10 life lessons learned from surfing – Episode 7 – Frustration

Frustration Paves the Way to Failure

Big Swell in Encuentro

It’s all and well when you find your flow and start moving in the right direction in life… but what do you do when life throws sticks in your wheels?

After about a year of surfing and progressing one fateful month we got real swell in Encuentro. Consistent six to eight foot waves, dotted with some twelve to thirteen foot days.

I wasn’t ready.

First I broke my leash. When you all of a sudden lose your floatation device in what seems to be twelve foot monsters you’re already been struggling to get past with the floatation device, it can be quite humbling, if not absolutely terrifying.

I did it twice, on twelve foot days, two days in a row. It wasn’t pretty.

After that we had that little experience at Playa Preciosa, which didn’t help my Mojo one bit.

I was terrified. All of a sudden the ocean wasn’t my friend any more. She didn’t want to play. On some subconscious level, she was completely rejecting me. “This swell isn’t for you” she said, “it’s for the big boys, go home”

But I wasn’t having any of it. I kept getting out there day after day and trying to dominate the waves. Silly me.

I failed. Miserably. I was choking. I was scared to hurt myself and stopped trusting my intuition.
I would pull out of waves at the last minute so as not to bail, I would just not go for waves. I kept going out there and feeling like I was a battering ram trying to break into the Ivory Tower that was big swell.
I didn’t want to give up and I wasn’t going to, but I was going nowhere fast. Sometimes I couldn’t even make it out past the break until my third attempt. Sometimes I couldn’t make it back in if a set wave pushed me back, mostly, I just couldn’t commit.

Crying in frustration was an almost daily occurrence for a month or so. I’d go out there scared but determined. I would be scared, choke, fail, lose hope but be stubborn about not leaving until I caught a wave, get increasingly frustrated, feel rejected by the ocean, fight against current I wasn’t able to push through, cry, eventually give up and feel defeated, have a terribly day, repeat the next day.

What was I doing wrong?

You are exactly where you need to be.

Sure there’s no hurt in trying to get to the next level, but there is hurt in getting frustrated that you’re not there yet. Seeing my shortcomings as a failure as opposed to a distance to reach toward completely ruined my chances of getting there.

If I were at the bottom of a mountain trying to get to the top, I would understand that I need to walk my way up to the summit, and not magically teleport there. The distance between myself and the summit might seem daunting, but getting frustrated that I’m not there yet is just going to be demotivating and useless.

Plus I was focused on what I wasn’t achieving, not what I was achieving. The fact that I was out there in big swell should have felt like success in and of itself.

What’s more I allowed my feelings of frustration to turn into some sort of mystical rejection by the world altogether.

The ocean isn’t an adversary, it’s a teammate.

I started feeling like the ocean and its waves were out to make my life difficult and I just had to show them who was boss. But you don’t dominate the waves, you play with them. If you’re not on the same wavelength, you can’t catch them, if you’re not friendly with them, they can’t be friendly with you.

I was really being completely overly hard on myself.

Being hard on yourself makes you choke.

If you stop trusting yourself, if you stop believing in yourself, you stop trusting your intuition, all that motor memory and super fast reflexes I had learned in a year of surfing went out the window because I started over-thinking every single little step.

In Conclusion:

Because of a few incidents at the beginning of the swell season robbed me of my self confidence and I wasn’t able to step out of myself long enough to realize I was being a child, I ruined the whole season choking and crying in frustration like a little school-girl.

If I had just stopped for one second to realize that the waves weren’t going to kill me and I just needed to believe in myself and get on with it, I could have actually caught a wave or two. And that’s how I got out of it, I went out one day and said “alright, let’s bail” and it started getting better from there. (plus the swell started dying down)

Not to say that one shouldn’t strive to reach higher, in fact I think one should, because it’s well placed persistence, not stubbornness, that gets you places, but more on next weeks’ episode of 10 life lessons I learned from surfing.





  1. very nice very nice and so scared 12 ft waves!! que escribes es como estar en las olas.Love it have a nice day.Alejo

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