A surfing lesson you can apply to your yoga practice

I’m on day nine of 10 down here in Encinitas that I got out in the water and surfed. (We’re 10 for 10 when it comes to getting in the water.) The surf hasn’t been anything near epic, and the promised swell that is supposed to begin arriving today hasn’t yet. But that hasn’t stopped me, and it hasn’t stopped me from A. having super fun in the water and B. finding some fun, often little, waves when there weren’t supposed to be any.

Proof the surf hasn’t been that good.

Thursday’s session was the best case in point.

First, though, one example of the process of figuring out where, and whether, to surf. Surf reports. Online surf report have pretty dramatically changed how surfers find ways (most dramatically enabling big wave surfers to drop everything, get aboard a plane and get halfway around the world for a huge swell). It used to be rumor, guesses based on the past and some general following — if you were really serious — of long-range weather patterns. (Which, back then, weren’t accessible like today.) I’ve got three different reports, from which I try to triangulate my own best guestimate. Right now, they are suggesting we’ll get a 3 to 5 foot swell tomorrow, more likely later in the day (that arrival has been pushed back); today, they are saying 1 to 2 foot (or less) around Encinitas.

Figuring there wasn’t much out there, and maybe hoping to give myself a little rest (I won’t bore you with the painful “research poses” I found myself in this morning, so rest is welcome), I just trotted down to Stonesteps, near where we’re staying and where I’ve mostly surfed. (Reason? See the phrase “just trotted down.”) It was pretty low tide, but that maybe was going to help.

After paddling out — which didn’t take much — and catching a couple of closeouts, I began to realize that this might be the worst waves of the trip. And that was coming on a day when, a few days ago, it was supposed to be picking up and maybe be among the better. Maybe I ought to just make it a really quick session, I thought.

Then the horizon lifted, just a bit, and a little wedge of water grew up just north of me. A few paddles over, quick turn around, some strokes in and the wave held up (maybe just kissing the sandbar I’ve been staking out) and an opaque, seaglass green wall of water, shimmering and reflecting the midday sun, appeared before me as I angled in, long enough for a few pumps of my board, chest high, enough power to get the board moving, before I tucked into the barrel and got surrounded for a second or two with the familiar rush and roar of a breaking wave.

(Quick digression on that board. Self-shaped, the first I’ve ever done after 35 years of surfing. Hanuman carrying the mountain of herbs on the deck; red; and a slightly modernized ’70s-shape single fin. The point was to have something a little more laid back, a little less in need of rapid turns and slashes. A different style of surfing, and I’m still figuring it out.)

A wave to make the whole session worth it.

I briefly hoped I might have lucked into the front edge of the swell, but that was mostly it. There was a handful of other closeouts, and a final wave that also was worth it. (I’d decided I’d come in after I caught another wave that made me happy. And that could be the surfing lesson to apply to your yoga practice, but it isn’t.)

But if I had listened to the surf reports and, more importantly, listened to myself after the first two waves, I would never have gotten that ride.

The lesson of this session, I thought to myself as I bobbed in the water, said hello to a passing woman on a bodyboard and waited for another wave, was: “You won’t know until you go.”

It really is the lesson of all my sessions. Each time, I’ve found a wave that was far better than the report said. (I surfed a spot on Wednesday, mostly alone, that wasn’t supposed to be any good and kept directing fun, waist-and-a-little-higher waves my way.)

I wouldn’t have found them, wouldn’t have known they were there if I didn’t go.

The same is true of a yoga practice. And it is the reason to give poses that might be beyond you or maybe someone hasn’t “given” you yet a try. (A try, I say, not a “do it all the time.” Although, maybe.)

You won’t know what they will do for you, what the experience will be, how they might help you, until you do them. You won’t know until you go.

Come to think of it, that’s certainly how Bobbie has approached Third Series. Second, even.

This isn’t to dismiss the extreme value of a teacher. (This post helped kick off our time down here. Also, don’t dismiss the value of surf reports.) But you won’t know until you go. Reading about poses, watching videos of people talking about them, studying books, etc. etc. only will get you so far.

On a lot of the material for the Ashtanga Yoga Center, Tim Miller has a quote: “My goal as a teacher is to inspire a passion for practice. The practice itself, done consistently and accurately, is the real teacher.”

You won’t know if he’s right until you go.

Posted by Steve

Published by


Two Ashtangis write about their practice and their teachers.

One thought on “A surfing lesson you can apply to your yoga practice”

  1. I LOVE this – thank you so much. As a beginner surfer (at my age! hitting 40!!) I love how you have described this. Really. Blessings of good waves and great yoga to you 🙂

Leave a Reply to Maria Cancel reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s