“Looking over the ledge of the wave meant horrible things could happen, like falling on coral or hitting your head or going over the falls. But if you don’t drop in, you never know. You could have the ride of your life — just like pursuing what you want in life takes a risk. You most likely will not fall on the coral reef, but that decision to drop in, it’s always scary.” — Shelby Stanger
Dropping in is scary. Deciding to drop in is scary. At times, terrifying. Both in surfing and in life, I’ve sat on the edge of many waves. I’ve dropped in on plenty; I’ve held back on others.
Sometimes I tumble, fall and feel the tug of my leash on my ankle as the board runs away. Other times I have my longest, strongest ride yet — a ride where I’m totally in flow and can’t help but smile. There’s a whole spectrum of what catching a wave looks like, from tumbling right away to starting off with wobbly footing but finding your balance in time for a short ride to going all the way, occasionally maneuvering around other surfers and their boards.
I know how it feels to drop in; I know how it feels to stay put on the ledge. I know how it feels to pull back and then watch the most beautiful wave unravel before you. I know how it feels to think, “Damn, that’s a good one. I should’ve taken that one.”
Those moments humble me. They remind me to go for the next wave, no matter how prepared or unprepared I feel, no matter how big and scary the next wave looks. Because we can’t know how a wave will roll and how a ride will feel or what kind of ride we’ll have or if we’ll tumble and fall until we’re actually moving with the wave, for better or worse. We’re either in on the action or watching from the lineup.
And in the moments where we do go for the wave and we do tumble and fall, at least we’re flexing that muscle of putting ourselves on the line. We’re practicing how it feels to catch a wave, even if we don’t actually catch it. We’re making moves, taking mental notes and moving forward with new info in hand. New info that will help us the next time we go to drop in. That practice will help us catch more waves — better waves — in the days, weeks, months and years to come.
While I’ve certainly held back on waves, I’ve also taken a shot at plenty more. I’ve paddled like crazy … and fallen flat on my face. In Chile last year, I remember one particular fall where my board bonked me on the nose. And while I’ve tumbled with a good number of the waves I’ve chosen to drop in on, I’ve also had the ride of my life — that smooth-sailing, going-with-the-flow, effortless feeling — on so many more. It’s how I learned to surf. It’s what keeps drawing me back out into the water.
Dropping in is scary, but if we constantly choose to sit on the cusp of catching a wave — it is very much a choice — we never give ourselves a chance to know the joy, happiness, beauty that lies on the other side. It won’t always be perfect — there will be frustrating, heartbreaking tumbles — but don’t we owe ourselves a shot at happiness? God, I think so.
Our risks and subsequent “failures” and “successes” take on a whole spectrum of appearances. We never can and never will know how the ride looks until we paddle off the ledge, commit to the wave and give it everything we’ve got.
My hope for you and me is that we continue to drop in, even when it’s scary, especially when it’s scary. My hope is that we embrace dropping in — we embrace the practice of it and all that it can bring. I know there’s something there, and I think we all deserve a chance at having the ride of our lives. Because with every wave — in surfing and in life — we owe ourselves a fighting chance at happiness.
Photo was taken in August in Crystal Lake — not a surf-able lake but close to a pretty special lake that is 😉
January 9, 2018