Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Welcome Lucy

Gerry Lopez, in his new book "Surf is where you
find it" wrote that "Life goes on and surf...continue(s) to
come on a schedule entirely it's own and almost impossible
to predict".  There is a saying by some renowned religious
leader that seems similar in it's own way.  "Man makes plans 
and God laughs".  Surfing teaches us that you never know,
some things are out of our control.

Those words rang true for me this past week as my granddaughter
Lucy came into the world.  Lucy came on her own schedule
and in her own way.  My daughter and son in law made elaborate
plans.  Lucy was to be born naturally in a water birth.  Well,
that's not exactly how things worked out.  After an emergency C section
for mom, and a few days in the NICU for Lucy, today is homecoming.
I'm grateful, happy, and relieved.

Life, like the surf, goes on a schedule all its' own.  We try to predict
and make plans but often we are reminded that some things
are out of our control.

Monday, August 25, 2008

A break in the routine

  It's been a while since we've had a decent swell.  
I've been riding and enjoying my SUP for the last
month "sweeping" almost daily.  Today, thankfully,
we had some fun surf.  The wind was offshore and
the sets almost chest high.  For the first time in
a while I didn't take my SUP out.  Today I rode my
high performance longboard and had a blast.  It was
almost as if my surfing and stoke were renewed.  
I felt looser, more amped, and a bit more aggro.  What
a fun change.

How often do we all get stuck in a routine?  We do the
same thing without necessarily thinking about it almost
as if it is a knee jerk response.  Mindfully changing the 
routine can offer a fresh perspective on life.  It doesn't
have to be a dramatic change.  Perhaps you always eat
lunch in your office.  Go out instead.  Exercise using
a different routine, drive on a different road.  Enjoy
noticing what a simple change in the routine can do for you.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Sometimes the waves keep coming

Have you ever been trying to paddle out and been pummeled
by wave after wave after wave?  It's happened to us all at one 
time or another.  The waves keep coming, we keep duck diving,
and it seems to go on and on.  The only way to survive is to
relax, keep calm, and keep paddling, knowing that no set lasts

Oft times life is a lot like a paddle out.  We seem
to get hit by one thing after another.  The problems or demands
keep coming and you feel like you can't get a breath, you can't
get past the impact zone and to the lineup.  Guess the same
rules apply - relax, keep calm, don't panic or give up, and
know that nothing lasts forever.  

Oh yes...breath!

Tuesday, August 19, 2008


If nothing else surfing teaches us to be patient.
Surfing isn't something that you can learn easily it
requires time, persistence, and patience.  We
can't make the waves come.  Only mother nature
can do that.  All we can do is watch, learn, and be patient.
Even when we have a swell we must be patient.  We 
wait for breaks in the white water through which to
paddle.  We wait for a lull in the set to make a sprint to
the line up.  Even after we've made it into the line up we
generally have to wait patiently for our wave.  Well
some surfers don't quite understand that part (again a topic
for another day).

For some people patience is a commodity that is
in short supply.  At certain times in our lives our patience
is tested.  I'm watching my daughter try to be as patient as
possible.  She is about to have her first child, a girl.  Her
official due date was last week but...patience, patience, patience.
My grand daughter will come, like the next swell, the next wave
in her own time. We really can't make it happen sooner.
My daughter heard that spicy food can help speed things 
up so tonight it's either Mexican  food, Thai food, or 25 cent all 
you can eat spicy chicken wings.   Who knows maybe it will work? 
In the mean time I'll remember a lesson that my years of surfing has
ingrained in me, I'll just practice patience!

Monday, August 18, 2008

Take it when you can

Today is my mother's 91st birthday.  As we ate lunch
we talked a bit about lifes lessons.  My mother certainly
isn't, or should I more aptly say wasn't, an east coast
surfer.  In fact I'm not really sure I've ever seen set foot in
the sea.  I do, however, have her to thank for my love
of the ocean.  But that's a story for another day.

My mother has never been a go for it, drop everything
kind of gal.  She spends lots of time fussing about things
she can't control and stays up nights worrying about all
sorts of things real and imagined.  I wish she could know
the sheer pleasure of dropping everything because the surf
was up.  To hell with all that stuff that "should" be done,
forget about those imagined worries,  the real ones will
still be there later.

Surfing, especially here on the east coast, has taught me
the importance of taking it when you can.  The waves, like
many of life's pleasures and joys might not be here later.
If we wait too long or put things off for another day too often
we just might miss out.  Reflecting on my mother's 91 years
I wish she'd had the ability to "do it" more and worry less.
Happy birthday mom.  I'm hoping I can make it to 91 and maybe ride
a wave or 2 at that...but I'm not going to worry about it.  I'm going
to take life when I can, each and every day.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Reframing the way we think

In cognitive behavioral therapy we often suggest
that clients "reframe" the way they think about
something.  Basically all that means is to look at
it in a different way, to use different self talk about
a stressor, problem, or thought. Seems we, as a society,
need to do a bit of reframing.

Yesterday I was taken by 2 items that came to me
via email.  The first was an email about the "Save Trestles"
campaign being waged in Southern California.  For anyone
not familiar with the issue let me try to simplify it; the
TCA wants to build a toll road through the last remaining
undeveloped coastal land between San Diego and Los Angeles.
When you think SoCal do you think of undeveloped land and
virgin beaches?  Why, you might ask, would anyone even consider
such an idea?  SoCal already is synonymous with the word freeway.
The roads supporters suggest that building the road will help reduce the
already burdensome traffic in the area.  Critics suggest that more roads
stimulate more development and we need to be less dependent upon
cars, oil, and roads. We need to protect undeveloped land and precious
coastal resources.  We need to reframe how we think about the problem.

The second email alerted me to a Bill in Congress that would reduce insurance
for oceanfront homeowners.  In the words of my friend Rick Wilson at
Surfrider, "exactly the wrong way to go". Let's see who would suggest
that we ease the burden on homeowners who have built or purchased
homes in harms way, especially with sea level rise looming?
We need to reframe how we think.

Unless we change the way we look at things we run the risk of making
matters worse.  Sometimes the easiest way or the most habitual way of
thinking needs to be changed, a paradigm shift, as it were.  Whether related
to your own life, your problems, or larger issues like our addiction to oil or
our desire to live right on the ocean, sometimes we really must resist the
easy way out.  Reframing can make all the difference.  What might you need
to reframe? What causes you stress?

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Stephen, the dogs, the stick, and the waves

I love watching 5 year old Stephen and his dog
each morning at the beach.  Stephen's happy there and it shows!
Almost every day he combs the beach looking for treasures
and always, thanks to dad's example, fills up the bag he
brings from home with trash.  When the weather and 
water are warm, and waves (or lack thereof) are right
Stephen his dog Pepper and my dog Happy romp together
in the surf.

Today Stephen and the dogs gleefully played for, what 
seemed like hours, with a stick.  He'd throw the stick as
5 year olds do, then he and the dogs would run into the
ocean after it.  Usually a dog got it first.  Next they'd
all seemingly wait for a wave to bodysurf into the shore.
Did you ever watch 2 dogs and a 5 year old bodysurf a 1 ft
wave?  You should.

I'm not sure who enjoyed the morning more Stephen, Happy,
Pepper, Stephen's dad or me.  Simple pleasures, simple joys.
What a way to start the day.  Throw a stick, ride a wave, laugh,
pick up some trash, play with the dogs.  It doesn't get better
than this! 

Monday, August 11, 2008

Letting go of the fear of letting go

Yesterday the 40 something surf girls were at it again.
I admire their persistence and enjoy watching and listening
to them during and after each session.
Persistence and enthusiasm are 2 wonderful  traits which
serve us well in every endeavor.

There are 2 things that I've noticed as they've stuck with it.
First is that they both have let go of some  of  their fear of 
what lives in the ocean.  When they paddled out on their maiden 
voyages their fear of fish, sharks, jellyfish, and all of the creatures
who belong in the ocean was palpable.  They worried as they
paddled.  Gradually and with time they've let go a bit.  Sure
they know that there are fish in the ocean, but something about
being in to water, gaining a new perspective, feeling part of
the ocean has helped them let go a bit of that fear.

The second fear, and one that they are still working on
overcoming, is quite literally the fear of letting go (of the
board) as they try to stand up.  I'm sure all surfers know
exactly what I'm talking about.  Novices sometimes are able to
catch the wave, but popping up to standing seems to be
a scary thing.  Holding on to the rails seems safe.
Letting go seems risky.  Without letting go they end up in
the out of balance position we all know too well, i.e. hands
on the board, butt up in the air, one foot too far back, the
other leg bent.  Unless they let go and pop up they can't get
the joy they are hoping for.

I see folks in my office all the time who are prisoners of not
being able to let go.  Isn't that what anxiety and phobias
are all about? Isn't that what causes us stress.  We each probably
have a fear of letting go of something. I have a client
who can't relax until all their chores are finished.  They never relax.
Not being able to let go holds us back at work,  in relationships, in surfing
and from being the person we'd like to be.

In the words of the former President Franklin D. Roosevelt,
"the only thing we have to fear is fear itself"!  Let go and do the
thing you fear.  It just might be fun and really worth it.  It might even
change the way you look at yourself.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Simon and the Ocean

It's still difficult for me to put into words the emotions
surrounding what happened yesterday.  I've tried 2 drafts
of this entry already.

Simon is my 4 month old grandson.  Yesterday morning for
the 1st time in his young life he stood ( with my help) at the
shoreline and felt the ocean as it lapped up on his tiny feet. 
My son Noah, Simon's father, stood at our side sharing similar
overwhelming feelings. 

In many cultures  the ocean is special.   It's not merely a body
of water but rather a spiritual, holy place, a church of sorts. 
The place from which all life springs.  I know that for Noah and I,
like many other surfers and waterman all around the world, we
feel a great reverence towards the ocean and all it represents and
is.  Yesterday we brought Simon into our world, a world we both
hope will become his too someday. It was a baptism of sorts.

Matt Walker recently wrote a wonderful piece on "Surfing as Religion".
It appeared in, of all places, Surfing Magazine.  Matt reminded us
that "Tom Blake carved "Nature = God" into a rock decades ago". Many of
us certainly understand what Blake was thinking.  Walker goes on to
discuss Dr. Bron Taylor  who authored an article entitled "Surfing into
Spirituality" in the Journal of the American, that also validated the feelings
that many of us share.

Hopefully, yesterday, my grandson took his first step towards becoming a
member of what Taylor called the "Aquatic Nature Religion".  I know that
both Noah and I hope so. Research tells us that individuals with strong
spiritual beliefs are better able to cope with the demands of life.  What do you
believe in?


Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Waves are everywhere

As surfers we seem obsessed with waves.  How many 
times have you told someone that you're "going to
check the waves"?  Have you heard someone tell you
that the "waves were awesome today"?  Well the ocean
is not the only source of waves.

Have you ever ridden the waves of your breath?  Working
with your breathing is an amazing experience. It can calm
you, energize you, and even help your surfing.  Try riding
the waves of your breath.  Inhale deeply into your abdomen
your lower lungs.  Watch  your stomach rise as you inhale.
Pay attention as first your stomach fills up than your chest than
be mindful as the breath turns.  Like a wave receding from the 
shore, be aware of the point of change from inhale to exhale.  
Perhaps you can use the image of the shorebreak - no not the
Waimea shorebreak- rather the gentle lapping of waves on
the shore.  In and out slowly, peacefully, gently.

Ride the waves of your own breathing.  It just might have some
profound impact.  Think about it for a moment, the word respiration
actually means to re spirit yourself.  In the words of Jimmy Buffet
"Breathe in Breathe Out Move On".  An overall good life philospohy.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Creating the world you see and seeing the world you've created

Today is a sunny, warm, beautiful day here in NJ.  Warm
water and offshore winds for the 3rd day in a row.  We often
get stretches like this in July and August on the east coast.
Oh, by the way, did I mention that it is flat?  We haven't had
a decent surfable wave in a few weeks now.  Kind of like
some kind of cruel cosmic joke.  Lots of sunlight, warmth,
perfect winds but no surf.

It would be easy during stretches like these to get bummed.
Surfers want to surf.  Best we can do to avoid depression and
anxiety is to control what you can.  It's all in how you look at
it and what you say to yourself.  That is the basic premise of
cognitive-behavioral psychotherapy.  Our moods and behavior
is dictated by what we say to ourselves, our self-talk. Chris Mauro,
the editor of Surfer Magazine actually quoted the Nobel Prize
winning physicist Max Planck (amazing in itself).  Planck said
"when you change the way you look at things the things you look
at change".

So this morning I'll enjoy watching my dog play in the flat ocean,
do some yoga, maybe take a swim or go for a paddle,  maybe 
go snorkeling, spear fishing and be glad it's not February.  That's
the world I've created for this flat August day with blue skies, warm
temperatures, offshore winds, and no surf.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Monday Morning Mess

Why is it that some people feel that someone else
will take care of it?  This morning, as is the case most
Mondays, the beach was a mess with litter and things
left behind by weekend beach goers.  I came home
with 2 pails, 2 shovels, and 2 towels.  I picked up
8 plastic bottles, 3 beach chairs a beach umbrella, more
than a dozen cups with straws but to name just of few of
the treasures.

I was speaking with a client who is quite anxious about
his recovery from cancer.  The doctors have completed
 their treatment and we spoke about things he could do.
His view was that it was the doctors job to cure him. He
didn't see that he may have a role.  It never even occurred
to him that eating right, exercising, enjoying his life, following
his passions, and making a difference might help strengthen
his immune system, help him control what he could in his
hopes to be cancer free.  He saw it as someone elses job.

Surfer's generally know that you have to take some responsibility
for yourself.  No one else can paddle and catch the wave for you.
There is no magic or easy way to learn to become a surfer.  Sure
anyone can buy the trendy board shorts and take a lesson but you
basically have to do it yourself.  Sure there are others who can
coach you along. But no one can do it all for you. In life it's your
job, your responsibility whether it's picking up your trash, trying
to fight cancer, or learning to surf.  Don't simply sit back and wait
for others to do it!

Friday, August 1, 2008

Amongst the pod

Today was one of those special sessions.  The ones you 
remember and talk about for years.  

Thanks to SUP's I find myself in the water on mornings
when the surf is too small for a surfboard.  Here in NJ
late July and August often means warm sunny mornings, 
warm water, offshore winds, and tiny surf. Paddling sure
beats bike riding for morning exercise on days like these.

This morning as I emerged from inside an L shaped jetty I
found myself in the midst of a pod of dolphin.  Standing
on my board  provided me with a perspective I've never had
before.  What surfer hasn't seen dolphins come through a
line-up? But today, standing made the experience different.  
Having a paddle allowed me to just about keep up with them.
Feel like I was among them in a way I've never felt before.
They allowed me to accompany them for about a mile before
they sped up on their journey south.  I was smiling, awestruck
and thankful the entire way.

I felt part of our amazing planet.  One creature amongst many.
Whatever concerns I may have had were nonexistent in the moments
I spent amongst the pod.  I was totally living in the moment, having
a "here and now" experience.  I felt alive, calm, and at peace.  I often
talk to clients about trying to ground themselevs in the "here and now".
Watching the pod cruise along reminded me of just how important
it is for us all.  Hours later I'm still glowing as the image and memory
of my morning with the pod guides me through the day.