Stoicism for Surfers

Stoke = Expectations – Reality

I never thought sandbagging myself could be so much fun.

Sandbagging. Lowering the bar. Limiting expectations. It’s a tried and true method readily found in one form or another in most philosophies that address how to manage the human experience: the discomfort, suffering, and anxiety of life that seems to keep the world turning.

Despite the best science and latest tech, we can’t seem to evade these feelings for more than a few fleeting moments at a time.

However, like many others in human history, I’ve found a moderate level of success in a few branches of this philosophical tree. Stoic and Buddhist practices have helped me reduce the amount time I spend on the hedonic treadmill and increase the amount of gratitude for what I already have.

Despite appreciating the benefits of these practices more as I’ve aged – like most rules and lessons of life – I thought this one didn’t apply to surfing. Why?

Reason 1: Surfing is untouchable. Surfing transcends all philosophies, religions, and sometimes (seemingly) even physics. 

Reason 2: Surfing doesn’t conform. Let’s not forget about our roots. The seeds of the surfing culture (really not that long ago) were grown in a bed of counterculture; explicitly ignoring or intentionally defying the norm. Like an angsty teenager knowing your parents are right but defying them anyways just cuz, surfers have it in their DNA to blaze their own path and figure it out for themselves.

I’ve Changed My Mind

I know the threads of this old school surf mindset are part of me. I’ve somewhat successfully avoided the 9-5 ‘trap’, lived outside my home country more than inside for the last 10 years, and I still believe ‘if everyone is doing it, it must be wrong’.

But this all changed in the span of just one special surf session, an unexpected score.


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