I firmly believe the path to happiness is through surfing. This may seem a profound statement for what some may say is simply a sport. For me surfing leads to happiness on a deep level—leading a satisfied, fulfilled and challenging life.
Happiness isn’t garnered because surfing is cool, healthy or any other kudos you can associate with riding waves. Kudos benefits are on the periphery of our happiness. They make us feel good in the moment and maybe affirm our own projected image. The reason I believe surfing leads to a fulfilling happy life, is because when anyone surfs, they commit to leaving their comfort zone.
So here’s the scientific part – pioneering psychologists Robert Yerkes and John Dodson explain a state of relative comfort creates a steady level of performance. Things start to get interesting when we leave this comfortable state and experience a state of relative anxiety—our stress levels are higher than normal—with that we perform at a level we didn’t know we were capable of. This ‘Optimal Anxiety’ is just outside of our comfort zone.
No matter where you are on your own surfing journey; riding barrels or simply riding white water – surfing demands you concentrate, be patient, become exhilarated and are physically and mentally connected. Surfing epitomises the perfect balance of feeling s*** scared and every fibre of your body feeling alive. Every single time you take your board out, you are ensuring you push your comfort zone further.
On the flip side, too much anxiety and we’re too stressed to be productive or feel good about what’s happening—our performance drops off sharply. This is where the beautiful ocean keeps you humble. Of course, sometimes we push it too far; we’re out with the big boys and girls, realize we’re out of our depth, get a beating and reluctantly paddle back to shore with our tails between our legs. Except occasionally, after long sessions of walking across the tightrope edge of our comfort zones…we are thriving on a wave we didn’t even know we were capable of catching. It is that precise precious feeling of pure adrenalin drenched joy that keeps us coming back for more.
Surfers constantly push their comfort zones—the ocean is too much of a wonderful varied unstable place to ever feel comfortable. Maybe that’s where the mellow laid-back stereotype comes from; people who surf take what life throws at them in their stride because they’ve become comfortable with the ocean throwing them gnarly blows. This healthy respect knows how to take the good and the bad.
By making surfing a lifestyle and not just a once in a blue-moon occurrence I’m committing to being out of my comfort zone for the rest of my life, working toward a stressed but happy existence. ‘Life begins at the end of your comfort zone’ Neale Donald Walsh. Word.