One year ago today, I flew down to Brazil for the first time. I’ll go deeper into that story another week, but today I’ll tell the story of what happened upon my return home. Spending those (almost) 2 weeks in Brazil helped me get in touch with a side of myself that I don’t always give the time of day. It’s a little more free-spirited, spontaneous, OK with giving up control, open, and focused on experiences.

Things work out when I balance that side of myself with the other more goal-oriented, focused, industrious, controlling side of myself. If I’m not careful, I can sway too far one way or the other over the period of a few months and create a mess trying to get back to my happy medium. Before going to Brazil, I had been head-down working for about 6 months straight. I didn’t give myself much time to relax, I was constantly go-go-go. So the Brazil trip was a huge breath of fresh air, much needed, and when I came back I found myself swinging back from the industrious extreme I had forced myself into.

Coming from the airport, I pulled up to my house and carried my bags in the front door. As I entered the house and set my bags down, I realized that I had walked right into the middle of a surf trip planning session between my roommate and his brother. We exchanged pleasantries, and after putting my things away I settled into the living room and joined the conversation. Less than an hour later, I had a flight booked for a 4th of July surf trip to Costa Rica.

I have an interesting relationship with surfing. I’ve always been athletic enough to pick up most sports quickly, and I’m quite comfortable on a snowboard, skateboard, or most other “board-riding sports,” so when I first tried surfing I expected to pick it up quickly. I was wrong as hell. Surfing is the one sport I just don’t get. I haven’t been able to crack it. I struggle to balance my board, my arms are never in strong paddling shape, and my understanding of the shape and timing of waves is minimal. I thought that surfing twice a day for four days in Costa Rica with a few guys who are way better than me would give me the chance to “get it” for the first time.

It was hot down there. But it was beautiful. We spent most of our time in or near Tamarindo, a little tourist town on the west coast of the country. The place had the vibe you would expect: relaxed, chill people, with a laid back atmosphere.

The waves were bigger than anything I had ever tried, but I was up for the challenge. The first few sessions I got beat up pretty bad. Once I got sucked out by the rip tide and had to frantically paddle back to shore, and countless other times I mis-timed my wave and was sent plunging into the dreaded “washing machine,” violently tumbling around at the whim of the ocean, hitting the sand and ending up close to shore. Many times I was too worn out to paddle past the break and was stuck on what felt like a treadmill. There were multiple sessions where I got beat up so bad that I called it quits early and left the ocean to hang out on the beach, bringing a handful of ocean water stuck in my sinus with me.

Throughout the trip I caught two clean-ish waves that I remember, and I’m proud of those hard-earned moments. One of them wasn’t timed perfectly but I stood up and got to ride the wave to completion. The other one was timed perfectly, but I fell down shortly after rising. I improved a lot as a surfer, but I still never got that feeling I was searching for. That feeling of being part of a wave, undisturbed, riding alongside the ocean in unison. You can see how special and precise that moment can be when watching surfers who are really good at their craft. I have great respect for them, and that respect grew after my trip.

I won’t give up. Surfing is quite frustrating for me, but I think the struggle will be worth it if I can continue to chase that elusive moment of peace and connection with the ocean.

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