Feeling out of my depth

I’m writing this just after my first ever surfing lesson. I was rubbish and it was exhausting, but I feel exhilarated. I’m going back tomorrow for a second go. Hopefully I’ll manage to actually stand up…

It was a bit of a proud moment, watching my family and the rest of our ‘pink’ beginners group grappling with the basics. The atmosphere was great – all thanks to the team at the North Devon Surf School. They were super friendly, helpful and, more importantly, very patient. I ended the session physically exhausted but feeling fantastic. I had no idea that surfing could be such hard work!

Why we don’t try new things more often

Like many of us, with age and ‘responsibilities’ comes the temptation to play things safe – which can lead to life becoming a bit stale. I know I’ve been guilty of this over the last couple of years by devoting most of my energy to honing my existing skills rather than seeking out new ones. It’s easy to stick to what we know we’re good at – and avoid things where we think there’s a good chance of failure, which effectively pigeonholes us through life.

Take work, for instance. Generally, we’re rewarded for the stuff we’re good at – and becoming an expert in it. We’re less likely to be rewarded and respected for trying something new. By its very nature, trying something new inevitably means failing a few times before becoming proficient. That can feel exposing and vulnerable – which in turn puts us off trying similarly unfamiliar things again.

Feeling the fear and doing it anyway

This morning’s experience reminded me of when I learned to swim. My parents were scared of water and by the time I had left school, I had successfully managed to avoid as much contact with water as possible. I became an adult who was scared of water and couldn’t swim.

When I was 26, a good friend offered to teach me while we were on holiday. Every day, we aimed to reach one buoy further than before. My paddling slowly morphed into a crude breast stroke. During one of the lessons I went to put my foot down and to my surprise, found myself out of my depth. After a few seconds of splashing and panic, I calmed down and realised that I was actually able to swim. After so many years being scared of water, I felt an enormous sense of achievement.

Since then, I swim regularly, not wanting to forget this life skill and would now regard myself as a strong swimmer.

I’ve been following Paula McGuire’s progress recently as she’s been conquering her fear of water. Her determination to ‘terrify herself every day by trying new things’ has challenged me to do a bit of the same.

So, while my first efforts on a surfboard were hardly successful, I feel a real sense of achievement for having given it a go.

Quick update: by the end of the second session, I managed to stand up on the board! I didn’t manage to stay standing for long, but it felt brilliant to have accomplished something new.

What’s your surfboard – what are you afraid of, or have always wanted to try but just think ‘I can’t do that’? Let us know in the comments, or drop me a line at andy@lifeisasinecurve.com if you’d like some advice.

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