duckdive, girl, surf, underwater

10 life lessons learned from surfing – Episode 10 – Lessons

 You Have to Learn Your Own Lessons

motor memory

Today’s a short one, but it’s the most important of all.

Last week we talked about surf as a metaphor for life, and in a way, today’s a big elaboration on that idea.

I’ve taken on a student recently and he’s progressing marvelously, but his milestones are not my milestones, his hardships not my hardships, and his lessons not my lessons.

I’ve learned that things that were very difficult for me to learn seem to come easy to others, and sometimes I find myself repeating something that seems so common sense, over and over again, not understanding which part is so hard to grasp.

As I mentioned previously, a lot of surfing needs to be learned by spending time in the water. A lot of surfing is rote motor memory; and just like when doing rote brain memorization of your physics equations you just need to solve problems over and over again… in surfing it’s the same, but with your muscles. No one can breathe a formula into your long term memory, the same goes for surfing.

No one can do your work for you.

You need to go out there, day in and day out and work your butt off if you want to progress. It doesn’t matter what you’re doing.

No one can tell you exactly how to overcome all of the challenges you’ll face because, well, they’re not you, and they’re not going to have the same challenges.

Sure they might have a lot of similar ones, but you’ll probably have a set of your own walls you need to walk into a few times before the path is clear.

It takes time for your body to learn what your mind knows.

And even if someone did magically predict everything you’re going to go through on your journey and told it to you just like that… it still probably wouldn’t do you any good. Sure, you can understand things cerebrally, in theory, like that, on paper, but to use that knowledge efficiently is another thing.

Yes, I can show you how you should be paddling, but until you get in that water and feel the friction slide over your hand and force your muscles to do things that are foreign to them, over and over again, so that you don’t have to tell them what to do anymore and they just do it on their own, it won’t do you any good.

It’s no different with other kinds of knowledge, you have to wait for the physical to catch up to thoughts. Even in the brain. The brain is a network of connections. To make a new memory you have to make new connections. Connections are made of proteins, proteins don’t grow instantaneously. Sure you can read my life lessons and think that I’ve passed on my knowledge to you, but it’s not true.

I’ve only opened your mind to the idea of that knowledge. Which brings me to the very last bit of the very last lesson of this series:

A lesson is meaningless until it’s been internalized

Until that idea has been run through all kinds of real life scenarios, through millions of sights, and sounds, and smells, and movements, and conversations, and relationships, and all kinds of little neurons started firing at the same time, and all kinds of little muscle cells started firing at the same time, and you’ve really digested that idea, as in broke it down into a millions little pieces that are all small enough to enter the barriers of your body and entangle themselves into what it really means to be you…

Until you’ve done this……. you haven’t learned anything at all.

So get out there and get workin’ on learning something that’s very dear to you, and when you’re done share it with the world so we can all make it part of our collective consciousness.

While you’re doing this, you’ll make a lot of mistakes and you’ll fail a lot before you succeed, but remember the first lesson, don’t be afraid of falling.

I’ll leave you with someone else’s life lessons they learned from surfing… which are not at all like mine, but still very thought provoking, and some much more pragmatic surf lessons from our buddy Matt here in Cabarete.



  1. It’s good to know I’m not the only one feeling one step forward, two steps back, and frustration leading to tantrums. I know an attitude change is needed, and your writing here has helped me take the step back that I need. Thank you

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