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.
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?
Chris, this is great advice- all too often we are waiting for something bigger & better while the small quality things in life go by. I know that I spent way too many years in a bad marriage, waiting for things to get better. Now, I think of all the things I missed by doing that & am slowly making up for it by tackling each thing I’ve wanted to do, one at a time. Thank you so ugh for your wise words! XOXOX Carrie
Life is for living fully even as we plan, work, struggle, etc. We should never be remembered by what we could’ve or should’ve done but rather by what we did do!
always good to see surfing integrated into the larger picture of life. well done, Chris.
For us, surfing is life!
Great read…as evidenced below it’s open to may interpretations but in the end a powerful message that gives one a valuable perspective…well done!
Chris, I love this post! While you’ll never see me out surfing, I feel some peace about the philosophy you’re introducing here. I’ve been practicing the concept of “doing what I like & not feeling guilt about it” – what I mean by that is, if I want to relax & read, grab a coffee, or take a nap and I have the time to do those things, well, I’m going to do them. So often we feel rushed & buy into the narrative that there’s always something else to do before I can do what I actually want to do. I’m trying to kill that belief in my own life and I love reading a post like this that encourages me & gives a new spin on what I’ve been doing!
Thankfully, we all get to define living for ourselves. From the quiet times with a great book and delicious coffee to running with bulls in Spain, life is always as good as we make it…as we make it!
Just recently, I’ve decided to give everything – every opportunity – the “death bed test”. IF I am fortunate enough to have some time to lie and wait for death to take me…and I’m lucid, and relatively pain free (man, I’m asking a lot!)…would I regret NOT have seized the moment, and lie there “kicking myself” for neglecting to “live the bigger life.” It’s amazing how that visualization has led me to do some things, and leave others behind.
For example – I live up in a small town in the redwoods – and Santa Cruz feels like it’s very far away (when it’s only about 30 minutes down Hwy 9). There was an exhibit at the Museum of Modern Art I thought I’d enjoy – but could easily talk myself out of going. Not with the “death bed test”! I’d regret not having seen Rose Sellery’s exhibit, Passages (read about it here: http://www.santacruzmah.org/2012/rose-sellery-passages-august-11-november-25-2012/). Such a small thing, yet not “putting it off” made me very happy!
I plan to do more “small things” – and leaving this planet with fewer regrets. Thanks for a thought-provoking post, Chris…or should I say ANOTHER one!
My pleasure. I love the saying “No regrets.” My challenge has always been in the creating of the time necessary for the enjoyment of life. Thank goodness, as I’ve aged I’ve become so much better at the enjoyment part of the equation.