Sunrise Surf, Yoga Sutras and Mantras

Chuns Reef

While it was great to get back in the water and surf after a long layoff, it wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows. After my first session, things started getting hard.

It felt like each time I went out in the water, I couldn’t catch a thing or I would nose dive, getting a nice saline rinse up my nose. There was one absolutely gorgeous day and there were a lot of fun waves rolling in. It was argueabley the best day of surf that the North Shore had seen all summer. Yet caught maybe one wave. To add insult to injury, I got a terrible board rash all over my thighs.


Chuns Reef surfing

You know how when you look forward to something for a long time? And then the actual experience doesn’t quite live up to the hype? That’s kind of how I felt about surfing after those sessions in the water.

It made me question why I was even out in the water. I started to think why bother. I asked myself how I could call myself a surfer and write a blog called Love, Life, Surf when I couldn’t catch a wave. (Yes, I started going down this path very quickly.)

Then I realized that I learned to surf in April 2011. In the course of a little over two years – including knee surgery and rehab – I really had only been in the water a total of 4 weeks…at most. That’s a relatively short period of time to expect to get “good” at a sport like surfing.

Yet, I wasn’t willing to cut myself some slack. It is so much easier to be compassionate with myself with my yoga practice and running. With yoga, I don’t expect to be able to perform an advanced pose right away. I know that it will take months, maybe years, of consistent practice. My body will be ready when it’s ready. I try not to compare to others.

But with surfing? All I seemed to do was compare myself to others.

White Plains Beach Sunrise

On one of our last mornings in Hawaii, Ed and I went out to surf at sunrise. I almost didn’t go out because I wasn’t sure it was going to be worth the frustration.

As I sat in the water, I thought about The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, which I had been reading the night before. In one part, Patanjali says that the way to achieve eternal peace is by complete surrender. Rather than leading with our ego and focusing on the idea of “I can” do X, Y or Z (and that I’m solely responsible for those actions), we need to surrender. Once we say, “I can’t do anything; it is You,” we rise above nature and become pure and free.

Siting on my surfboard, I found myself repeating, “I place my trust in the Universe. I am where I am.” I said this over and over until it became my mantra in the water. As I repeated it, I tried to let go, to stop forcing my surfing, and to just be.

white plains beach surf

Then, the waves came, one after the other. I’m not lying. I figured out where to sit in out the back and wait for waves. I could finally paddle into the waves. I remembered to pull my hands back by my ribs as I stood up. I remembered to keep my head up and look where I wanted to go. I could move my feet around on the board and make turns. I could surf.

It felt easy and effortless…mostly.

Thank goodness. I was afraid that I was going to leave Hawaii having soured on surfing which would have been ironic since that’s why we went there in the first place.

And I feel like I can continue writing this blog :-)

Have you every returned to something or tried something new and it didn’t quite live up to the hype? Have I convinced you to try surfing yet?


Read more about our trip to Hawaii:


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  1. says

    I once tried surfing! I took a lesson years ago in Australia. And I loved it! But I’ve never been back. Maybe someday…
    But I love this post. Such a perfect reminder that sometimes we need to slow down and give in. I’ve definitely had those moments of trying so hard and not getting anywhere – and then relaxing and surrendering and seeing magic happen. So glad you had that last morning!
    Tricia recently posted..Art: it’s about the processMy Profile

  2. says

    Surfing is BY FAR the hardest sport I have ever done. It takes forever to improve and I can’t tell you how many times i have felt exactly the same frustration you describe! Myself and my husband have been living in Bali for a year now, surfing most days and even after all that time I still class myself as a beginner/intermediate surfer. I still go out sometimes, have a terrible surf and wonder why I am doing it. You have totally hit the nail on the head, focus on the fun and don’t let frustration get in the way! So happy for you that you found your feet again :)
    Helen West recently posted..No Feed Key FoundMy Profile

    • says

      Thank you Helen! It was really fantastic to be out on the water again. I missed it but I think that I just expected to be able to pick up where I left off. Surfing is hard but one of the best things that I’ve ever done. And what an amazing adventure you and your husband are on in Bali!
      Christine Yu recently posted..Friday Round-Up: Life PrioritiesMy Profile

  3. says

    so here’s the thing… did you ever hear about the Hawaiiian Gods? They either accept you or reject you. You’ll either love hawaii and feel at home in the water, land, etc. Or you will want to leave after a week. It’s some Hawaiian God. I forget the name. Anyway, this reminds me of that because it looks like you were accepted. The Hawaiian Gods made you feel at home in the water. Which means, we should all go back, right? xxoo
    lindsay recently posted..Life After Blogging: Guest PostMy Profile

  4. says

    First–I have to say that picture of the two of you holding your boards is amazing!

    I love this anecdote. We all want instant results/gratification, don’t we? I’ll bet the when you finally did get it right, it felt better than it would have had it happened immediately. It’s always worth working toward something we love.
    misszippy recently posted..The things I carryMy Profile

  5. says

    It is interesting how our great expectations can “ruin” experiences, while if we set them aside we can really enjoy the same thing. I’d love to go surfing with you! 😉
    Coco recently posted..Breaking NewsMy Profile

  6. says

    Ah yes, I definitely have! Running has been just that. It took me months to get my mojo back. I feared so many times that perhaps running wouldn’t be what I longed it to be for so long. I push and pushed and the moment I took the stress out the activity (by listening to meditations during my runs), I came to the point where I just was, in the moment, in the activity with myself, in the universe. No thought about pace, distance, nothing. Now, I can run with a watch and enjoy all of it :)
    Kierston @candyfit recently posted..#RECIPEFRIDAY: Sweet & Savoury Spaghetti Squash Protein Loafs!My Profile

    • says

      Isn’t it funny how once we stop pushing so hard that everything falls into place? Maybe the Universe’s way of keeping us in line? I think that you are totally right – there were many times out in the water that I feared that surfing wouldn’t be what I had made it out to be or what I longed for it to be and I think that just scared me. I’m glad that you are enjoying your runs again. xo
      Christine Yu recently posted..Friday Round-Up: Life PrioritiesMy Profile

  7. says

    I never really considered surfing before reading your blog. I am not sure it is for me, but I love reading your surfing stories. I do find that just being by the water clarifies things for me when I have questions. I love the way you describe letting go and then seeing things fall into place. It is so great when that happens.
    Kim@Co-Pilot Mom recently posted..New HeightsMy Profile

  8. says

    I want to throw my arms around you and hug you so badly right now. I get this! I get this! I get this! The miracles always happen once we surrender. Always. I HAVE TO download Satchyananda’s interpretation of the Sutras to my Kindle. I think this post – and you – have inspired me to do so.
    ilene recently posted..TangledMy Profile

  9. says

    Surfing is hard and I get so frustrated with it. I’m very bad at judging the timing of waves, which makes it really hard for me to stand up and often forces me into the nose dives you mention. I am so proud of you for sticking with it! I love that you write about surfing. It’s so different yet so applicable on so many levels. I also love that you reached for yoga when you were having difficulty. Also, your photos are amazing!

    • says

      Thanks Brittany! I do have a hard time with timing the waves and I’m also scared that the waves are going to break on my head so I know that I don’t put myself in the correct position. I am glad that I stuck with it. More than anything, surfing has taught me so many lessons.
      Christine Yu recently posted..Friday Round-Up: Life PrioritiesMy Profile

  10. says

    I would love to try surfing some day (better not wait too long!). My husband grew up surfing, and actually lived in Hawaii, both on the North Shore and in Kauai, when he was young. He still gets the urge now and then.

    I love your story and that allowing yourself to release the pressure on yourself let your surfing come back to you.
    Debbie @ Live from La Quinta recently posted..Time for Tabata!!!My Profile

  11. says

    Surfing scares the crap out of me and maybe just because it does I may try it…someday.

    We all need to sit back and take stock sometimes. Redirection is key and it seems you’ve got it in spades my friend.

    Love vicariously going to Hawaii and surfing with you.
    Melissa Burton recently posted..I Needed A Time OutMy Profile

  12. says

    I’m so happy the waves finally came to you and I love what you said about surrendering yourself. It’s such an important thing to do and to remember. I think I will think about this today when I’m out.
    Devon recently posted..Thankful ThingsMy Profile

  13. says

    Hi Christine, came across your blog while looking up “Fear of surfing” articles. I am 45, and have been learing to surf for about 10 years. Now that my girls are a bit older, and I have more time I’ve been getting out in the ocean a bit more, and can actually surf the green part of the wave, and when conditions are right for me(gentle and clean and 2-3 ft.) I have an absolute blast. The thing is that the waves and the ocean here in Australia is usually pretty intense, and I know that I need more push to really ride the waves better, it just getting out the back and through all the angry looking white water and then having to scratch to get over the outside ones that totally freaks me out. I am not adept and duck diving yet! I freaked myself out yesterday, really wanted to go out back, but just stood there in the beach break contemplating it, taking little white water waves, and getting mad at myself for not going for it, to the point of frustrated tears! thank you for the reminder of SURRENDER. I so need to do that, and to know that this desire to surf is there for a reason, to help me trust, and get out of my ego, and release my control….Hope I can remember this when I’m out there today….Namaste Surf Sister

    • says

      Hi Colleen! So glad that you came across my blog (and so sorry for the delayed response to your comment!).

      I too tend to freak myself out when I look at the waves and whitewater and think about getting out the back. It’s like a pit in my stomach sometimes. And I know what you mean about needing to push yourself to ride the waves better. I think that part of the reason I was having such a hard time in Hawaii was because I wasn’t putting myself in the right position to catch the wave well. I knew that I had to be further in but was scared that the wave was going to break on my head! So I would inevitably sit too far out, try to paddle for the wave and the wave would roll right under me. I did end up on the beach more than once in tears because I was so frustrated!

      I would love to surf in Australia! I hope that you have been having some good sessions out in the water. Best!
      Christine Yu recently posted..Friday Round-Up: Life PrioritiesMy Profile

  14. says

    To surrender seems like such an easy thing to do, doesn’t it? Yet, it is hard. But once we do, we wonder why we didn’t do it earlier. Beautiful pictures. Glad you feel you can keep writing the blog!
    Leah recently posted..List of TraditionsMy Profile

  15. says

    This can also be applied (to many things) but running as well. There are times when I’m trying to force speed or pace or distance and I always realize these things can’t be forced. Once I relax, the run or workout improves vastly!! So glad you’re continuing both surfing AND blogging. Oh happy days!!
    Allie recently posted..What They Say About My BlogMy Profile


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