I am sweating all over from my walk. I parked at the Shell, in Waikīkī, today, and made my way quickly to the Surfrider Spirit tents by the Duke statue, concerned to be late. I arrive at the tents, seeing several new mentees have arrived. It’s exciting to meet each of them. They come from all around O‘ahu, and today we say what superpower we would have.
I want to be able to breathe underwater, some want the power of invisibility, most wish for the power to fly.
“surfing is a kind of flying”-surfer spirit facilitator
Each of us has more power that we even realize, our facilitators remind us.
Today’s theme is humility and pride, how we can find a balance of the two, and what it means to be a leader, as well as a follower. Each of us brings something to these sessions; each of us possesses a wealth of knowledge to share, however young or old we are, that someone else might look up to or can learn from. My mentee is young and bubbling with smiles. She clearly loves the ocean, in any form. I can’t wait to get into the water and see her stoke.
Hā– the breath of life
Hā‘aha‘a– humble, humility
Alo– to be in the presence of
After our introductions, we speak on hā, we talk about instances when breathing can help us in the water, help us to fall asleep, help alleviate our anxiety. We discuss how breath is not just air, but life-force energy, and how we can breathe in positivity while exhaling the destructive. We talk about aloha, being in the presence of life, of the universe and the positive energy all around us, and how we are sharing in aloha together, as we surf and talk and open up to each other about our own lives. We are sharing aloha, building each other up, connecting to the Universe all around us, which does not leave once we do. It is always there with us. We discuss bringing that energy out into the ocean, practicing connecting with our breathing as we paddle and as we surf. I think about how one of my favorite practices in the ocean is to simply float, lulled by the ocean’s ebb and flow, simply breathing in the energy of the waves.
We discuss hā for a while longer, but by now we are hot and sweaty and ready to paddle out. First, we must walk to the lifeguard tower for another safety lesson from the lifeguard, who teaches us that there is no good or bad way to save someone. There is only good, better, or best. He reminds us that no matter what, we are helping someone in need, and there is nothing wrong about that. I volunteer to demonstrate how to pull an “unconscious” person up onto a rescue surfboard, first flipping the board, then pulling my “unconscious” partner’s arms up, flipping the board over, ready to paddle back in and save a life.
“Lifeguarding is a kind of superpower”
After our safety lesson, it’s time to paddle out. My mentee rocks it, the whole time, relentlessly paddling back out after catching each wave, waves she paddles herself into. She is almost glowing with happiness to be in the water, getting a bit frustrated by the ones she misses, but unwilling to be deterred from catching more. It always amazes me how much energy the littlest kids have, how much excitement and freedom from self-judgement they still possess.
Today, I learn so much from her, and she might not even realize how much she has taught me, in such a short time. Some of the other girls struggle, feeling unnerved by the Waikīkī crowd, unsteady on the take-off, but they catch waves. One of our students catches her first wave, ever, in her whole life—how crazy is that? I never cease to be excited for each girls’ first wave, each girls’ first experience of stoke. We keep paddling. I fall plenty of times, laughing and cheering for my mentee, allowing myself the humility of making mistakes, and still taking pride in myself, simultaneously. If I were to get down on myself for falling, what kind of message would it send to these girls, these girls who are just learning to stand? They cheer for me, and I cheer for them—it’s not about who can surf the best, or look the best—because we are all out in the ocean together as a family.
I’ve had a relatively long morning preceding this, so I tire out quickly, but my mentee wants to keep surfing for the full hour, so we keep paddling out to catch more waves. Finally, I am relieved to head back in and eat some yummy post-surf lunch.
As we eat, we journal on the surf conditions, reflect on last week’s theme of choices, and on today’s theme, humility and pride. My mentee and I make up the conditions as we see fit, deciding to gauge how it felt, rather than what the forecast said.
Time: 3pm or so
Wave height: 1-3 feet
Wind: soft/ light
Tide: felt like 1.6-1.8
Good choice this week: I went to Foundation Training this morning, to help my sore back and learn more about this type of preventative exercise
Not so good choice this week: staying up too late a couple nights this week, spending too much time looking at my screen.
How this session was different from last week: this week, I was much more tired.
What is the theme: humility and pride
How did you experience bliss: meeting my new mentee and surfing together
How can you bring more bliss into your life this week: balancing my work and play time more evenly, in a healthful way
My little surfer student says she experienced bliss meeting her new mentor today. It feels so good to hear her say that, to know that I’ve made her day better, as much as she has made mine better.
We will always have people in our lives who we look to for guidance. We usually are aware of who those people are…but what about those who also look up to us? Often, we don’t know who those people are—strangers, friends, family members—but we can know that our actions, behaviors, and words are making an impact, even if we aren’t always told directly.
The ocean humbles me often. After wiping out, falling, missing waves, seeing others who are so much better than me. But the ocean also gives me pride in myself. Pride in my ability to even catch a wave, pride in my strength to paddle, my willpower to learn, my perseverance to keep surfing even after a rough session of tumbles and maybe even injuries.
Waikīkī– sprouting waters
Waikīkī was not always what it is today. Originally marshland, rich with algae and plankton, these fertile waters were designated for Hawaiian royalty; the waves we surf today were surfed by Hawaiian royalty over 200 years ago, when a wave could be caught all the way from the Waikīkī wall into Canoes, and was, many times. The landscape has changed, thanks to development, lack of knowledge and respect, and the desire for money, rather than the preservation of sacredness. Wai is freshwater, while kai is saltwater. The interplay of the two in Waikīkī provided food and life to the Hawaiian people. This is still a place of healing, despite the ever-growing developments and tourism industry here.
These lessons we are teaching Hawai‘i’s youth are lessons we can all use a little reminder of, each Saturday morning or afternoon, because the lessons we are teaching them reach across time and space, across geographies and experiences. Humility is not just for surfing, it’s for everything we do in our lives. Each of these lessons is about more than what we do that day, it’s about how we act and perceive ourselves every day, in any experience of life.
After journaling, we mālama‘aina, and I find too many pieces of trash, again. I am saddened by people’s lack of awareness, of their carelessness with the land. I want to do more, to be a better steward, and we are fostering this desire in our students as we remind ourselves of the value of mālama, tending to ourselves, our land, our families, and our relationships with one another as well.
It’s time to head home. My student already has her fins in hand, ready to go boogie board at the Waikīkī wall. I give her a hug, knowing she will go and find more joy in the ocean today, loving her smile and courageousness. I walk back to my car, tired yet excited, ready for next week’s session, ready to see each of these girls faces, smiling on surfboards, for another Spirit Session.