tomorrow.
Tomorrow is always another opportunity to start fresh. You don’t have to carry the baggage and the frustrating from today over into the future. You can make the choice to shake it off and approach the next day with a new perspective.

While you might not have put yourself in position to catch a wave or take an opportunity right now, it doesn’t mean that you never will. But you do have to build up your confidence to get there. I firmly believe that opportunities are less about luck and are more a culmination of a lot of hard work.

Just like with surfing, I think that I needed that week in the whitewater (as much as I hated it) in order for me to begin to see my own strengths and skills and to feel confident that I can do it.

How do you get unstuck when you’re feeling frustrated? How do you put yourself in position to seize opportunities?

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Comments

  1. says

    Oh my goodness yes- I have felt stuck and thought of every excuse in the book for the last several months. I love this tip: “Work on the basics and rebuild your foundation”–that is what I have been trying to do and finally after not really making progress, I think that my new foundation is finally gaining strength.
    Elena recently posted..To Cleanse or Not to Cleanse. Is it Worth It?My Profile

  2. says

    Fear can be a sticker all right. It used to happen to me occasionally when we were sailing in more wind or higher seas than I found comfortable. But if you CAN get past it and carry on, it is so freeing.

  3. says

    Acceptance is key, I believe, so I love your first point.
    Not related to surfing, but I’ve been going through this fear and lack of confidence in my writing. I’ve come to accept that it’s just a down cycle right now, and the right ‘wave’ will come when it comes.
    Alison recently posted..I’m Giving Up BloggingMy Profile

  4. says

    Welcome back from what looks like a spectacular trip! This is such a great post…I love your advice. especially number three. I feel like that’s the biggest key. I need to tuck this post away and save it for next time I am stuck.
    misszippy recently posted..Back from the deadMy Profile

  5. says

    Go back to the foundation. The basics. YES! I’ve learned that especially this past year in running. The fancy, advanced technique is all well and good but when you are struggling it’s best to start at the beginning. Great post Christine!
    Angela @ Happy Fit Mama recently posted..First RunMy Profile

  6. says

    I love this. I often feel stuck in one aspect of my life or another. I find your first solution to work best – don’t fight it. Sometimes it just is what it is and it will pass if you let it.
    Allie recently posted..Why?My Profile

  7. says

    Such a cool metaphor and story. Being a surfer as well, I can totally relate to that fear… thought I only deal with it during hurricane season when bigger swells hit the east coast. It’s so much hard work to get yourself through impact zone and out back where you can catch the big ones… but it’s so worth it.

    I never thought about it like that, but it’s definitely like life. Taylor and I are busting our butts and getting railed doing somethings with our business, but (hopefully) it will be worth it once we get through this rough zone. Thanks Christine!
    Dan recently posted..Hacking Into Your Motivation To Be The Most Successful Woman PossibleMy Profile

    • says

      Thanks Dan! I really appreciate your comment. I was actually really surprised by how paralyzed I felt but that also made me think a bit more about what was going on. Absolutely all the hard work that you guys are doing right now with your business will pay-off in the end!
      Christine Yu recently posted..Paddling for PositionMy Profile

  8. says

    I love the way you take your surfing and yoga and look at how they relate to life. I think going back to basics is super important for getting unstuck. Sometimes just going back over familiar ground can give you the confidence to keep going.

    I don’t think you’re giving yourself enough credit just for getting out there in the first place, given your fear of the ocean.
    Carly @ Fine Fit Day recently posted..The Best Exercises to Relieve Back Pain (psst: these work for pregnancy, too!)My Profile

    • says

      xo thank you Carly. You’re right but I guess that I just expected that I wouldn’t be bothered by my fear this time. Goes to show that each time we show up (for whatever it is) is always different from the last time.
      Christine Yu recently posted..Paddling for PositionMy Profile

  9. says

    I feel like this was so timely to me and I think surfing should be a metaphor for pretty much anything in life. It’s just so perfect! It’s trying to find control in the most ridiculous place possible – the waves of the ocean. And yet, it happens. People do it smoothly and they fall a lot, but they get up again.
    Metaphors. See?
    Acceptance. Starting fresh again tomorrow. I needed to hear these words.
    Tamara recently posted..My Photography Process.My Profile

    • says

      It is ridiculous when you think about it, isn’t it? I mean, the ocean is so vast and has so much energy and powerful – to think that we can harness some control? Nuts. It’s rather humbling sitting out in the water. So glad to hear that these words were helpful. I think that I needed to write them.
      Christine Yu recently posted..Paddling for PositionMy Profile

  10. says

    “You can have all the technical skills in the world — paddling, standing up, turns — but if you don’t actually put yourself in a position to catch a wave, it doesn’t matter. You’re just stuck out in the middle of the ocean.” <— WOW isn't that pretty much like life? Love this so much. And sometimes the hardest thing to do is to look inward and then allow yourself to start fresh the next day, without carrying along the baggage.
    Heather (Where’s the Beach) recently posted..Eating, Running and Enjoying a Simple WeekendMy Profile

    • says

      Absolutely just like life, right? I kept coming back to that one realization over and over again both out in the water and out of the water last week. Drove me nuts of course because I still wasn’t putting myself in the right position! I can’t say that I successfully put it behind me the next day. May have taken me more like a week…or more :-)
      Christine Yu recently posted..Paddling for PositionMy Profile

  11. says

    I think taking a step back to look at a situation more objectively works well for me. Sometimes, if you’re too close or involved (or sitting in the whitewater), it’s hard to see the big picture and really figure out what to do. Taking some time to analyze, perhaps asking advice from someone you trust, can help you move forward. Great post!
    Debbie @ Live from La Quinta recently posted..Natural Headache Relief with Essential Oils {Giveaway!}My Profile

  12. says

    Christine,
    What a great list. You’re working out everyday, feeling great and healthy and then all of a sudden for no apparent reason you hit a wall and you lost your motivation. How do you get unstuck? Your post answered that for me, thanks for such great and useful information.
    Irving recently posted..RUSHFIT Work Out!My Profile

  13. says

    I love this! It’s so true and I love that you say sometimes you have to just accept that it might just be one of those days/weeks and just move on from there:) I try to push myself out of my comfort zone and try things that scare me. I feel like that’s the only way to truly live fully:)
    Rachelle Q recently posted..Social Media: Inspiring or Discouraging?My Profile

  14. says

    Although I have only attempted surfing a few times, often times I use waves and the ocean as a metaphor to life, so you can imagine how much this post resonates in my heart. Funny you should write about being stuck-feeling very much that way right now. I know exactly what is causing me to feel sluggish, so it’s easier to purge it from my system. For me I write and run. I remove myself from social media, and write in my journal-it can be ugly, raw and make no sense, but it’s the way I release my block. I also run- just a solo trail run where I can restore the joy in my life. I can stop and look a wildflower, bug or bird and ponder how miraculous life is. As for surfing, I think I would just go for it, making myself take any wave good or not and see where it takes me– that forward motion we crave, and is necessary to be free again.
    Lisa @ RunWiki recently posted..I finally cried- Dream on BostonMy Profile

    • says

      I love how you use waves and oceans as a metaphor. I think that I need to do more of what you are doing – pull back, remove myself from social media, run/yoga, write. I wish that I had trails to run on here in NYC or at least somewhere I could run near the water. love you!
      Christine Yu recently posted..Paddling for PositionMy Profile

  15. says

    What a great post! I love the story and symbolism of your surfing story. I can mostly relate to the “looking inward” tip. You’re so right – it’s easy to blame other things when in reality you yourself may be the one to “blame.” Constantly trying to work on maintaining confidence and a positive mental attitude when it comes to goals!
    Kammie @ Sensual Appeal recently posted..Is Your Femininity Linked To Body Image?My Profile

  16. says

    Great post – love the comparison between surfing and life and feeling stuck.
    Stuck – yep, in the mud and in one area of my life I don’t even know how to begin to crawl out. I will try your steps!!!
    Kim recently posted..How Much Is Too Much?My Profile

  17. says

    I LOVE your surfing posts for all of the learnings you weave into them, and #1 on your list? I have been fighitng for the last 13 days, and not doing myself any favors in the process. I want to print this out and remind myself over and over again!!
    Jolene recently posted..On life and musings in bullets.My Profile

  18. says

    Love this. Such a perfect analogy and so true. Love that you start by saying just accept it. Somedays are off and there’s not always value in fighting it. Look within – a good one too. I’m working on getting better at that in most aspects of my life.
    Tricia recently posted..Pretty darn perfectMy Profile

  19. says

    This was the story of my life in Nicaragua last month… I was just getting pummeled by waves trying to paddle out. It made me SO FRUSTRATED. I just had to go in the white water for a day and go back to the green the next day. I think not fighting it that day made me more willing to go back out the next day.
    Cassie recently posted..What I Ate Wednesday: Charleston EatsMy Profile

  20. says

    Whoa – this REALLY resonated. awesome post – i am also a wannabe surfer chick with a fear of the ocean and i actually found your blog while googling how to turtle roll – ugh turtle rolls… :)

  21. Amanda says

    This is just what I needed to read. Thank you. I was led to you via Athleta’s links and liked the “five ways to get unstuck” title and I couldn’t believe the piece was a life:surfing piece. Thanks to Spring Break, I was just getting back into surfing more often (children-induced hiatus atop early-to-work schedule) and had my first real surf injury: seven stitches to the forehead. It was a perfect longboard day on Guam, I was on a morning date with my husband, but I was also caught up in my head…fretting over how long I’d last, why I’d let myself get out of surfing shape, annoyed that the reef was making me so anxious, madness, I tell you. Anyway, I got caught in the impact zone, got knocked off and despite grabbing it, the rail tapped my noggin and while my wounded pride hurt much more than the tap and stitches combined, I have been in a rut and letting life get in the way of my surfing and yoga practice. And then I found your blog. So, five weeks later, I am heading back out into the lineup. Or since a swell is upon us, I may stay on the inside and surf the whitewater, but I am getting back out there. The ocean is my playground. p.s. Thanks for the Surf Simply podcast link and the great reminders to stay stoked.

    • says

      Thank you so much Amanda for your comment. It made my day. I really appreciate it and it means a lot to hear that this resonated with you. It’s so hard to get out of our own heads, isn’t it?? I’m glad that your OK AND that you’re headed back into the lineup. Whether you stayed on the inside or not, I hope that you had (or are having) a great time in the water. Would love to hear how it went. Best!
      Christine Yu recently posted..It’s Pinteresting, no?My Profile

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