Zen and the art of surfing – riding a wave as therapy.

One happy girl!
One happy girl!

It has been a shit few months for me. Apart from my relationship going south, I also have been recovering from back surgery for a prolapsed disc which I had in November 2013.

Prior to that, I had always been fit – I had trained in karate and obtained my black belt, been a keen sailor – going out weekly – and generally thought of myself of being in rude good health. It was a real shock when my back blew out and I went from being a fit health person to being in constant pain and barely being able to climb a flight of stairs. Couple that with the stress of a highly dysfunctional relationship, I became dependent on painkillers and piled on the weight. Even though after surgery I was much better, I became scared of pushing my body too hard in case my back went again.

Fortunately for me, the universe had a silver lining for my playbook. (I love that movie) Once my ex had left the scene, I had to move houses, and I had to do a lot of humping and heaving by myself. Lo and behold, my back did not blow out. Sure it was a bit sore but my brain finally got past a massive roadblock.

I started to believe in myself again. One of the hardest things about a relationship ending is that the dreams go out the window, and we have to find new plans and dreams. One of ours had been to go on a surfing holiday to the Maldives. I’d go snorkeling while ex would surf.

After I had moved, I had one of those “fuck you” moments – why should my dreams disappear? So I bought a wetsuit and booked a surfing lesson. Of course, at the first lesson I could barely get up. But with the help of Phil, the coolest surf instructor in the world, I managed to stand and ride a few waves.

The next surf was a bit better – I lasted a full hour, lots of falling off and had water running out of my nose for a couple of days. But now I was engaged – I want to get fit, lose the extra kilos. I even started doing burpees and press ups (I hate those things). For the first time in 2 years, I managed to do knee slaps. I’m jumping!!

Yet, I would also lie and bed and think “What am I doing this for, I’m 50 years old, I’ll never be able to get up.” Easier just to not do it.

Well, this weekend, on my fourth lesson, I finally managed the pop up and surfed on my own. I would have gone better, Phil said, if I hadn’t also raised my arms in the air in triumph.

I had a stupid grin on my face for the rest of the lesson, all the way home and it’s still there. It seems like a long time since I have felt so joyous.

Life can be so shit sometimes, things go wrong, things we can’t control or we simply fuck up completely. For me, discovering surfing is something I really enjoy at one of my favourite places – Piha Beach – challenging myself and not giving up has been better therapy to overcome adversity than any counselor could have ever given me.

A friend once said something really wise to me – that if we don’t challenge ourselves, we never learn we can succeed. Hope, persistence and a dash of self-belief have helped me ride a wave of recovery – and who knows? That trip to the Maldives might  still happen – as a solo adventurer!


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