Surf: the way to master fear

Mastering fear with surf

It is weird to think about my teenage years. Most of the good memories wear an aura of mystery and spirituality. In my mind, they look like the tail of a comet, in a blend of colors: dark purple, bright white and black. The vast majority of them come from intimate moments I had alone in the water. Instants when my truth was revealed. Something I already knew and was whispered to my ear, and only then I believed it. I started surfing alone out of an accident, but that’s another story, this one is about one specific truth: fear.

On all of those moments, I felt I was with somebody, an entity, a superior being that was only present when I was alone on the lineup. It might sound weird, but I was never truly solo. This entity has been my guide and master since I started surfing. He or she (maybe both at the same time) have been seducing me to get into the water, telling me it was safe and then leading me to that spot where I felt a bit unease. Like that warm hug that tells you are protected and safe, this being was there to create a shield for me, and at the same time to push me to the places where I was uncomfortable.

I was aware of all the risks I was being exposed when I surfed alone: getting hit by the board, slip on the rocks and hit my head, break my neck on a tough wipeout… But my master was always there to teach me where my boundaries were, how to stretch them a bit and how to get comfortable with the unknown. Because every time I got into the water alone, I knew nothing about what was going to happen, and I had nobody to ask. My master taught me how to brave and cautious at the same time, how fear was the expected feeling on those moments, when dealing with the unfamiliar, how I should not let fear drive me.

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Every single time I got alone into a place where I have never been before death was, and still is, present. I was afraid that huge dark spot was a shark, a dead person washed ashore or even worse: an out-of-the-nightmares creature. I had to face fear quite often, and my master was always there letting me feel it, embracing it because he knew I had to grow a thick skin. Somehow his presence forced me to go to that uncharted place while feeling protected, like a child learning to ride a bike looking at her mom.

Fear became just normal after so many tailored training with my master. It might sound obvious, but when I recognized fear and added it to my catalog of feelings I started to savor and not run away from it. Getting comfortable with the drums on my ribcage, my eyeballs scouting the horizon and my mind looking for way outs has made me who I am: pragmatic and efficient. Practicing survival so many times at sea has shaped my way of thinking and thanks to my master I know I can always get out of trouble using fear to obtain the most pragmatic and efficient solution to whatever problem I have to deal with.

Surf -my master- taught me how to welcome fear. I feel it often, real or not, but I have embraced this reaction. It is uncomfortable, useful and natural.

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