Learning To Surf

BY TYLER BEWLEY

When I was in Middle School I went through a hard transition where some of my friends left the school, and I found myself often alone and outside of many social circles. In response to this difficult time in my life, I decided to throw myself into a new creative hobby: I was going to learn how to build my own surfboard from scratch, and I was going to learn to surf. Taking refuge in the Middle School Art Room, I checked out books and did research on surfboard design, fiberglass work, and tools for shaping polyurethane foam into wave-craft. After a couple of months of trial and error in my garage working alongside my Dad, I created my first surfboard. Sure, it was not a thing of beauty, it had more than a few wonky areas and the fins were too close together, but catching my first wave on that board felt so good because I had gone through such an interesting and involved process to reach that first exhilarating ride.  

Since that year, I have pursued surfing with what has seemed borderline obsessive enthusiasm. I have built numerous surfboards, traveled to surf all over the world in 5 different oceans, and dedicated endless hours to exploring the coast and learning the characteristics of weather and swell that favor every spot from Los Angeles to Oregon. My garage has become so filled with surfboards and wetsuits that I could probably run a small surf school, and my car permanently exists with a half inch layer of sand transported from local beaches. I have swum with whales and dolphins, sharks and sea snakes. The more surfing I do, the more I enjoy my time in the water, and I await with great eagerness the day I can share a long wave with both of my daughters.

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It is not just catching the wave that matters in surfing, that is only a short (albeit amazing) moment, rather it is the journey to get to the waves that is really fulfilling. When I think of my passion for the sport, of course it includes actually surfing; however, of equal importance, is the understanding of the local elements, the adventure of finding a new surf spot, the moments of mindfulness and meditation that come from surrendering control to the power of the ocean, the profound connection with nature that you can only get from taking yourself off of land and into a world that belongs to creatures of the sea, it is the friendships with other surfers, and learning how to ride with style from your elders. All of these things combine together to explain “how”  I have come to truly understand surfing, and it is this depth of experience and process that makes it something of such great substance and fulfillment in my life.

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