“Whether any surfer wants to admit it or not, I think we’ve all had moments like looking at nice waves coming through the lineup maybe, only for a moment, feeling that we are in the presence of something holy. There is a spiritual-ness when you actually get in harmony with something as natural as the waves and the ocean, and yeah, it is definitely a religious experience." -Gerry Lopez
Surfing has upped it's game. In the past we paddled out in the hopes that enough time in the water would make us a great wave rider, but now pros and amateurs alike are searching for ways to complement their surfing on land - from specific fitness regimes to diet and mindfulness. Legends such as Kelly Slater, Carissa Moore and Gerry Lopez admit to the practice of yoga behind their surfing success. There's a hype for yoga among surfers, as they realise the benefits and how it can greatly complement their technique and psyche in the water.
Yoga is a multifaceted practice that includes breath work, movement, stillness and so much more. As you dive deeper into yoga, you'll find that the core principles are similar to surfing...
Both yoga and surfing rely on the use of our breathe. When we think of yoga, the fancy and impossible feet-behind-your-head kind of poses are what spring to mind, but it is so much more than beautiful shapes and sequences. Together with the 'Asanas' or poses, Yoga is made up of 'pranayama' - a range of breathing techniques that can be used to not only transform your breath, but also your state of mind. Every surfer has or will experience a bad wipeout, and our initial reaction is to panic, and fight to reach the top for air.
Even in our day-to-day lives, so many of us forget how to breathe - relying on short, shallow breaths.
Being conscious of our breath can help us to relax in the water, and help us to feel calm even when we feel totally out of our comfort zone.
Aswell as being mentally demanding, surfing is also a very physically demanding sport and needs a good level of flexibility, strength and power. Many of the key movements on the surfboard are similar to those replicated in yoga postures or 'Asanas', which is why a regular yoga practice can have immeasurable effects on our surfing performance.
If you're lucky and dedicated enough to get in the water regularly, you'll know how good it makes your mind, body and soul feel. But many surfers often forget the physical workout that they are putting their bodies through, and stepping on the mat can help us to stretch our well-worked muscles, as well as stretching our lifetime as a surfer for a couple more years!
So many yoga teachers talk about 'being present' which can be a difficult skill to master. Just because you show up for something, doesn't necessarily mean that your mind is focused on what you're doing. Being present is all a state of mind that only you can cultivate yourself - the ability to clear your mind so that is has space to focus and tune into everything that is happening, in that moment. Many see surfing as a form of mediation, with the need to focus on the elements and what is happening around them in order to catch the next wave.
Both surfing and yoga can help us put things into perspective, whether it's a problem at work or something in our personal lives, there's nothing like sitting out back on your board, watching the sunset and the colours of the sky and ocean change simultaneously to help wash away your stresses, or practising yoga in a beautiful setting to help you realise just how lucky we are to have active minds and bodies, and to make us realise just how small our problems are in the grand scheme of things!
Surfing is a competitive sport around the world and people can often feel under pressure when they are a beginner or paddling out in a new location with a new line-up.
Control is something that everyone likes to have over a situation. Control gives us a sense of confidence and an image of 'I know what I'm doing here', whether it's in the surf or at a yoga class. Being a part of the elements in surfing, we have very little control.
Both activities are a personal practice and an individual's connection between mind and body. Trying to keep up with your own expectations of how you should perform or comparing yourself to others is something that needs to be let go of, to let our body do what it needs to do and be where it needs to be on that particular day, in that particular moment. No surf session is the same, every wave is different and maybe the poses you reached yesterday aren't within your reach today. Learning to let go can help us to adapt to our surroundings and enjoy the spontaneity and surprise.
A Never Ending Process
Everything is a constant learning process - there's always something to work on or improve - and when we achieve one goal there will always be another waiting in line.
In the union of yoga, surfing and life we will always be reaching towards our next goal - so make sure to enjoy the journey!
Interested in giving it a try? Check out this short yin sequence to stretch out your shoulders pre and post surf.