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It's almost a scene out of a movie. Maybe it's a guy with long golden hair as he walks out of the water, a surfboard tucked under his arm. He flips his hair as he passes a group of girls who peek at him over their sunglasses. Maybe there's a girl catching bigger, steeper waves out there than most of the guys, catching a sponsors attention.
If only it was always like that. Since I began surfing nearly four years ago, I've met tons of people who claim surfing changed their lives. I used to just agree with them and laugh to myself when they took a wave in. Sure, surfing forced me to get in shape and took up literally all my time now, but I wouldn't go as far to say it changed my life.
That was until I met a good friend of mine. He used to be heavy into drugs, and I never really believed him when he told me that surfing saved him. How would going out and surfing really make an addict stop doing drugs? He explained it to me simply. It distracted him. He couldn't surf with drugs manipulating his mind. I was shocked at the simplicity of it.
Another friend of mine was a foster child. He said he learned to surf from his foster dad, but as soon as he turned 18, he left to go find his real mother. There were no drugs in this story. He couldn't afford them. He was homeless. He slept in his car, on people's couches, anywhere he could. When I met him, he seemed so happy. When I asked him how he dealt with it, he pointed to the waves crashing in front of us and told me "I spent my last bit of money on a tank of gas and a surfboard, and it led me here, how could I not be happy?" Every time I see him, he has the surfboard under his arm and a smile on his face.
Another person I met was severely depressed. I didn't know him all too well, but the difference between seeing him in the water and texting him in the winter was immense. One night, I asked him what truly made him happy. He gave me a one-word answer: Surfing. At this point, after hearing that answer from three different people, I decided to really figure out what it was about surfing that made everyone so happy.
It wasn't until a few weeks ago that I really understood. I went surfing for the first time since my mom had died. Before paddling out, there were a lot of hugs from friends I hadn't seen since last summer, a few tears, and a lot of "Call me if you need anything's." But as soon as I got in the water, everything disappeared. I realized the ocean didn't discriminate. To my left sat a recovered drug addict, to my right a man who has a newborn, and paddling into a wave was a homeless man. Not one of us was given more waves, not one of us was given pity when we wiped out. To the ocean, we were all equal.
That equality offers peace. I wasn't required to think about my mother, my friend wasn't required to think about where he was going to sleep that night, no one was required to worry about anything. And through that peace comes friendship; everyone laughs together and picks each other up when they're down. And I've been lucky enough to experience that.
So if you have any interest in surfing, I encourage you. Buy that board. Take those lessons. Take that day off from work. Ask that friend to take you with them. Because it will change your life for the better.