Why learn to surf on a retreat?
Surf and yoga retreats are super popular. Physically active holidays where you learn new skills in the water, enjoy a mellow yoga class to stretch your tired body and enjoy the entertainment of surfer humour! It's no wonder these retreats sell out like wildfire!
I was co-teaching a New Year retreat in Panama. I offered for free card readings for the guests - initially thinking just a 1 card pull per person so it was quick and simple. Oh no! My poor boundary setting got in the way and I was giving full 30-45 minute readings of each person's next year or life issue about romance! With 25 guests this was exhausting me!
A very kind loving couple noted the work I was putting in for the readings. In the discussion about why I had not taken the surf lessons, I mentioned that it was a budget issue in such a premium resort. Very kindly the couple offered to pay for my surf lesson in exchange for two full tarot readings. They acknowledged the value of my work and readings, I was so grateful.
On Land Lesson
The first surf lesson always sets out how to select your front leg on the board. Then, how to 'pop up'. There are a variety of ways that this is taught and some get caught on not being flexible enough to get up. However, life is not all about flexibility! There is strength, control, balance, going at the right speed for you to adjust. The key to a 'pop up' is not the shapes you pull to get up, but understanding your body in motion (and then the momentum of the wave when on water).
If you put too much weight in your hands, the board becomes unstable in the water. It's NOT a push-up! If you sit back into your heals, you will stop the momentum and break. If you push your hips up high you make space for your legs to move on the board. You have to take a step forward at some point! Keep your feet in the centre line of the board for balance, at a slight angle helps you adjust to the water's inherent instability.
The key lesson - go slow.
Feel your moves so you can adjust to the water as you get up. There is plenty of time if you go slow and feel the movement of you and the water.
You have to fall to get over the fear of falling. I spent at least a day popping up and over my board into the whitewash - too fast and too narrow stance. I wanted to be comfortable with falling into the water. You could get stuck here, so at some point, you need to slow down and start to feel the water. The water may look fast and furious, like life, but if you slow your speed you can tap into a smoother ride.
'Board Control' is key at this time. The water can make the board scary too! A wave at the wrong time with the angle of the board in front of you can mean face meets board - ouch! We must know how to hold the board, prepare for the wave we see, make a choice appropriate to the water.
Surfing is about control of your tools to enable you to ride the waves. We must know our tools, understand the currents of life around us and make appropriate choices. This requires focus, observation, clarity, confidence, self-assuredness, calm, peripheral awareness, and flow.
I love the 'turtle roll' when I see a wave. I hold my breath and the board over my body to allow the wave to wash over me. Close your eyes and roll through the moment! I can see how this reflects a lot of my life choices..ducking under the waves rather than confidently riding on top of them. I lacked the self-esteem in life to ride the waves and preferred to remain falling off my board.
Once you have assured your instructor that you consistently master the whitewash by standing on your board for a few waves, you get to go out onto the green waves! Depending on the water, this can be lounging on your board for 30 minutes before a wave comes along you decide to pop up onto!
This is because of the effort in and out once you rode the wave in. You make smarter choices. Quality of wave over quantity of waves is key in surfing. Just like life, less is more and quality makes the ride so much more freeing.
At this time I discover my issue of paddling. Unlike most, I have such a strong backbend that I am not getting sufficient momentum to match the water's momentum on my board. My chest is too high so my arms insufficiently deep in the water to power me forward. I have to drop my heart to push water back.
I often let my heart give away too much of my power to propel me forward. I end up exhausted from over-giving. When I give less from my heart I can catch the wave and pop up with fluid control, it feels like everything is in slow motion. I am enjoying the ride!
It's not consistent. I am not sure of which wave to catch. My timing to turn the board and start paddling. There is much about the water to understand. Just like life, there is a lot of unknowns. Nature has a power that we must respect, work with and celebrate to get the most out of life.
We enjoy a talk on 'reading waves'. The anatomy of the wave helps me a great deal. I can see what our instructor explains with the images and videos. You have to use your peripheral vision on both sides, always open to the full picture to make the choice. You must know the direction of the wave, the power of swell under the wave and many more things I do not yet understand enough to explain! My lessons in surfing reflect my lessons how I approach my life. This is why surfing works so well as a retreat activity. It is a bigger lesson than a sweat or physical activity. It requires a deep mind-body connection to nature and life.
It makes you ask:
What in life can we dissect? Which wave do we want to ride? Where do we maneuvour ourself to catch the best part of the wave? How do you adjust your speed when on the wave? When do you jump off the wave? How do you get back out without wasting your energy?
go on Retreat!
Our retreats are about alignment with life. This constant dance of going with the flow as the waves bring new experiences and take away what no longer serves us. How we can feel what 'being centered' is for our body so we know how to stay with that feeling as the waves around us carry us to a new place. Back to your true self to then go out into the ocean and ride another wave - to experience this physical life in full wonder and amazement at its variety! This is why surf and yoga retreats work so well as a combination. You can take the philosophical practice from your mat onto a board and physically feel your life on the waves!