Sitting Outside: A Surfer’s Perspective On Letting Life Pass You By

Sitting Outside: A Surfer’s Perspective On Letting Life Pass You By

Have you ever watched surfers as they sit and wait for the waves to roll in?  At most surf breaks, the line-up of surfers stretches from the inside section closest to shore, to the middle section which is usually at the most active peaks, to the outside section where a few surfers sit and wait for the largest of the set waves.

Over the decades that I’ve been surfing, I spent most of my time in the line-up sitting outside, usually way outside, waiting for the biggest and best wave of the day.  I always felt that catching the set wave would make the whole surf session perfect. Boy, did I miss a lot of waves waiting for that great set wave to come rolling in.

Over the past ten years or so, I have changed my surfing ideology from “sitting outside & waiting” to “chasing down” as many waves, big or small, as I can.  My surfing mantra is now “high wave count,” and “quantity over size.”  I must say that I wish I would’ve taken this approach to surfing years ago.  I would have caught more waves throughout the years instead of having to play “catch-up” today.

I think about living life the same way I look at surfing.  We can let the “waves of our lives” pass by; busying ourselves now and waiting until retirement before we experience the joys of travel, adventure and worthwhile relationships.

I think about the Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman film “The Bucket List,” and I ask why has filling a bucket list become somewhat of a standard mindset for us Americans?  Why do we put off the joy of life’s experiences for the majority of our lives when we really don’t know when and how our lives could end?

Throughout my career as a Funeral Director, I have served hundreds of families that lost a husband, wife, mother or father or even children before their time.  I have shared solemn visits with spouses who would never have the chance to share the great plans they’d made with a spouse who died unexpectedly.  No traveling.  No walks on the beach or autumns in New England.  No pizza in Naples or cruises through the fjords or Norway.

I see that we all tend to put off the living of life, sometimes for too long.  We wait for the set wave instead of catching the many smaller waves that we let pass by.

My wife and I have a bucket list.  We also have an active living list; the things we will do in between dipping into the bucket.  We realize that a balanced plan for living includes both the present, near future and the golden years.

When I surf, I might not catch the biggest waves all the time but I do catch them sometimes. The point is; we don’t have time to sit and wait for something that may or may not come. I don’t miss those big waves anymore. I’m too busy paddling to catch the wave in front of me.

What are some smaller plans that you want to experience before you dip into your bucket list?

Molly Keating
Molly Keating
Hello! I'm Molly and I run & manage the Blog here at O'Connor. I grew up in a mortuary with a mortician for a father who's deep respect for the profession inspired me to give working at a mortuary a try. Work at O'Connor has brought together two of my deep passions, writing & grief awareness. In 2016 I earned Certification in the field of Thanatology, the study of Death, Dying and Bereavement. I am honored to be able to speak on these taboo topics with knowledge, compassion, and a unique perspective. I want to sincerely thank you for following & reading the blog, I hope that this is a healing place for you.


  1. Neil O’Connor says:

    Hi Chris –
    I wait for no waves big or small. I believe that we are the wind that creates the ripple effect into waves. Funny how the most powerful force in the world (water) seeks the path of least resistance, we should never resist our dreams. I love the joys of life, the little things make me happy, tickling my son, watching him kick a ping pong ball as it spins back to him, taking a long walk with the family. No need to wait for adventures of fun and joy they are all around us, we just need to want to explore and be curious. Thanks for the reminder that life is full of many treasures. Peace Soul Surfer! XO

    • Christopher Iverson says:

      For me, time spent with my daughters was always time well spent. The simplest joys were my greatest joys. Their experiences were my experiences. But now, Liz and I are all about us! I have lived the cycle of life!

  2. Anne says:

    I totally agree with you. I too have experienced friends and others just waiting for the big one. I think Dave Ramsey is right on with his mantra “Live today like no one else, so tomorrow you can live like no one else”, meaning denying present spending to insure being debt free and future financial freedom.
    Along with that however, we must make sure we spend time and money on the things that may not be here tomorrow.
    We just came back from a trip to MI to spend with family. We are spread all over the country and each year or so, one less is able to come because of our ages and the health or death of some. Would I trade the cost to go for less future growth of savings? In a minute, every year! This will not last and Lou and I know that we had to be the ones to make it happen, so we bought the property several years ago where we all gather. And, we are catching EVERY wave we can.
    Thanks for a meaningful read. Anne

    • Christopher Iverson says:

      As we know, we can’t take it with us. But the shared memories of life lived is the best pile of riches to leave behind.

  3. Sharon says:

    While resting on the beach and watching surfers out beyond the waves sitting on their boards, I have often wondered how they determine the waves they will go for and the ones they let pass by. I’m sure that is part of the sport and learned skill, but it was fun for me to hear your perspective and see the correlation you drew to life’s experiences.

    I also think that people wait for the “big wave moments” to be happy. “I’ll be happy when I graduate”or “I’ll be happy when I get married”, or “I’ll be happy when I get a new house” etc. I find that if we wait to truly live in the moment or wait to be happy until those “big waves” enter (or don’t enter) our lives – we miss so very much of the joys in life. This was a lesson that took me awhile to learn. But one that has been so valuable to know.

    Thank you for the reminder that to truly enjoy our life experience – we need to catch a lot more waves everyday.


    • Christopher Iverson says:

      You are so right. I love when I am reminded to keep on living…especially when the trip or experience is priceless!

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