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Surfing to Nirvana

Catching a wave for the first time, the author finds bliss balancing on a surfboard.

By Jennie Lay

Private surf lessons give us bonus pushes (like training wheels for paddling into a wave) and a confidence boost. Paddle, paddle, paddle,'s the same glorious feeling as when your yoga instructor assists you with an extra twist in Triangle or a pull-up in Downward Dog. With a gentle shove from a coach, I learn how catching a wave is supposed to feel—then settle in for the ride. Out of the water, surfboard clinics teach us about waxing our boards, the physics of fins, and how not to commit the cardinal un-cool sin of strapping your surfboard to the car's roof with the fins facing backward.

At surf camp, where women of all ages, shapes, and sizes gain the skills, passion, and confidence to persevere in real-life surfing, yoga is an added blessing. We are sore almost everywhere, but yoga keeps us focused, strong, and nimble. Jessica leads yoga practices that twist, stretch, and lengthen our bodies. These are restorative, healing sessions, with Sun Salutations to warm us up and ease us into the sweeping force of the waves we encounter each day. Her simple empowering advice reminds us to approach life with a sense of humor and conviction—to be happy.

Waves are a simple, beautiful gift of nature. Catching them requires a single-minded focus and a heightened connection to the surroundings. Balancing on a surfboard is as tricky as finding your center in a standing pose. At first, it's tough to find; but eventually, you know just where it is. Surfing also makes you acutely conscious of the water's energy and flow. Much like a yogic breath, that energy and flow should be used to their full potential.

In the hiss of the waves, I tune in to the energy around me. Instead of paddling hard against it, I slowly learn to integrate my own physical power into the water's flow. When I stand up on the surfboard, blissfully riding even the smallest of waves for a brief moment, it's pure joy—and a taste of enlightenment.

Jennie Lay is a freelance journalist who lives and writes from her off-the-grid cabin near Steamboat Springs, Colorado. She writes about the environment, land conservation, and travel adventure. Her stories have appeared in High Country News, Ski Magazine, and Paddler.

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Reader Comments


Good to see you ladies working the
ploundage off!!But where its at is in the tube.

Dee Dee

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